A high official of Coca-Cola said that the company would not ditch single-use plastic bottles because consumers still ‘want’ them, reports BBC.
Customers like plastic bottles because they reseal and are lightweight, the firm’s head of sustainability Bea Perez told BBC.
The company’s stand on plastic bottle sparked fury from environmental campaigners as the US drinks giant is the world’s biggest plastic polluter, reports Daily Mail.
But environmental campaigners argue many Coke bottles would still go uncollected and end up in landfill.
Sian Sutherland, of A Plastic Planet campaign group, reacted angrily, saying: ‘Shame on Coca-Cola!’
She accused it of refusing to take ‘responsibility for the 120billion plastic Coke bottles that pollute our planet every year’, according to the Daily Mail report.
She added: ‘Do they really think the public enjoy seeing beaches and landfills covered in plastic waste, killing marine life and degrading into toxic microplastics that are now in our food?’
‘People buy what they are sold and it is Coca-Cola’s job to sell them something different – toxic-free and nature safe.’
The firm has pledged to recycle as many plastic bottles as it uses by 2030, according to the BBC report.
The company produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year — equivalent to 2,00,000 bottles a minute.
In 2019, it was found to be the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste by the charity Break Free from Plastic.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Perez said the firm recognised it now had to be ‘part of the solution’.
Coke has pledged to use at least 50 per cent recycled material in its packaging by 2030. It is also partnering with NGOs around the world to help improve collection.
However, Perez said the firm could not ditch plastic outright, as some campaigners wanted, saying this could alienate customers and hit sales.
She also said using only aluminium and glass packaging could push up the firm’s carbon footprint. ‘Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers,’ she said.
‘So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us.’
Perez said she respected the idealism of youth activists, such as 19-year-old campaigner Melati Wijsen, who with her sister Isabel, convinced the island of Bali to ban single-use plastic bags, straws and styrofoam last year.
Such plastics were clogging up the seas around Bali, harming marine life.
Perez also said she agreed with calls for Coca Cola to reach its environmental goals sooner than 2030 - although she would not say whether she would step down if the plans failed.
‘We have to reach this goal and we will - there’s no question.’
A global audit by Break Free From Plastic last year showed Coca-Cola as the world’s top plastic polluter, with Nestle and PepsiCo close behind, adds the Daily Mail report.
The group’s Von Hernandez said: ‘Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment. Recycling is not going to solve this problem.’
Julian Kirby, of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘As one of the most plastic-polluting companies in the world, Coca-Cola has a huge responsibility to ditch single-use bottles in favour of reusable alternatives.
‘Making excuses will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, including many of their customers.’
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