I have enjoyed working for Coca-Cola for many years. A beautiful brand that over the years managed to surprise time and again when it came to experience and activations: the introduction of Coca-Cola Zero, festival activations and the growth of brands such as Aquarius and Chaudfontaine. But times have also changed for a brand like Coca-Cola and they are having a hard time keeping up. Coca-Cola’s happiness has been overshadowed for some time by the brand’s vast contribution to the plastic soup. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, so it is no surprise that one of the biggest brands in the world is in the proverbial catbird seat. The question is how a brand like Coca-Cola deals with this.
I have been seeing messages from Coca-Cola for a few months now, with the message: “please help us recycle”. A nice way to say that you yourself flood the world with plastic and then ask someone else to clean up your mess. Of course consumers should throw their own trash in the bin, but for the brand responsible for the production of 12,000 tons of plastic bottles per year – according to Greenpeace – it is remarkable to point a finger like this to say the least. And we are only talking about the Netherlands. On an annual basis, we are talking about an estimated 110 billion plastic bottles(!).
That is some serious plastic soup. Have a look on the brand’s site “Help us recycle” because a large brand like Coca-Cola has undoubtedly also woken up and is of course eagerly looking for alternative packaging where others ask to clean up your mess is just an temporary solution. There are already countless possibilities for biodegradable bottles based on bamboo, PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) or even paper. Although they will cost a bit more, they will ensure that you, as the largest soft drink producer, show the world how to take your responsibility. And if those alternatives are not yet good enough, then of course you have already established a fund of some kind that invests in a possible solution.
However, the message on the helpusrecycle.nl website is disappointing and actually a bit laughable:
“We aim to have all our packaging in 2025 so that we can recycle it.”
Seriously, is that your plan, your ambition as a big brand? So you are not going to tackle the source, namely your own plastic production, but you say that you strive for all your packaging to be recyclable within the next 6 years? An unbelievable and also unfeasible story with the following weak motivation: “We are a large company and this also involves a great responsibility. We work together with all parties in the chain to collect and process as much packaging as possible to recycle into new packaging. The consumer is an important link in completing this circle, and that is why we involve the consumer in this campaign. ”
On the same site you can also find the following statement: “The collection of waste is the responsibility of various parties, such as the packaging industry via the Waste Fund, supermarkets, national government and municipalities.” I miss one important party here: Coca-Cola!
It is understandable that this biodegradable bottle will take a while. But it seems that this is not being looked at at all yet and that the introduction of deposits on smaller bottles is frustrated by the party that produces the very same bottles.
Even if we continue to read, there is little news to report. Coca-Cola is especially proud that 95% of large packages and 70% of small packages are recycled. So 6,000 tons of plastic on an annual basis is not yet recycled, shame on you, consumer! Or to put it in ‘Greta’s words’: How dare you!
100% recycling is not a viable solution
If Coca-Cola really wants to contribute to a reduction in that plastic soup, why are there no (concrete plans for) biodegradable bottles yet? Can someone explain this to me? Or maybe so, because putting such a bottle on the market naturally costs a lot of money and Coca-Cola must of course also make a profit. I understand and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the company has made more than just a nice profit in the recent years. In 2018, a a whopping 9.7 billion . And for those who think that this was an incident: it was a growth of 10% compared to 2017 and the years before they also did pretty well where it comes to profit.
Come on, Coca-Cola, you can do much better than this. If you want to tell me I need to recycle, isn’t it about time you told the world when I no longer need to recycle because you have cleaned up your own mess? Only then does “always Coca-Cola” get a new meaning that stands for something that fits this day and age.