Soft drinks giants are failing to recycle

A tiny percentage of bottles are made from recycled plastics, according to a new Greenpeace report....

Soft drinks giants are failing to recycle

Image: THIBAULT CAMUS / AP/Press Association Images

The world's biggest soft drinks producers are using just 6.6% recycled plastics in their bottles, effectively meaning that nearly an entire new container must be created for every drink that is sold.

The findings come from the first global survey of its kind by Greenpeace, which also revealed that these companies are selling more than two million tonnes of plastic every year.

The manufacturing practices of major industry players Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, Dr Pepper Snapple and Nestlé were the major industry players coming under Greenpeace's spotlight.

Five of these are responsible for the over two million tonnes – the same weight as over 10,000 blue whales. Coca-Cola, the largest brand, refused to disclose the size of its plastic footprint, making the actual total figure much higher.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

"The results are jaw-dropping. 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: phase out single-use plastic, embrace reusable packaging and make sure the remainder is made from 100% recycled content."

Picture by: Mike Groll/AP/Press Association Images

Other key findings from thereport:

  • None of the companies surveyed have commitments, targets or timelines to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles they use.
  • A third of the companies surveyed ((Dr Pepper Snapple and Suntory) currently have no global targets to increase their use of recycled content in their plastic bottles, and none are aiming for 100% recycled content in an ambitious timeframe.
  • Four out of the top six companies surveyed do not consider the impact of plastic bottles on oceans in their product design and development processes.
  • Over the last 10 years, the soft drinks industry has been consistently decreasing their use of refillable bottles, instead switching to yet more single-use plastic.
  • Two-thirds of the soft drinks companies surveyed have a global policy opposing the introduction of deposit return schemes on drinks containers, which have boosted recycling and collection rates to over 80% across the world, and more than 98% in Germany.

According to Greenpeace, packaging now accounts for a quarter of the 245 million tonnes of plastic that are used globally each year, making it the single most common use of plastic.

Just 14% of this plastic packaging is recycled globally, whilst a third of it escapes collection entirely.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, most commonly used for soft drinks, make up the second largest category of plastic packaging used globally. In 2014, alone 530 billion PET bottles were produced across the world and their production is predicted to grow by 4.7% a year, meaning just shy of 650 billion plastic bottles are expected to be sold globally in 2019.