Coca-Cola Will Continue With Single-Use Plastic Bottles Because That’s What People Want

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At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, Bea Perez, head of sustainability for Coca-Cola, announced that the company has no intention of abandoning single-use plastic bottles. Why? It’s all the customers’ fault, apparently. They like the convenience of lightweight, recloseable bottles, she says, and the company dare not deny customers what they want because then the company might lose market share.

Coke products
Credit: Coca-Cola

Perez said instead of cutting back on the number of bottles her company uses each year, it will focus instead on ramping up waste collection and recycling efforts as it works toward a goal of using 50% recycled plastic in its bottles by 2030. In the world of science, there are two responses to pollution — remediation and prevention. Remediation means putting a Band Aid on the problem. Prevention means solving the problem. Coca-Cola is clearly opting for remediation rather than finding a way to prevent the bottles it puts into circulation from adding to the world’s supply of plastic waste. So much for sustainable business practices.

Coca-Cola is one of the largest producers of plastic waste, according to the BBC. It churns out about 3 million tons of plastic packaging a year — equivalent to 200,000 single-use plastic bottles a minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2019, it was found to be responsible for more plastic pollution than any other company, according to Break Free from Plastic. Nestlé and PepsiCo are second and third on the plastic polluters top ten list.

Coca-Cola says it will recycle as many bottles as it produces by 2030, but environmental advocates are skeptical. Today, only 10% of plastic bottles are recycled and there seems to be no clear plan to raise that percentage appreciably.

Perez told the WEF her company recognizes that it has to be “part of the solution,” but adds the following: “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate customers. So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling, and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.”

Her company says it would like to reach its environmental and sustainability goals sooner than 2030 if possible without giving any specifics about how that might be accomplished. “We have to reach this goal and we will — there’s no question,” Perez says, ignoring the time-honored aphorism that hope is not a plan. Coca-Cola is serving up platitudes designed to deflect criticism of its business practices for as long as it can while it continues to turn the planet into a global cesspit in pursuit of profits.

Here’s a plan. Buy a reusable bottle. Fill it with your favorite beverage. Be happy!


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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