Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle attempt to water down new plastics laws, leaked letter reveals

The world's worst polluters urge member states in the Council of the European Union to scrap plans aimed at tackling plastic pollution

Ben Chapman
Thursday 18 October 2018 18:29 BST
Wave of floating plastic in Dominican Republic shows extent of ocean pollution

Some of the world’s biggest plastic polluters have lobbied EU member states in an attempt to water down legislation aimed at tackling the global plastics crisis.

A leaked letter signed by Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone urges member states of the Council of the EU to scrap a proposal to force companies to make sure plastic bottle caps are not detachable.

Currently, bottle caps are among the most pernicious of plastic waste and are some the most commonly found items in beach cleanups around the world.

Consumers throw bottles away and the caps detach before washing up on beaches or breaking down into microplastics which are harmful to marine life.

European leaders are currently considering a plan to introduce so-called mandatory tethered caps, which are fixed to the bottle, by 2025. But the four companies claim that the measure would “not necessarily lead to the required outcomes”.

Instead, they suggest a non-binding commitment to recycling 90 per cent of plastic bottles by the same deadline.

“Our 4 companies are committed to work with all partners and within the local context to improve the effectiveness of current collection schemes allowing to collect bottle and cap at similar level whichever scheme is established at local level,” the letter states.

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé were named last week among a handful of businesses that are contributing most to plastic pollution.

After sifting through nearly 200,000 pieces of plastic collected from shores around the world, their packaging was the most frequent identified by volunteers who conducted clean-up operations from the UK to Vietnam.

In Europe, the three companies made up nearly half of this “brand audit” of plastic, according the Break Free From Plastic, a global movement consisting of nearly 1,300 groups from across the world.

Of all the brands identified, the teams found that Coca-Cola was the top polluter, with Coke-branded plastic found in 40 of the 42 participating countries.

Rob Buurman from Recycling Netwerk in the Netherlands told the Independent that a move to tethered caps would technologically be “very easy” and that some companies already produce them.

“It’s not a new solution; it’s not rocket science,” he said. “It’s just making sure the cap doesn’t fall off. It’s about the easiest thing to do.

“Lidl does it for some of its own-brand water which is among the cheapest products that they sell, so it’s unlikely to make a dent in the costs for these big producers.

“I think their objection is much more grounded in a general distaste about an authority telling them what to do when it comes to their product.”

Mr Buurman was disparaging of the alternative proposals put forward by the four companies which he said would not solve the plastic problem.

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Danone suggest that money they would have to spend on tethered caps should instead be invested in improving technology and promoting recycling.

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Only if recycling targets are not met by 2021 should tethered caps be considered, the companies argue.

But Mr Burman labelled this a “classic delaying tactic”.

“They are saying, ‘give us some time, let us try some things’ but the European member states have to decide now based on the evidence they have.

“There is no evidence that what Coca-Cola and the other companies are proposing here is going to make a dent in the problem."

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