If you care so much, Coca-cola, why aren’t your bottles 100% recycled?
Coca-Cola sells more than 100bn single-use plastic bottles a year – that’s more than 3,000 every second. Its plans to increase recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% are startlingly unambitious.
Coca-Cola’s grand announcement on plastic packaging is a lot of PR fizz. But when you look at the detail, it’s all a bit flat.
The news that the company is to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% shows a startling lack of ambition from the soft-drinks giant to tackle one of the greatest environmental challenges facing us: the plastic pollution choking our oceans.
Turns out when Coca-Cola’s distinctive bottles turn up on beaches, and contribute to the rubbish truck of plastic (pdf) entering the ocean every minute, that isn’t so good for brand image.
The soft drinks giant has come under attack for its meagre recycled content and failure to move away from single-use packaging that is devastating marine life.
This new plan is no game changer. Limited to operations in the UK, Coca-Cola’s plans amount to increasing its existing target for recycled content by a mere 10%, launching yet another public awareness campaign to keep the focus on litterers, and trialling what appears will be little more than a promotional scheme for buying more Coca-Cola bottles.
The company’s plans, which it says it will reveal later this year, may feature a money-off voucher scheme to reward customers returning small Coca-Cola bottles to shops. This would be a cheap gimmick to try and move the story on from Coca-Cola’s major U-turn on deposit return schemes after Greenpeace revealed the company had been lobbying against these in Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels. If the vouchers can be redeemed on yet more plastic Coca-Cola bottles, this will only boost the already staggering global plastic bottle sales of a million a minute.
[One thing that doesn’t seem to get discussed are the plastic bottle labels, which readily come off and end up littered on beaches.]
It’s also worth pointing out that Coca-Cola’s mildly higher goal to source 50% recycled content should be taken with a pinch of salt given the company’s history of failing to keep its promises. Coca-Cola got less than half way to meeting its global 2015 target to source 25% of its plastic bottles from recycled or “renewable” material, for example plant-based plastics. Globally the company reached a pitiful 7% recycled material.
Even putting these doubts aside, is reaching 50% recycled content in three years’ time significant? The truth is that 100% recycled bottles are feasible and have been rolled out for a number of soft drinks products over the past decade. In 2007, for example, Suntory’s Ribena became the first major UK soft drink brand to use 100% recycled plastic. Coca-Cola, the world’s biggest soft drinks company, is lagging far behind.
Featured image: Coke bottles found by Greenpeace volunteers on a beach in Mull.
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By John Sauven, Guardian Sustainable Business
July 13, 2017