“Our oceans can’t stomach any more of Coca-Cola’s plastic” – new Greenpeace report reveals scale of Coke’s plastic footprint

Publication date: 9th April 2017

A new Greenpeace UK report has revealed the scale of Coca-Cola’s plastic footprint, the biggest soft drinks company in the world.

Despite plastic bottles forming a major source of ocean plastic pollution, Coca-Cola failed to disclose key information for Greenpeace’s survey of the top six global soft drinks companies released last month, while all of its competitors did.

Now Greenpeace has uncovered the company’s “eye-popping” use of throwaway plastic – an estimated 3,400 PET bottles a second, which the company has been increasing in recent years – as well the company’s failure to meet sustainability targets and absence of a coherent plan to reduce the amount of plastic ending up on beaches, in landfill and in the sea.

“The rate at which Coca-Cola is pumping out single-use plastic bottles is just breath-taking,” said Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK.  “In the absence of full disclosure from Coke, we’ve calculated that it produces over 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year – an eye-popping 3,400 a second – while refusing to take responsibility for its role in the plastic pollution crisis facing our oceans. Our oceans simply can’t stomach any more of Coca-Cola’s plastic.”

Key Findings:

  • Coca-Cola produces over 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year, according to Greenpeace analysis.
    • Billions of these bottles are failing to be recovered every year and end up in the environment: on beaches, in landfill and in the oceans.
    • Coke produces over 3,000 throwaway plastic bottles every second (3,400)
  • Single-use plastic bottles now make up almost 60% of Coke’s global packaging
    • When combined with other types of single-use packaging this rises to 75%
  • Coke’s use of single-use plastic bottles is actually increasing: up 12% (2008-15).
  • Meanwhile, refillable containers are falling: down from just under a third (31%) to a quarter (25%) of Coke’s global product packaging, in the same period (2008-15), refillable glass is down by a third (33%) and there has been no growth in refillable plastic.
  • Coke is failing on recycled content targets and has no further global targets:
    • Incredibly, Coke got less than halfway towards its 2015 target to get just 25% of plastic bottles from “recycled or renewable sources”  (includes its so-called PlantBottle, which does little to ameliorate harm to marine life)
    • Following this, Coca-Cola now has no further global targets to boost recycled content across its entire product range.
    • Despite telling customers it’s their responsibility to recycle bottles, Coke uses an average of just 7% recycled content globally.
  • Coke is failing on recovery & recycling rates:
    • Coke set a target in 2013 that its recovery & recycling rates in developed countries would rise to 75% by 2020. Greenpeace analysis of Coke’s available data (2013-2015) shows these rates are actually declining: down from 63% in 2013, to 61% in 2014 and 59% in 2015.
  • Coke no longer breaks down its progress on packaging:
    • Coke is masking its global packaging mix, making it difficult to measure further backsliding. The company no longer discloses the breakdown of refillable versus single-use packaging in its annual reports and declined to disclose the volume of its sales that are in refillable bottles to Greenpeace on request.

Louise Edge continued:

“In the UK alone, 16 million plastic bottles end up in our environment every single day. As the world’s largest soft drinks company, Coca-Cola has a particular responsibility to drastically reduce its plastic footprint and stop its bottles from choking our oceans.

“But rather than reducing the number of single-use plastic bottles it produces, which account for almost 60% of its packaging globally, Coke is investing in even more throwaway plastic. We’d love for Coke to come clean on its plastic footprint and provide detailed breakdowns of what it produces annually – so we’d welcome any clarifications they have to offer to our estimates.

“We’re calling on Coca-Cola to ditch throwaway plastic, embrace reusable packaging and make sure the remaining packaging is made from 100% recycled content, not the miserable 7% it currently averages globally.”


Notes to editors

Click here for the full report.

Last month Greenpeace released the first ever comprehensive survey of the plastic footprints and policies of the top six global soft drinks companies: http://greenpeace.org.uk/press-releases/greenpeace-report-reveals-plastic-footprint-worlds-largest-soft-drinks-companies-20170314

Images of ocean plastic pollution can be found here (free to use with credit): http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJAYYJJ

For further information, interviews and comments, contact:

Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer, luke.massey@greenpeace.org, +44 (0)7973 873 155