Huge plastic waste footprint revealed - single-use soft drink bottles

Roger Harrabin BBC 15 Mar 17;

Soft drinks makers admit more needs to be done to stop people discarding single-use plastic bottles.

Their UK trade body says it will work with government to reduce the number of bottles ending in the sea.

It follows research from Greenpeace suggesting the top six global firms sell plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes a year.

The biggest brand Coca-Cola is under fire for refusing to disclose how much plastic it produces.

A study estimated that more than five trillion plastic pieces weighing more than 250,000 tonnes were afloat at sea, and a recent paper showed that even marine organisms 10km deep had ingested plastic fragments.

Gavin Partington, from the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “We should all be concerned about the problem of marine litter.

“All plastic bottles are 100% recyclable so it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles responsibly.
“However, we recognise more needs to be done to increase recycling and reduce littering.”

The Greenpeace study found the six companies surveyed use a combined average of 6.6% recycled plastic in their bottles, and none have commitments to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles they use.

Louise Edge, from Greenpeace, said UK drinks makers have until recently been resisting efforts to reduce marine litter through bottle recycling schemes.

She said: “It’s clear that if we’re going to protect our oceans we need to end the age of throwaway plastic. These companies need to take drastic action now.”

Policy movement

After decades of concern, policy on plastic waste in the UK is starting to move. The plastic bags charge has drastically reduced the purchase of throw-away bags, and plastic bottles are now a target.

Scotland has trialled a scheme in which people are rewarded at stores with cash back or discount vouchers when they return plastic bottles. Coca Cola reversed its previous opposition to the trials.

In Germany a 25-cent refundable charge is imposed on plastic bottles.

In some US states a similar charge on aluminium cans prompts children to scour the streets looking for discarded cans to claim the cash back.

The UK government is devising a new litter policy.

The issues aren't straightforward. Minister are keen not to alienate people who already put their used bottles into their own recycling bin. Under a deposit scheme they would be obliged to return bottles to a special recycling point to get their money back.

But it does seem that public support for a deposit scheme is growing.


Millions of single-use plastic soft drink bottles sold every year, report shows
A survey of five of the six biggest soft drinks firms found just 7% of throwaway plastic bottles are made from recycled materials
Press Association The Guardian 15 Mar 17;

More than two million tonnes of throwaway plastic soft drinks bottles are sold each year, with only a small proportion made from recycled materials, research reveals.

A survey by Greenpeace found five of six global soft drinks firms sold single-use plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes – only 6.6% of which was recycled plastic.

If figures from Coca-Cola, which did not disclose how many tonnes of plastic it sells, were included, the numbers would be much higher, the campaigners said.

Single-use drinks bottles are a visible part of the problem of plastics pollution in the world’s oceans, forming the most common type of plastic packaging found washed up on shorelines globally, Greenpeace said.

Millions of tonnes of plastics are ending up in the ocean every year, harming marine wildlife, taking centuries to break down and spreading toxic chemicals.

Greenpeace wants soft drinks brands to do more to tackle marine plastic pollution, for example by producing more 100% recycled bottles and committing to phasing out the use of throwaway plastic.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We know that plastic bottles are a huge ocean-polluter and in the UK alone we dump 16m of them in our environment every day.

“If we’re going to protect our oceans we need to end the age of throwaway plastic.

“Companies need to move away from single-use plastic, embrace reusable packaging and make sure the rest is made from 100% recycled content.”

Companies responding to the survey are taking action including reducing plastic by making bottles thinner or using bioplastics which are not made from oil, and removing “problem plastics” to make them more recyclable.

But Greenpeace said lighter and bioplastic bottles still contributed to marine pollution, and did not compensate for the growth in the total volume being produced.

There was also a move away from refillable bottles, low levels of recycled plastic used in drinks containers and opposition to deposit return schemes which pay people to return empty bottles, according to the green group.

The firms surveyed by Greenpeace were Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, Dr Pepper Snapple and Nestle.

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington said: “We should all be concerned about the problem of marine litter.

“All plastic bottles are 100% recyclable so it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles responsibly.

“However, we recognise more needs to be done to increase recycling and reduce littering.

“We want to work with campaigners, central and local government and other companies in the supply chain to support action that achieves these aims.”

A Coca-Cola Great Britain spokeswoman said: “For decades we have actively supported recycling programmes, anti-litter campaigns and ocean clean-up, but it is clear more action is needed.

“That’s why last year we began a review of our sustainable packaging strategy and recently agreed to support the trial of a well-designed deposit return scheme in Scotland to understand whether it will help to improve recycling rates and reduce litter.”

The company has reduced the amount of packaging by 15% since 2007 in Great Britain, and its bottles in the country contain 25% recycled material.

It will also publish new sustainability plans in June.

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