Full transparency? Coca-Cola produces 3 million tons of plastic per year, Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports

Full transparency? Coca-Cola produces 3 million tons of plastic per year, Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports

14 Mar 2019 --- Coca-Cola produces three million tons of plastic packaging a year – based on 2017 numbers – which translates to 200,000 bottles a minute. These figures, including annual packaging volume numbers supplied voluntarily by 36 other companies, have been shared in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative report in a bid to bring transparency to the plastic packaging industry.

Released today, the report was developed in collaboration with UN Environment and lays out details of how brands, governments and other organizations are tackling plastic pollution. However, there are some glaring absences in as much as the big players are reluctant to share their data. 

This list includes PepsiCo, H&M, L’Oréal, Walmart and Marks & Spencer and leads to questions over why they will not divulge the information and highlights the necessity to move from commitment to action. 

The New Plastics Economy was launched in October 2018 as a global commitment to eradicate plastic waste at source and work collaboratively towards the development of a circular plastics economy. Since then, the number of signatories has risen to more than 350 and now includes Apple, Barilla, Tetra Pak, L’OCCITANE en Provence, as well as the Government of Rwanda and the cities of Sáo Paulo (Brazil) and Ljubljana (Slovenia). Financial institutions with more than US$4 trillion in assets under management have endorsed the commitment.Click to Enlarge

Many of the world’s leading fast-moving consumer goods companies (six of the top 10), plastic packaging producers (four of the top 10), retailers (five of the top 15) and recyclers have signed up to the commitment, notes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Coca-Cola is just one of the 36 companies that divulged how much packaging it creates annually. Based on 2018 figures the Colgate-Palmolive Company created 287,000 metric tons a year, Danone S.A. says it generates approximately 750,000 metric tons a year, Mars’ plastic packaging volume reportedly amounts to 129,000 metric tons annually and for Nestlé, it stands at 1,700,00 metric tons. In total, the group of 36 companies has a combined eight million tons of annual plastic packaging use.

Aside from the public disclosure of annual plastic packaging volumes, some highlights of the report include that consumer goods companies and retailers are committing to increasing the recycled content in their packaging to an average of 25 percent by 2025, compared with the current global average of just 2 percent. This means recycled content targets for plastic in packaging jointly represent five million tons by 2025.

Also, leading businesses and governments have pledged to end the use of problematic and unnecessary plastic – including PVC and single-use plastic straws and carrier bags – many of them by the end of this 2019.

Notably, 40 brands and retailers are piloting or expanding reuse and refill schemes. At least ten signatories have committed to deliver reuse and refill trials through TerraCycle’s Loop platform. Some signatories are investing in new delivery models at scale, for example, PepsiCo, which acquired SodaStream for US$3.2 billion.

“The targets and action plans set out in this report are a significant step forward compared with the pace of change of past decades. However, they are still far from truly matching the scale of the problem, particularly when it comes to the elimination of unnecessary items and innovation towards reuse models,” says Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy Lead. “Ambition levels must continue to rise to make real strides in addressing global plastic pollution by 2025, and moving from commitment to action is crucial. Major investments, innovations and transformation programs need to start now.”

Mondi is a signatory of the commitment and notes in a statement how working together with other businesses, partners and governments is key to finding a solution for plastic waste. Commercial demand has also increased for some of the company’s most sustainable solutions, Peter Oswald, Mondi’s Group CEO notes.

“Our paper and flexible plastic packaging solutions regularly win awards, but commercial demand for some of our most innovative sustainable packaging was limited before last year. The public focus on the impact of plastic waste is changing that. This momentum gives us an important opportunity to lead our industry with innovative paper and plastic packaging EcoSolutions that are sustainable by design.” 

Speaking to PackagagingInsights at the time of the initiative’s launch, Defruyt said that, “[The commitment] is the largest effort ever to mobilize businesses behind a common vision. A circular economy for plastic aims to eliminate the plastic items we don’t need; innovate so all the plastic we do need can be safely reused, recycled or composted; and circulate everything we use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment.”

“The circular model allows us to capture an annual loss of US$80-120 billion in terms of material value to the economy, as well as eliminate the annual cost of at least US$40 billion due to environmental impacts of our current wasteful plastics economy – more than all the profits from the entire packaging industry combined.”

“Businesses and governments can already take many meaningful actions on their own, but changing the entire plastics system requires all actors involved working together. That is what the Global Commitment is about and why it is so important,” he explains.

By Laxmi Haigh

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com


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