Of new investments, increased productivity and plastics …Voltic’s story so far

Ghana’s on-going economic development drive has given a boost to local brands which continue to benefit from the opportunities of globalisation and the quest for international investment. One of such brands is Voltic, arguably one of the most recognisable and cherished  brand names in Ghana – a feat driven by its market leadership of the local bottled water industry and consistency over the years.

From humble but beautiful beginnings in 1995, Voltic (GH) Limited over the past 24 years quenched the thirst of thousands of Ghanaians, employing over 450 permanent employees and 600 more contract personnel.

Of significance in the company’s recent trajectory is its acquisition in 2016  by Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), the largest Coca-Cola bottler in Africa with footprint in South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Comoros, Zambia, Botswana, Eswatini and the French overseas territory of Mayotte.

Voltic’s Managing Director, Francois Gazania, shed light on recent developments in the company in the following question and answer writeup:

Question: Voltic Ghana is now a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, what does that bring to Voltic?

Answer: Since becoming a member of the CCBA family, Voltic has benefitted from:

  1. Integration and standardisation of business processes and ways of working.
  2. Increased diversification of the workplace and exchange of expertise across the CCBA countries.
  • Massive investment drive including a modern, US$ 6.5 million water production line in Voltic’s second Factory at Akwadum.
  1. Investments and upgrades to Cool Pac, Voltic’s sachet franchise business.

Question: Issues of environmental sustainability and waste management have taken centre stage in national discussions in recent times, what is your company doing to curb the plastic waste menace?

Answer: Food and beverage packaging is an important part of our modern lives, yet the world has a packaging problem, which we as Voltic – part of CCBA – together with The Coca-Cola Company, have a responsibility to help solve. Clearly, plastics are a significant global challenge. Our main focus will be addressing plastic.

Our commitment is to invest in our planet and our packaging, to help make the world’s packaging problem a thing of the past.

To this end, we are:

Designing better packaging – We’re reimagining our packaging to make it better for our planet and our business. We’re working to build better bottles because packaging shouldn’t harm our world. Simply put, if someone wants to recycle one of our packages, they should be able to.

Collecting packaging waste – The Coca-Cola Company and all its bottling partners are leading the industry to help collect and recycle a bottle or can for everyone we sell by 2030. We’re working to bring people together to help us collect and recycle a bottle  we sell.

Regardless of where it comes from, we want every package to have more than one life.

Partnering with communities and industry – to clean up existing packaging, we’re bringing people together through programmes like beach and river clean-ups and other ongoing local activities. To encourage more people to recycle more often, we’re investing to help people understand what to recycle, how to recycle, and where to recycle.

In Ghana, Voltic has engaged various stakeholders to create an ecosystem that drives collective sustainable action towards managing our post-consumer plastics. Our goal is to work together with other stakeholders to set up collection points in communities in line with our ambition of collecting and recycling 100% of our packaging by 2030.

Some of our initiatives include:

  1. Together with other FMCG industry leaders, we were instrumental in forming GRIPE (Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises), an industry alliance with the mission of sustainably managing post-consumer plastic in Ghana.
  2. We have launched Irecycle in partnership with Total Ghana Petroleum and Coliba Services to place over 40 recycling containers in strategic locations to curb littering and promote a culture of waste segregation.
  3. Our Voltic Aggregator Programme currently supports five aggregators with tools of their trade such as crushers and modes of transportation. These incentivise them to buy post-consumer plastics at fair value so that waste collectors benefit from collecting. We intend supporting other aggregators during the course of this year.
  4. We are currently collaborating with other potential partners and intend launching the resultant programmes this year.
  5. We hold a monthly community buyback on the third Saturday of each month, thus creating environmental ambassadors of our employees and equally demonstrating the value of plastics as we curb indiscriminate littering of plastics.
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Question: In your opinion, what are some of the issues impeding effective waste management in the country?

Answer: Waste management is a collaborative effort among all the stakeholders involved in the value chain. For plastics to be well managed the following must happen:

  1. Post-consumer plastics must be seen as a valuable commodity and not waste.
  2. Citizens need to see waste management as a collective responsibility and not only one for companies and waste collectors.
  • We must create an end-to-end circular economy which includes stimulating and incentivising waste collectors. Nothing should go to waste as post-consumer plastics are a commodity.
  1. We have a responsibility to help ensure our impact is a positive one and our actions inspire others to help generate solutions that leave our world better for generations to come.

 

Question: What measures do you think are needed to ensure effective waste management in the country?

Answer:

  1. Ambitious goals by all companies that use plastic packaging. For example, The Coca-Cola Company, together with its bottlers (like CCBA, of which Voltic is a subsidiary) has committed to helping to collect and recycle 100% of the bottles or cans it produces by 2030. CCBA has an internal ambition to achieve that target before 2030.
  2. Sustainable Collection Systems: Ghana needs a sustainable collection system embedded with an economic empowerment model. An example of one such effective collection system is PETCO, a voluntary Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme implemented in South Africa where CCBA in South Africa collected 114% of the plastic it sold into the market in 2018. The model incentivises flakers and recyclers enabling an ecosystem of “wastepreneurs” to drive collection while creating economic value for post-consumer waste.
  • Collaborations: GRIPE is a good example of collaboration to find sustainable solutions to plastic post-consumer waste management. All companies that use plastic packaging must join this coalition. As we move towards forming a voluntary EPR programme, the government must support this initiative by releasing the environmental levy that has accumulated over the past years to complement industry’s efforts in managing plastic pollution sustainably.
  1. Recycling Facility in Ghana: To create an effective circular economy, Ghana needs an end-to-end recycling facility that  enable plastics to be viewed as a valuable commodity. Currently, there are solutions being tested which could create a viable second life solution for post-consumer plastic and ultimately assist in eliminating plastic pollution.

 

Question: As a leading member of GRIPE, what would you say have been some of the success stories since its inception?

 

Answer:

GRIPE is in its second year, having started in November in 2017. The coalition started with eight companies and has since expanded to include three additional companies. Aside from the solutions implemented by most of the participating companies, some of the major highlights include:

  1. Partnership with CSIR on the implementation of a modified concrete using plastics.
  2. Digital media campaign on waste segregation.
  • The pending launch of a major collection programme.

Question: Tell us more about your aggregator programme for SMEs?

Answer:

  1. There are several small and medium scale businesses collecting, shredding, baling, flaking and exporting the flakes outside of Ghana. Given that plastic collection and processing is a challenging task, there is a need to incentive the process. One such incentive is to support the wastepreneurs with the necessary tools.
  2. We have donated tricycles and crushers to five SMEs so far and we plan to enable at least 10 by the end of next year. Such incentives enable these SMEs to concentrate on their core role of plastic collection.
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Question: The Coca-Cola System of which you belong has set 2030 deadline to recycle all of its waste, what steps are you taking to achieve this target in Ghana?

  1. We believe every package has value and life beyond its initial use and should be collected and recycled into either a new package or another beneficial use.
  2. The Coca-Cola Company’s 2030 vision means we need to consider our packaging design, collection and partnerships:
    1. Design: We’re working to build better bottles because packaging should not harm our world. The New Twist Voltic Bottle demonstrates our commitment to rethinking our packaging. It has 7% less plastic and is designed to make segregation simply for consumers. Our goal is to make all our consumer packaging 100% recyclable globally. Simply put, if someone wants to recycle one of our packages, they should be able to.
    2. Collect: We launched our Irecycle programme in November 2018 to help collect plastics from the environment. Our monthly community plastic buyback with Coliba also reveals our commitment to be a part of the solution, collecting the plastics from the environment while educating our consumers to be environmentally conscious.
  • Partner: Waste collectors, industry leaders, government, NGOs, waste aggregators, developing partners and consumers are important partners in helping to achieve a World Without Waste. Over the past 2 years, we have deliberately formed partnerships and alliances with many partners in line with the 17th Goal of the Sustainable Development Goal.

Question: How much have been injected into waste management in the last five years and how much are you expected to invest into that space in the next five years?

Answers:

  1. Within the past two years alone, we have invested almost GHS 1.5 million as a total contribution towards managing post-consumer waste.
  2. We have invested in health screening, provision of Personal Protective Equipment, National Health Insurance registration, provision and management of more than 40 containers, provision of tricycles, crushers and trucks and our monthly buyback. Our investments in the collection of post-consumer plastics also aids the socio-economic livelihoods of mostly women and SMEs.

Question: What are your final comments?

Answer:

  1. We believe every package we create should have more than one life. The materials, once recycled, might be used to make another bottle, a t-shirt, carpets, or furniture. No matter what they become, we want to maximize their use and minimize their impact on the environment. The same way as our Refillable Jar bottles provide choice for different occasions.
  2. We are committed to creating an partnerships in Ghana that align with supporting a circular economy and which will help us achieve the 2030 ambition of The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners, to create a World Without Waste.
  • We’re reimagining our packaging to make it better for our planet and our business. In short, we’re building better bottles for today and tomorrow by changing how we make them. The New Twist Bottle shows our commitment to rethinking our packaging design.
  1. Voltic will continue to take leadership in addressing its environmental footprint. As we invest in post-consumer waste collection, through programmes like Irecycle, we will continue to educate our consumers on the best ways of disposing their plastics after consumption, through programmes like our community buyback.
  2. We aim to make a positive impact through our collaborations with industry, and other partners like Coliba, Repartn, Coca-Cola Bottlers of Ghana, DHL and UNDP. On a continental level, we shall leverage the partnership with Africa Plastic Recycling Alliance (APRA) to significantly reduce plastic littering.
  3. The new twist bottle, Irecycle, Community buyback, GRIPE, and Aggregator Programme demonstrate our commitment towards environmental sustainability aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, goal 7&17.

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