Coca-Cola has embarked on an initiative to utilise carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and factory emissions to manufacture its bottle tops. The project is driven by the company’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Coca-Cola finances a three-year trial at Swansea University. A team of scientists, led by Professor Enrico Andreoli, an industrial chemist, work on de-fossilising the plastic production process. The heart of this innovation lies in a small black electrode, where an electric charge is applied to a mixture of carbon dioxide and water, yielding ethylene.

Current plastic production relies on the use of fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gas emissions during the process. In 2020, traditional plastic production techniques contributed to more than 260 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for nearly 1% of the world’s total CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project.

Coca-Cola’s project aims to source CO2 from the air near its factories or from its own smoke stacks.

The initial focus of the project is to showcase the effectiveness of this technology in a laboratory setting. Success here will pave the way for potential methods to scale up the process for broader use in plastic production, indicating the project’s promising potential to reshape the industry’s landscape.

Coca-Cola pursues its 30% reduction in carbon footprint by 2030, largely by increasing the use of recycled plastics. Beyond 2030, they have a long-term vision of exploring and investing in innovative technologies that can significantly impact carbon emissions. The capture of carbon dioxide at a large scale is among their top priorities.

One such application is the use of captured CO2 for carbonating their beverages, a move that could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of their drinks. Additionally, Coca-Cola explores the use of captured CO2 in the production of packaging materials, as demonstrated in its partnership with Swansea University.

Scientists also investigate the conversion of CO2 into an artificial sugar, hinting at a commitment to exploring sustainable alternatives and applications for captured carbon dioxide.