Oceana: Coca-Cola and Pepsi’s plastic packaging use increases by hundreds of millions of pounds
Oceana calls on both companies to increase reusable packaging and reduce single-use plastic, after Ellen MacArthur Foundation report reveals significantly increased plastic use and limited progress in meeting recycling goals
WASHINGTON, Nov. 03, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Oceana analyzed data1 from the Global Commitment 2023 Progress Report released earlier this week by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and found that the two top polluting brands, according to the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit, increased the amount of plastic used by hundreds of millions of pounds on a year over year basis. The Coca-Cola Company increased its use of plastic packaging by over 6% or over 454 million pounds (206,000 metric tons) to a reported 3.43 million metric tons in 2022. PepsiCo increased its use of plastic packaging by 4% or over 220 million pounds (100,000 metric tons) to a reported 2.6 million metric tons in 2022.
This increase coincides with additional data in the Ellen MacArthur annual report that shows the companies made only marginal progress towards meeting pledges to increase recycled content in their plastic packaging and to decrease their use of virgin plastic packaging. And, both companies reported no progress on having more plastic – by weight – in reusable packaging. Coca-Cola disclosed that this percent was just 1.3% in both 2021 and 2022 and Pepsi, for the second year running, released no data for this metric. The companies have pledged to increase the volume of beverages they sell in reusable packaging by roughly 10-percentage points by 2030.
Oceana released the following statement from Matt Littlejohn, Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives:
“It is unacceptable that Coca-Cola and Pepsi are increasing their use of plastic by hundreds of millions more pounds year over year. The companies’ efforts and pledges are not solving this problem. The best way for Coca-Cola and Pepsi to stop this relentless growth in plastic is to dramatically increase the use of refillable bottles – which can be used up to 50 times if made of glass. Just a 10% increase in refillable bottles in all coastal countries in place of single-use plastic could reduce marine plastic bottle pollution by 22%.
Unfortunately, despite commitments to increase reusable packaging, both companies are falling short. This doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Refillable bottle systems exist – at scale – in many countries around the world. Consumers in existing markets buy them, prefer them, and return them for a small deposit. Coca-Cola has said that 93% of their reusable packaging is returned to the point of sale.
As the world’s leading plastic polluters according to the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit, Coca-Cola and Pepsi need to focus on reducing plastic and cleaning up the mess they’ve made. Just adding recycled plastic to single-use bottles won’t cut it. Coca-Cola and Pepsi need to stop making empty promises and start taking action. They need to dramatically increase the share of refillable packaging to make a real impact. Our oceans cannot wait.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 275 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.org to learn more.
Coca-Cola, in its last sustainability report, announced that the share of its products sold in reusable containers was 14% in 2022. This is a decline of two percentage points from the 16% share disclosed when the company announced its pledge to increase the overall share of its products sold in reusable packaging to 25% by 2030. Oceana estimates, based on the company’s total reported volume of sales, that the reported two percentage point decline in share could mean Coca-Cola instead produced the equivalent of an additional 5.8 billion 500ml (16.9 US fl. oz) single-use plastic bottles and cups over the last two years in place of reusable packaging.[i]
Major Coca-Cola bottlers have also reported declines in sales of beverages in reusable packaging since Coca-Cola’s announcement in February 2022. Coca Cola’s reported share is directly tied to and dependent on the shares of its major bottlers. Four bottlers that Oceana estimates accounted for nearly half of Coca-Cola’s current reusable sales in 2022 – Coca-Cola FEMSA, Arca Continental, Coca-Cola Andina, and Coca-Cola Hellenic – all reported shares in 2022 that were smaller than those reported in 2021.[ii] Only one major bottler, Coca Cola Andina, has pledged to significantly increase the share of refillables in line with Coca-Cola’s pledged 10% increase.
1 The reporting in the annual progress report does not include annual increases in plastic use for the companies reporting. To get this data, Oceana, compared the progress reports from 2022 (which reports on 2021 data) and 2023.(which reports on 2022 data)
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