Coca-Cola criticised for failing to address plastic waste problem with new environmental plan

Coca-Cola sells more than 110 billion single-use plastic bottles every year, Greenpeace said on Friday

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Friday 19 January 2018 18:09
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Soft-drink giant’s new plan does not include any target to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it produces
Soft-drink giant’s new plan does not include any target to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it produces

Coca-Cola has been heavily criticised by Greenpeace for failing to address the urgency of the plastic waste problem with its new global environmental plan.

The international environmental group said Coca-Cola’s long-awaited policy, announced on Friday, features a number of measures for its global operations that are weaker than those it had already announced for Europe.

Coca-Cola sells more than 110 billion single-use plastic bottles every year, Greenpeace said on Friday, adding that the number had been steadily rising for several years.

The soft-drink giant’s new plan does not include any target to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it produces.

Instead, Coca-Cola announced a goal to “help to collect and recycle” a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030 as part of its “World Without Waste” programme.

The company also said it would explore options including making bottles more lightweight, using more recycled content, developing plant-based resins and experimenting with ways to eliminate packaging altogether.

The announcement comes after a host of firms made pledges this week to reduce plastic waste. Iceland became the first major retailer globally to commit to eliminating single-use plastic packaging throughout its own-brand products within five years, a move Greenpeace said “set the level of ambition needed” to tackle the problem.

Pret A Manger said plastic straws would be kept behind tills while paper straws would be available to their customers in some outlets starting from next week.

Costa Coffee said it would eliminate plastic straws altogether before the end of the year and Waitrose said it would stop selling them in 2018.

“Support for recycling is important but it won’t solve the ocean plastic problem,” said Tisha Brown, a campaigner for Greenpeace UK.

“Coke needs to follow the lead of companies like Iceland and massively reduce the amount of plastic they are using, and on that front this plan has fallen flat,” she said.

“A litter-free world is possible – but only if big companies like Coke stop producing ever growing quantities of plastic litter. They need to reduce and reuse as well as recycle.”

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A spokesperson for Coca-Cola said that the company’s global reach meant it could help change the way packaging is made and recycled.

“If we take back all our plastic bottles for recycling, we can help ensure every bottle has more than one useful life,” the spokesperson said.

In a report last month, MPs recommended introducing a nationwide bottle deposit charge as soon as possible. The report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee also said that a “polluter pays” principle should be introduced so that those who manufacture and sell single-use plastic cover the costs of recycling it.

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