Coca-Cola and Pepsi falling short on pledges over plastic – report

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not doing enough to reduce their plastic waste footprint globally, according to a report.

The charity Tearfund has compiled a league table of how the companies, and Unilever and Nestle, are faring in their commitments set against a three-point plan.

The plan calls on companies to:

  • report by the end of 2020 the amount of single use in units and volume they sell country by country,

  • reduce this by half by 2025 by moving to refillables and

  • ensure by 2022 one item is recycled for every single use plastic item sold in developing countries.

All the companies have published and committed to publish annual global data on their plastic footprint, but none have published this information country by country.

Pepsi and Coca-Cola have not publicly committed to reducing this by 2025, or to invest in reusables or refillables as part of this reduction, Tearfund said in its analysis.

Unilever and Nestle scored highest in its commitments to reduce its plastic footprint in developing countries.

The report said Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s commitments were falling significantly short of what was needed to tackle their plastic pollution.

Unilever had done the most to try and make changes by committing to halve their use of virgin plastics by 2025 and promising to collect more plastic than they sell.

Dr Ruth Valerio, director of Tearfund, said: “The steps taken to date by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are a far cry from the action necessary to tackle a crisis of this magnitude.”

The league table was released on 22 April to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. “It is more important than ever that these companies urgently reduce their reliance on single-use plastic and switch to refillable and reusable packaging alternatives,” said Valerio.

“Today is also the AGM of Coca-Cola where important decisions about its future will be made.”

The NGO is calling on the public to use their voices to speak up and demand further action and responsibility from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s CEOs – for the sake of people living in poverty and the climate.

Last month a Tearfund report found the four global drinks giants are responsible for more than half a million tonnes of plastic pollution in six developing countries each year, enough to cover 83 football pitches every day. Greenhouse gas emissions from the open burning of their plastic bottles, sachets and cartons creates 4.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – equivalent to the emissions from 2m cars, they calculated.

Coca-Cola said it was aware the Tearfund report raised serious concerns.

The company said: “We don’t want to see any of our packaging end up where it shouldn’t and, more specifically, our goal is to see it all recovered and recycled … We recognise that we have a responsibility to provide solutions that make plastic waste a thing of the past.”

“As part of our World Without Waste goals, we have committed to collecting a bottle or can for each one sold by 2030, with the aim to ensure that every plastic bottle contains at least 50% recycled plastic by 2030.”

A PepsiCo spokesperson said: “PepsiCo reports on our global plastic usage annually, as a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy. Our goal is to make 100% of our packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025. We’re working to reduce the amount of plastics we use and have set a target to, by 2025, decrease virgin plastic content across our beverage business by 35%. We will continue a dialogue with Tearfund about how we can leverage our scale and reach to accelerate systemic change and meaningful progress.”

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