News & Events

Thursday 21 January, 2016


Educating young people about recycling: my day-to-day challenge at Infineo

Coca-Cola Enterprises opened its recycling joint venture Infineo in 2012 in Burgundy, France, working with recycling firm Plastipak Packaging. It aims to sustain and develop the recycling industry of plastic bottles in France, and host schools, companies, local communities and NGOs every day to educate them about the circular economy.

Why is recycling so important? We know that our world has finite resources, and that our current consumption patterns are not sustainable. Moving to a more circular model for our materials can help. But in France, one PET bottle out of two is not sorted for recycling and, today, Plastipak’s plant has to source used PET from other countries in order to supply us and other companies with recycled PET (rPET).

As the manager of the Education Centre at Infineo, I meet 2,000 people every year and talk to them about their recycling behavior. I’m a firm believer that education is key to boosting recycling rates and encouraging sustainable behaviour change. This is particularly true for young people between 18 and 25 years old, who are known to be less likely to recycle than other generations.

Explaining by showing

My approach is to explain and demonstrate to our visitors how theory is put into practice, showing them how a used pack can – and will – become a new one if it is correctly recycled.

More than 53% of French people declare they would recycle more at home if they were sure that their waste was going to be recycled. So to help convince them, I walk them through the recycling plant and make them watch the recycling process in action, so they can better understand what happens to a plastic Coca-Cola bottle after it has been thrown away.

Touching the material at the various stages of the recycling process is important and works well for all visitors. They need to touch the materials to see recycling come to life. That’s why I always use material samples with all visitors: they can touch and feel the recycled PET, which is clean and ready to be reused as a new bottle.

Co-constructing with teachers and debating with young people

Education about environmental issues is a priority of the Ministry of Education in France but teachers lack resources to address this broad topic with their students.

In this context, visiting Infineo can be a useful opportunity to talk about recycling and waste - and by extension, broader sustainability issues: What is the circular economy? What is a natural resource? What is COP21? What is climate change?

For example, we have set up training sessions with the engineer students of the Agrosup school in Dijon, France, which cover both PET recycling technics through understanding the industrial process, and packaging eco-conception through a partnership with engineers from Eco-Emballages. Agrosup students also get to meet with local professionals from the recycling industry and can put their knowledge into perspective, which I know they find really useful a few months before stepping into the job market.

Opening our doors

Last but not least, Infineo’s education centre allows young people to discover a company from the inside. Manufacturing jobs are often unknown, misrepresented and ignored by young generations. Opening our doors helps to challenge students’ perceptions of our industry.

Meeting passionate people who work in the recycling industry is very important to show the human dimension of manufacturing jobs. I regularly invite Plastipak’s employees to come and talk to the students about their job. These are always very rich discussions, appreciated by both the employees that can look back at their overall professional path, and by the students who can suddenly picture themselves in a real job.

We need to continue to educate young people about the circular economy if we want it to become a sustainable model. The challenge is particularly important because young generations are still unfamiliar with it, while they will be the ones able to make it sustainable in the long term. Young people will only be able to embrace the circular economy if we manage to educate them and show them what impact it can have on the environment, our society and our economy.

 Click here to visit Infineo 2.0 - the first online circular economy platform

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Guyon

in charge of Infineo Education Centre, France

Alexandra Guyon has managed the education center Infineo in Burgundy, France, at Coca-Cola Enterprises and has been part of the Public Affairs and Communication French Team since March 2014.

After a master in Environmental Law and a school of Public Managers, she started her career as a high school manager in Beaune (Burgundy). During this time, she used her energy to develop and organize her school around strong sustainable principles and to engage her team, teachers and students towards that change.

Her commitment for environment is both professional and personal. She is part of the district committee of her city, in charge of environmental issues.

At Infineo, she develops contents about circular economy, organises visits for several stakeholders (schools, NGOs, companies, local communities…) and develops the territorial network to position Infineo as a circular economy reference in France.

 

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