Examining Coca-Cola’s Plastic Pollution Problem

Coca-Cola currently manages 500 different brands of beverages. But behind the fast growing business is an increasing problem with the environment. 

Over the past years, Coca-Cola has been facing issues over its contributions to plastic pollution. The company manufactures thousands of plastic bottles, which critics said have been harmful to both humans and animals around the world.

“Plastics are harming or killing animals around the globe, contributing to climate change and keeping us dependent on fossil fuels, entering our air, water and food supplies, and seriously jeopardizing human health throughout their lifecycle,” Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader for Greenpeace, said as quoted by Mercola

Scientists estimate that a single-use plastic could last for up to 1,000 years. It is true that plastic is cheap and convenient but dangerous when there is too much. 

That led James Quincey, president and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., to launch the company’s "World Without Waste" campaign in 2018. It aims to reduce their contribution to plastic pollution by collecting and recycling "the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030."

However, a new documentary by the German public broadcaster DW shows Coca-Cola is far from reaching its goal or trying at least. “Plastic Tide: Choking on Coke” details how the company deceives customers and environmentalists about its plastic production.

History of Coke Bottles

In the early 1980s, Coca-Cola sold its products only in glass bottles. However, it only took a few years for the company to replace it with single-use plastic bottles.

The company said the new container was "so light" compared to glass and that consumers can bring and drink the product anywhere they wish. Before, people needed to give a deposit and return the glass bottles to stores.

However, weight and consumer convenience are not the only reasons Coca-Cola used plastic. The material also helped generate more profit 

Returnable glass bottles required the company to "internalize their pollution costs," Bart Elmore, author of Citizen Coke, said in the DW documentary. With the plastic bottles, Coca-Cola was able to bring the costs of pollution to consumers and taxpayers.

The company even launched an ad in the 1970s in partnership with Keep America Beautiful, showing that consumers failed to properly manage their plastic litter. The effort continued for decades with CEO James Quincey writing an opinion piece in 2018 about the consumer issue.

“Consumers around the world care about our planet. They want and expect companies like ours to be leaders and help make a litter-free world possible,” he wrote. “Through our ‘World Without Waste’ vision, we are investing in our planet and in our packaging to help make the world’s packaging problem a thing of the past.”

However, a team of researchers from Midwest Research Institute revealed a major problem with the company. Coca-Cola hired the research team to analyze how glass bottles affected the environment.

“We put this together for them, and they didn’t publish it,” Arsen Darnay, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee and member of the research team, said on the findings that glass bottles have less impact than plastic. “They were not interested in having the public see the total picture.” 

Lack of Recycling System 

Michael Goltzman, vice president for social impact and global policy at Coca-Cola, said in the DW documentary that he was not aware that the company is running any recycling system to address its plastic pollution in certain areas of the world.

“We don’t see a world without plastic,” Goltzman said. 

coca-cola Over the past years, Coca-Cola has been facing issues over its contributions to plastic bottle production, which critics said have been harmful to both humans and animals around the world. Pixabay