Coke & Pepsi commit to recycling. Can we trust them?

In recent months, Coca-Cola & Pepsico made big commitments to sustainability and turned away from the Plastic Industry Association.

In 2018 Greenpeace named Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle the world’s largest producers of plastic trash. These companies create plastic on a massive scale, and often become targets of environmental backlash.

Coca-Cola alone manufactured over 3 million tons of plastic in 2017. That’s largely virgin plastics, amounting to a lot of waste.

In recent months, Coca-Cola & Pepsico made big commitments to sustainability and turned away from the Plastic Industry Association.

Circular economy for plastics

Commitments of beverage giants include:

  • Elimination of unnecessary and problematic items.
  • Move from single-use to reusable packaging.
  • Substituting plastic with eco-friendly materials where possible.
  • Transparency about plastics and their production.

Pepsico already promised to change their Aquafina products in fast food chains from plastic bottles to aluminum cans. Coca-Cola didn’t wait long and announced that in the next 11 years their bottles and cans will be made of at least 50% recycled materials.

Healthy competition or government pressure?

Both companies are making sweeping changes to their plastic policies. They aim to create a better public image than the competitor.

No sane corporation would ever hesitate to turn a healthy initiative into an advertisement.

Some initiatives are less voluntary than others. For example, Coca-Cola will start using 100% recyclable bottles in Japan. This came largely as a result of the Japanese government plan to completely reuse all waste by 2035.

Coca-Cola and Pepsico turning towards recyclable plastics can be seen as an attempt to prepare for upcoming waves of legislation in different countries.

A step towards a greener future

Whether a a result of public pressure, regulation, or healthy competition, it’s a serious victory in the fight against plastic waste.

Commitments of Coca-Cola and Pepsico echo those of hundreds of other businesses. The Global Commitment Report from earlier in this story expects a transition into a circular economy for plastics.

According to the report, achieving these commitments would result in a recurring annual saving of approximately 8 million tons of CO2 emissions.

What this means for consumers

Now that the environmental damage done by plastic trash has been recognized, it’s important to hold companies to their promises. We shouldn’t forget about the millions of tons of plastic trash still in the ecosystem.

Supporting green initiatives helps us get more of them. For example, buying products in recycled and eco-friendly packaging goes a long way to send a signal.

At the same time, legal action could come into play. Now that commitments have been signed, they’re a matter of public interest. Breaking them shouldn’t come easy.

Overall, cautious optimism is the way to go with this story.

Trust with a healthy dose of checks and balances.

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