Last year I decided to take on the top ten plastic polluters (alongside the top ten palm oil users) I spent months researching them, and then started emailing them monthly to demand they make changes. Not a single one (okay, maybe one) seemed to care. I gave up pretty quickly, because I didn’t feel that I alone could make a difference. I actively started boycotting/avoiding those companies as a result.
Now seems like a better time than ever to share my research – which is easy to find – and the responses I received.
What we need to understand is that buying from these companies, even just a little bit, is helping to line the pockets of those that are helping to destroy our home.
This blog is an ongoing piece of work that I am going to add to little by little. I will not be using this time to focus on palm oil users, but I may visit that once this one is complete. If they cross over into that category though, it will be made clear.
Coca-Cola has been named the number one world-wide plastic polluter for the third year in a row. This has come from the latest audit done by Break Free From Plastic Movement which involves counting and documenting plastic waste collected from 55 countries.
According to Greenpeace and iNews this huge soft drinks company creates around 3500 environmentally damaging, single use plastic bottles every second.That’s approximately 302,400,000 per day. That’s just plastic bottles though, that’t not including their packaging.
I know what you might be thinking – you can put these bottles in the recycling, right? Yes, you can. However, there is no guarantee that they make it to the correct place, and don’t end up in the ocean, or scattered elsewhere, and Coca-Cola do nothing to ensure they are recycled correctly, nor do they offer much as an alternative.
The same Greenpeace report also advises us that only 7% of their products are made using recycled materials. They do in some instances use bio plastics and plant based bottles, and while they are little less damaging to make, there is no guarantee again that they will be recycled correctly, which still means a form of plastic ends up in landfills/the ocean/nature and basically has the same effect as a regular plastic bottle.
While all of this is ridiculous, something that I really struggle is that this company once had bottle pretty much invented the bottle deposit scheme! In the early 1900s, for a refundable deposit, consumers could return their glass bottles, meaning that they were then reused. This scheme of course no longer exists.
Coca-Cola owns over 500 brands, and has over 4000 drinks options. I try to avoid all of the brands they own, but it can be so difficult, because how can we possibly know every single one, when they own so many? The Coca-Cola website alone doesn’t actually list all of the brands it owns.
On their website, they talk about what they are doing to be more sustainable, and yet they recently reported that they won’t get rid of their plastic bottles, because their consumers like them (EcoWatch) This company makes around £59 billion per year, and they are worried that removing their plastic bottles will damage their sales. Instead they plan to focus on recycling, waste collection and using 50% recycled materials in their packaging.
It’s simply not good enough. How about 100% recycled materials? How about some kind of recycling initiatives to do more to ensure that their products are disposed of correctly? How about bringing back the deposit scheme?
If their plastic pollution isn’t enough to turn your stomach (never mind their ingredients) you might be shocked to find out that to make their drinks, this incredibly unethical company dehydrate regions that already suffer from water shortages, and lack of clean water. According to War on Want this has been happening or has happened, across several regions across the world, causing further water depletion, and meaning that farmers are unable to water their crops. This all has a very serious knock on effect, both for those living in those areas, and towards the environment.
I felt further shocked in reading this article to discover their links to violating workers rights, and the mistreatment of union workers. I am here to talk about their plastic pollution primarily, but I would highly recommend reading up on their disgusting treatment of their workers.
I emailed Coca-Cola a few times about these issues, and I would be happy to share the email I sent to anyone who would be interested in sending similar emails. Or if you want to write your own, the response I received came from firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the response I recieved from them –
“Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company, Mrs. *******.
New packaging is always being considered by our Company; however, for competitive and other reasons, our new package research is confidential. We hope you understand.
The Coca-Cola Company works very closely with suppliers to develop safe, convenient and environmentally-friendly packaging. When evaluating a package, we consider many factors. Most important are those relating to safety and the environment.
We appreciate your interest and hope you’ll visit our website again.
The Coca-Cola Company”
Upon sending further emails, I then received –
“Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company, Mrs. *******. We apologize for the frustration with our response.
It’s clear that the world has a packaging waste problem, and we have a responsibility to help solve it. That’s why we announced our World Without Waste<https://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/world-without-waste> vision with ambitious goals around a central idea-to help collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one we sell by 2030. We want to continue to grow our business the right way, and we are committed to do more, faster. Even though 87% of our packaging is recyclable today, much of the world doesn’t have the right systems in place to ensure bottles and cans are actually collected and recycled. We believe every bottle, every can has a value beyond its initial use. To address this immensely complex challenge, we’ve organized the global work around three key areas:
– Design: design better bottles and create technology to help reduce the need for single-use plastics altogether
– Collect: help create or improve collection systems around the world so we can help collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one we sell
– Partner: work with other companies, organizations, governments, and local communities to raise awareness and find solutions that promote a healthy, litter-free environment
We can’t do this alone. No one can. A problem of this size and scale requires bringing people together from governments, companies, and NGOs.
We’re building a global network of partners to help us achieve our goals, so partner is a key pillar of World Without Waste. We’re also working beyond collection and recycling. We’ve also committed to make our packaging 100% recyclable globally by 2025 and to make bottles with an average of 50% recycled material by 2030.
To learn more about our sustainability efforts, you may wish to visit us at: https://www.coca-colacompany.com/sustainability.
I have shared your comments with the appropriate management as well.
Should you have additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again.
These are very generic responses, that don’t really address what I said to them at all. They have such a large income, and a huge client base, that they will not care about one single household in the UK boycotting them. Perhaps if enough people stopped buying from then, it would start to make a difference.
Part of the journey to sustainability is finding and supporting ethical, environmental brands. Below you will find as many alternatives as I can find to the above brands.
Coming at number two on this list is Nestle. I was horrified to discover that Nestle owns over 2000 brands, including the retail side of Starbucks! They are the largest manufacturer of bottled water in the world, and they make around £91 billion a year.
While they have recently brought in a coffee pod recycling scheme, for a company with such bad plastic pollution – and let’s face it, no morals at all – this is green washing at its best.
With 98% of their products being packaged in the plastic, and creating 95000 tonnes of plastic pollution per year, there are some pretty shocking statistics. It might not seem as bad as Coca-Cola, however this company also has a history of going from one scandal to the next.
If their plastic pollution isn’t enough to turn you away, then how about theft of water from areas that already suffer from severe droughts, unnecessary animal testing, or the dreadful baby formula pushed onto vulnerable mothers in vulnerable areas of the world? (https://www.zmescience.com/science/nestle-company-pollution-children/)
I emailed Nestle about these issues, and I got a really generic reply!
“Thanks for getting in touch.
We remain strongly committed to minimising the impact our company has on the natural environment, including ensuring the right disposal or reuse of our packaging. We are determined to look at every option to solve complex packaging challenges and embrace multiple solutions that can have an impact now.
Our vision is that none of our product packaging, including plastics, should end up in landfill or as litter, including in seas, oceans and waterways. In order to achieve this, we have set ourselves the ambition of ensuring 100% of our packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2025. We realise that this is ambitious, and that today much more work is required to make this vision a reality, but we are determined to get there.
We have made a number of global commitments to help us achieve this, which we will continue to report on regularly, including eliminating non-recyclable plastics.
Collaboration and collective action is vital for transforming how packaging is managed today. Recognising this, Nestlé is working with value chain partners and industry associations to explore different packaging solutions to shape a waste-free future. Such system-wide change takes time, but we are committed to creating a world without waste, and delivering on the commitments we have made to achieve this.
Our company will also continue to play an active role in the development of well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes across the countries where we operate. In countries where recycling infrastructure does not exist, we believe in the value of recyclable and compostable paper-based materials and biodegradable polymers.
We are also committed to helping improve consumer information through labelling our product packaging with recycling information to help it be disposed of in the right way.
Plastic packaging plays an important role in safely delivering food and drinks to consumers and reducing food loss and waste, so we need to carefully consider alternatives before making changes. We believe that with the right approach, collection and recycling of it is possible without causing a detrimental effect on the environment.
For further information please click on the following link:https://www.nestle.com/ask-nestle/environment/answers/tackling-packaging-waste-plastic-bottles
I hope this helps.
Elisa WilsonConsumer Engagement Services”
I replied to this, but got no response.
Because Nestle sell so many different brands, it’s harder to suggest alternatives. Here is a good site offering suggestions of alternatives, but also a good list of brands to boycott!