Over 3.3 million tonnes of plastic are said to be wasted every year in Pakistan and although a handful of plastic recycling plants do exist, better efforts are needed to efficiently gather and recycle plastic waste. One such effort in the works is by Coca-Cola Pakistan, which joined hands with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in Islamabad and TeamUp / National Incubation Center (NIC) in September to repurpose eight tonnes of recycled plastic in order to re-carpet a one kilometre patch of road in Islamabad by the end of this year.
Aurora spoke to Fahad Ashraf, VP & GM Coca-Cola Pakistan & Afghanistan Region, to find out more.
ZEENAT CHAUDHARY: Why was Islamabad’s Ataturk Avenue selected for this venture?
FAHAD ASHRAF: It is one of Islamabad’s jugular veins and houses key institutional and diplomatic buildings. The road also lies at the foothills of Margalla Hills. It seemed fitting to start this project with this important road.
ZC: Has such a project been done by Coca-Cola before?
FA: This is Coca-Cola’s pioneer project in this direction and Pakistan is the first country where this is being implemented. Although over 70 countries (including Australia, Ghana, India UK and USA) have built plastic roads, this technology is being tested for the first time in Pakistan.
ZC: Who else is involved in the ideation and execution of this project?
FA: We launched a global vision ‘World Without Waste’ in 2019 to tackle plastic-based pollution and move towards a circular economy by recycling every bottle/can by 2030. In line with this initiative, we partnered with CDA and NIC to launch this project. It is the perfect union of a leading brand with a strong outreach, an innovator and a public sector authority.
ZC: How cost-effective will this be; can this be done to more roads/in more cities?
FA: As plastic roads are more resistant to wear and tear, they can help save costs in their upkeep. For instance, road stripping and potholes are major problems in Pakistan and plastic roads can reduce these issues significantly and save on maintenance. Also, since plastic waste is found in abundance here, it can be sourced cheaply to build a network of plastic roads throughout Pakistan.
ZC: What are the other benefits of a plastic road?
FA: Better resistance to water and water stagnation, increased binding and better bonding of the mix, no effect of radiation (like UV), among other benefits. Roads re-carpeted with plastic are 51% stronger due to better impact resistance and load-carrying capacity. Consequently, they are more durable and last twice as long as standard roads. They also take less time to build and can create a significant demand for recycled plastics.
ZC: How can more cities adopt this approach?
FA: The pioneer project serves as proof of concept. Once executed, we can encourage public and private stakeholders to take inspiration from this model and look into adopting plastic waste for strengthening road structures across the country. Furthermore, since the technology, research and its application are led by Pakistani talent, it makes the execution of such projects easier and more cost-effective.
ZC: What other measure has Coca-Cola taken to reduce packaging waste?
FA: We have reduced our PET usage by 4,000 tonnes in five years. Today, 100% of Coca-Cola’s primary packaging is recyclable in Pakistan. Together with our partners Coca-Cola Icecek, Coca-Cola System is now member of the Board of Directors at CoRe (Collect & Recycle) – Pakistan’s first packaging alliance with 10 other member companies from the corporate, NGO and recycling sectors.
ZC: What other CSR projects does Coca-Cola aim to work on in Pakistan and in other developing countries?
FA: Among other initiatives, Coca-Cola has worked with Kashf Foundation to empower over 10,000 women across Pakistan (the Foundation provides microfinancing to low income households). We also support the LUMS Endowment Fund for the National Outreach Programme in sponsoring financially disadvantaged students. We have also announced a grant of $300,000 as phase one of a $1 million grant to be used towards relief support for 450 Afghan refugee families.
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