(In eighth paragraph, corrects percentage of PET bottles using recycled plastic to 50% from 100%)
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Drinks group Coca-Cola (KO.N) said on Tuesday it would start using PET bottles in Sweden made only of recycled plastic in a first step towards expanding its use of recycled plastic in western Europe.
Coca-Cola said the switch at its Jordbro factory south of Stockholm would enable the company to use around 3,500 tonnes less of virgin plastic annually.
The company also said increasing the share of recycled material in packaging was an efficient way to reduce its C02 footprint.
“That means a 25% reduction of CO2 emissions annually compared with before the transition, when the portfolio consisted of around 40% recycled plastic,” it said, referring to its Swedish operations.
The group uses 128 billion PET bottles a year globally, of which 205 million are in Sweden, company spokeswoman Frida Keane said.
Coca-Cola and rivals such as PepsiCo (PEP.O) and Nestle (NESN.S) are stepping up action to curb plastic use as the industry reacts to growing consumer concerns about global warming and plastic waste pollution.
Environmental group Greenpeace said in October that Coca-Cola was the world’s biggest producer of plastic waste for the second year in a row.
Keane said the move in Sweden was a first step towards a company ambition to use PET bottles from 50% recycled plastic in western Europe by the end of 2023.
At group level, Coca-Cola’s recycled plastic ratio is 11% currently, and in western Europe, 27%, Keane said.
Last year, Coca-Cola pledged to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one it sells globally by 2030.
Its move in Sweden, planned for the first quarter of 2020, is a joint initiative by the beverage maker and its bottling partner in western Europe, Coca-Cola European Partners CCEPC.L, Keane said.
Reporting by Anna Ringstrom. Editing by Jane Merriman