The famous Coca-Cola company was found guilty of being the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic trash conducted by the Break Free from Plastic global movement. In September 2019, this movement conducted 484 beach cleanups world-wide. During that cleanup 11,732 pieces of plastic collected were from Coca-Cola products. This amount was more than the next three top global plastic polluters combined. The plastic litter was found on the beaches of 37 countries spread across four continents. Coca-Cola was the top source of plastic in both Africa and Europe, and the second in Asia and South America.
When asked about the egregious amount of plastic pollution linked to their company, Coca-Cola responded via email saying this: “Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans—or anywhere that it doesn’t belong—is unacceptable to us.” They also stated, “We are investing locally in every market to increase recovery of our bottles and cans, and recently announced the launch of a Vietnam industry-backed packaging recovery organization, as well as a bottler-led investment of $19 million in the Philippines in a new food-grade recycling facility.” In October 2019, Coca-Cola introduced a bottle made from recycled marine plastic, and in 2018 the company made plans to recycle the same number of bottles or cans it sells around the world. Despite the company’s efforts to reduce waste, they remain the face of plastic pollution due to their increasingly alarming waste trail.
This story has received intermittent independent and corporate media coverage, with Coca-Cola’s ongoing plastic pollution being reported by USA Today, the New York Post, Forbes, and The Hill. With climate change and the human footprint becoming one of humanity’s greatest threats, one would expect the company that leads in plastic pollution to be the recipient of much more consistent media reproach.
Source: Olivia Petter, “Coca-Cola Named Worst Plastic Polluter for Second Year in a Row,” The Independent, October 24, 2019, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/coca-cola-pollution-plastic-environment-coke-a9168921.html.
Student Researcher: Veronica Espinoza (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)