World Environment Day is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for awareness and action for the protection of the environment. Over the years, the celebration marked every year on June 5th, has come to serve as a global platform for public outreach and deep reflection focused on the challenges of the environment, growing annually with participation from over 143 countries.
The Coca-Cola System, on its part, has committed to reducing waste by helping to collect the same amount of packaging it sells for reuse, help communities identify and better understand their existing recycling and collection challenges; and motivate consumers to recycle their packages.
In line with this vision, employees of Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited decided to lead by example by collecting used plastic/PET bottles on a weekly basis from their homes and neighbourhoods, depositing same to a designated collection centre created at the company’s official car parking lot, from where program partners, RecyclePoint, would evacuate for onward processing.
The modest initiative began with just a few bottles and cans collected monthly but then began to gain traction as associate volunteers from the CokeCARES team began to drive active collection and participation in the initiative. This drew the attention of onlookers and community bystanders who curiously enquired to know more about the plastic collections and recycling activities. This provided an opportunity for proper but timely education on the importance of careful management and responsible disposal of post-consumer waste, especially PET.
That was the turning point.
From this, the Ikoyi neighbourhood of Gerrard road, where the Coca-Cola Nigeria office is situated has seen increased participation from female street sweepers, Janitors, and residents who keyed into the World Without Waste Initiative leading to increased recovery of plastic bottles and other recyclables within the neighbourhood.
Leading this year’s collection drive, Mrs Abidemi Salau, a widowed mother of three, has since January, singlehandedly collected over 1 ton of PET bottles and other recyclables. In her words, she said, “I am happy that the small proceeds I get from this support me and my family and this is my little way of contributing to a cleaner environment”.
To mark this year’s World Environment Day, Coca-Cola Nigeria under the auspices of its associate volunteer program, CokeCARES, decided to celebrate and encourage Mrs Abidemi’s efforts, as well as other community members who had dedicated themselves to the daily collection and drop-off of PET bottles from the neighbourhood, with a session comprising short but informative remarks on the need to preserve the environment and the Coca-Cola World Without Waste vision. The informal collectors who received food packs, shopping vouchers, and delicious beverages, expressed delight at the gesture and committed to the continuous collection of these PET bottles.
Mazi Uzonu, Founder of Recycle Point — partners of Coca-Cola in this recycling endeavour, expressed his cautious optimism for the future of recycling, while also pointing out our collective roles. “Plastic waste poses a threat to the environment and if properly recycled, we can make the most of these recyclables and improve our environment,” he said.
In her closing remarks, the Public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability Manager for Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, expressed gratitude to these unsung heroes and reflected on the journey to a more sustainable world. “On days like this, it’s important to not only reflect on the decadence of our environment but to be reminded of the responsibility that we all have in making the world cleaner, safer, and more sustainable”, she remarked.
So far, a total of 8,474kg of recyclables have been collected from the immediate environment and repurposed for other uses.