BOSTON — As a leader in the soft drink industry, the Coca-Cola Co. understandably looks for ways to reduce sugar. James Robert B. Quincey, president and chief executive officer, also explained how the handling of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles could help Coca-Cola solve plastic environmental problems.

“The good news about plastic is it’s a completely solvable problem, especially PET, because PET is fully capable of being collected, recycled and turned back into bottles,” he said Sept. 6 at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston.

He said governments are moving toward making certain plastic items stop being single-use items. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is on board with that goal, he said.

“By 2030, we want to make sure we recover a bottle or can for everyone we sell, and we want to be able to use as much as possible, recycle back into our own bottles and cans, no new technologies ultimately needed,” Mr. Quincey said. “New technology will make it easier, but new technology is not needed. What’s needed is to solve the organizational problem of collecting the bottles and then putting in the infrastructure to basically chop them up and make them virgin material again.”

Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero SugarAs for sugar reduction, sales have risen this year for two Coca-Cola brands: Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

“Sugar’s fixable, too,” Mr. Quincey said. “It’s a question of providing choice. It’s a question of the smaller packages and the reformulations and the innovation.”

A goal of becoming a complete beverage company led Coca-Cola to agree to pay $5.1 billion for London-based Costa Ltd., which features 4,000 retail outlets, a coffee vending business and a coffee roastery. The transaction may help Coca-Cola appeal to millennials and other young adults because that segment of the population tends to engage in the beverage category in three ways, Mr. Quincey said.

“One, they’re drinking more units of commercial beverages,” he said. “Two, they’re spending more money on those commercial beverages, but three, they want more diversity of offering.”

Coca-Cola needed to improve on diversity of offering.

“So we concluded that really we needed a coffee play if we wanted to be a total beverage provider to our customers across all the different channels,” Mr. Quincey said.