With such a big name fulfilling its commitment to the UK government to reduce packaging, other beverage makers are likely to follow the example. Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) said its new lightweight 500ml polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle will enable it to reduce the amount of packaging it uses in the UK by about 700 tonnes per year. CCE is developing the new 24g bottle which will replace the 26g bottle used for brands including 'Coca-Cola', 'diet Coke', 'Coke' Zero, 'Fanta', 'Sprite' and 'Lilt'. CCE's trials involved the production, filling and market testing of about four million lightweighted 24g PET bottles. As a result of the trial, CCE said it will now invest about £150,000 to modify bottle blowing equipment at manufacturing sites at Sidcup and Wakefield. The first 24g bottles are due to roll off the production lines at Sidcup in September 2007, followed closely by Wakefield, CEE stated. The Wakefield site is the biggest soft drinks factory in Europe and will begin producing 24g bottles at the start of 2008. About 350 million of the new 24g 500ml bottles will be produced annually across both sites. The savings in material will increase to about 1,400 tonnes a year if the new lighter weight bottles are rolled out at other manufacturing sites and lines, said CCE's project manager, Christine Watson. "It is a significant technical challenge for the industry to reduce weights even further and the reduction in the weight of our 500ml PET bottles from 26 to 24 grams is a major step forward," she said. During the trial period CCE worked with PET supplier Amcor to redesign the preform bottle - the piece of moulded plastic from which bottles are produced. As a result, CCE was able to use a stronger, lightweight bottle with no decrease in quality and performance, the company said. The trials were partly funded by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap), a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements on reducing packaging waste. Wrap oversees a voluntary action plan on packaging launched in 2005 as the Courtauld Commitment. The commitment has been signed by 25 leading brand owners, manufacturers and retailers. It aims to stop the increase in packaging waste by 2008 and bring about absolute reductions by 2010. Wrap has also introduced a new method for measuring packaging waste reduction to check agreements made under the Courtauld Commitment are being kept. If voluntary agreements are not kept, the UK food sector faces the possibility of mandatory measures to ensure the country meets its EU commitments on cutting packaging and food waste. Wrap project manager Peter Skelton said the project with CCE demonstrates that packaging can be optimised without affecting customer perception, product quality or safety. Wrap aims to encourage an 8 to 10 per cent weight saving across all PET containers used by the UK soft drinks industry. The company estimates such a target would cut 20,000 tonnes of PET out of the packaging chain. Earlier this month Wrap said it woudl introduce a new method for measuring packaging waste reduction to check agreements made under the Courtauld Commitment are being kept. The signatories to the agreement include Britvic, Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Dairy Crest, Duchy Originals, Masterfoods, McBride, Nestle, Premier Foods, Heinz, Unilever, Northern Foods and the UK's top 13 grocery retailers. The companies also pledge to identify ways to help reduce the 6.7m tonnes of food waste thrown out in the UK each year. A case study on CCE project can be found on the Wrap website at www.wrap.org.uk/retail. The findings from this and other Wrap lightweighting projects are meant to be shared with the rest of the industry and used to encourage more PET lightweighting across the sector.