Coca-Cola accused of misleading public over plastic promises

Coca-Cola has misled consumers over its plastic pledges, according to an investigation into its recycling claims by Channel 4 Dispatches that aired this week.

The programme’s investigation, which was featured on Thursday evening’s show, calculated that in the UK Coca-Cola bottling partners sell two billion bottles a year – the equivalent of 65,000 tonnes of single-use plastic. In 2017 it pledged to recover every bottle it sells by 2030.

Coca-Cola claims on its website that Coke bottles can be recycled and back on shelves in as little as six weeks. However, critics featured in the programme claimed that this failed to take into account degradation and that recycling can only happen a finite number of times.

Meanwhile, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that it was also concerned about the recyclability claims of brands.

Coca-Cola said it was working with national and local governments to ensure the “ongoing development of a successful and effective recycling industry”.

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The soft drinks giant told Sustainability Beat it “cares about the impact of every drink we sell”.

“We’re working to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use, while helping ensure more of it is collected, recycled, and reused. This includes through our long-standing support for Deposit Return Schemes. We also recognise our responsibility to help protect local water resources. In 2007, we set a goal to replenish all the water used in our finished beverages globally. In 2015 we met this goal and have continued to do so every year since.”

“We believe that consumers deserve clear and accurate information about the products they buy, both to help them make informed choices and to encourage them to sort and recycle packaging after use. Our consumer communications are transparent, and fully comply with all relevant standards.”

However, following the programme many urged the government to do more.

Jane Martin, CEO of City to Sea, said: “Multinational corporations have been mass producing single-use plastics for decades at the expense of our environment, but it is down to government to implement the controls necessary to curtail the impact of businesses’ actions.”

 “The plastic problem is not new. We have known for generations the impact that plastic has on our environment, but time after time the UK government has failed to act. This has led to a situation where the market is filled with quick-to-produce, cheap and long-lasting plastic packaging that is a scourge on our environment. This must end.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet and Plastic Health Council also agreed that government action was needed.

“The only thing that will make Coca-Cola and the big plastic cabal stop is when legislation finally cracks down on them. Governments need to understand that plastic is both a health and economic risk that is not worth taking. Without ambitious anti-plastic laws, Coke will continue business as usual.

“We need globally binding rules to phase out single-use plastic and provide both accountability and transparency to protect each and every one of us from this toxic crisis we face.”

Last month, Coca-Cola was revealed to be one of a number of multinationals responsible for a quarter of the world’s branded plastic pollution, with 11% of the branded litter traceable back to the drinks manufacturer, according to the report.

Climate crisisMaterials and packagingNewsSupply Chain

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