The environmental organisation, Greenpeace, has undertaken a survey of how some of the largest soft drinks companies in the world use plastic. The comprehensive study, that involved the plastic usage policies of brands such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo, Danone, Suntory and Dr Pepper Snapple, found that less than seven percent of the plastic used in their products is recycled.
Five of these companies are responsible for the sale of plastic bottles weighing 2.16 million tonnes each year. Although the bottles produced by the companies are 100 percent recyclable, the actual recycled plastic used in their manufacture only amounts to 6.6 per cent.
The plastic waste that ends up in the world’s oceans has an enormous impact on wildlife. According to Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace, Louise Edge, as much as twelve million tonnes of plastic, of which a large amount is plastic bottles, goes into the seas every year. The damage this causes includes choking and entangling creatures such as seabirds and turtles, as well as being ingested by marine mammals.
The drinks companies have to take responsibility for a large part of this waste and, in addition to increasing the volume of recycled plastic used in their bottles, they should set targets for phasing out single-use plastic bottles.
In Britain, some parts of the coastline benefit from annual beach cleans carried out by the Marine Conservation Society. This organisation is finding increasingly large amounts of plastic, including single use items such as bottles, caps and lids. Although some of this material is suitable for plastic recycling, it is still discarded by the public rather than being responsibly disposed of so that it could be recycled.
The British Soft Drinks Association takes the problem seriously and admits that the industry needs to take steps towards improving the situation, but also claims that consumers have an important part to play in reducing the amount of plastic waste ending up in the oceans.
All the companies included in the Greenpeace survey were asked by Sky News for their response to the survey results.
Coca-Cola said that it had been active in supporting recycling schemes for decades, and last year had started a review of its sustainable packaging strategy. It had also agreed to take part in a deposit return scheme running in Scotland, to investigate whether this will help to increase the amount of plastic recycling and reduce waste.
Nestle has stated that it is committed to reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans and rivers, by working cooperatively with governments, other companies and NGOs, to improve plastic recycling rates.
PepsiCo has set a target of 2025 for making 100 percent of its packaging recyclable or recoverable, as well as working on increasing the rates of packaging recycling and recovery.
Danone stated that its commitment to protecting the environment is long standing and that one of its aims is to transform packaging into a resource, through promoting bottle to bottle recycling where possible. When this is impossible, it aims to ensure that the packaging it produces can be recycled into different products such as textile fibre.
The other companies identified in the report have not yet responded to Sky News at this time.