Plastic Bottles are Emblematic of Today’s Plastic Crisis
Single-use plastic bottles are fueling the petrochemical build out, are the greatest source of plastic packaging pollution, and have a clear alternative: the refillable bottle.
At the core of the plastics crisis lies the idea of ‘disposability,’ which we’re tackling through an initiative to bring back the refillable bottle. With this campaign, we will:
Turbo charge deposit return systems (bottle bills) to capture beverage bottles and create the infrastructure needed for a circular system
Call on Coca-Cola and other companies to prioritize reuse and refill, instead of single-use plastic
Win policies that ensure the beverage industry sells a portion of its bottles in reusable containers
Such policies would be among the first binding reusable packaging targets in the US and the world. Overall, this policy-forward solution will divert billions of plastic bottles from landfills and the environment and lower greenhouse gas emissions, while demonstrating how we can build a reusable economy.
OURREPORT: Calling on Coca-Cola, the Beverage Industry and Policymakers to Bring Reusable Beverage Bottles Back to the US
They were once a pioneer of a waste-free refill system. Remember their iconic glass bottles? Now, this one company alone produces 23% of the world’s PET plastic bottles. We’re calling on Coca-Cola to bring back refill and sell 25% of their beverages in the US in refillable containers.
The Coca-Cola Company is the largest consumer-facing global seller of plastics, producing 134 billion – almost one quarter (23%) – of the world’s PET plastic bottles. Its “Every Bottle Back” pledge stands in stark contrast to the company’s #1 ranking for five years running in #BreakFreeFromPlastic’s brand audits of plastic pollution. The production of the company’s plastic bottles emits the equivalent annual emissions of 16 coal-fired power plants.
In fact, Coca-Cola itself was an early leader in refillables. During the company’s early years, it pioneered a waste-free system for fountain drinks and created a successful deposit return system that ensured an impressive 96% of its glass bottles were reused.
But between the 1950s and 1970s, the company gutted its own refillable infrastructure in the US, opting for single-use containers that externalized the cost of its new packaging waste onto the public and ratepayers. Story of Stuff Project’s new report reveals that Coke knew at the start of the 1970s that switching to single-use containers would be worse for the environment, but doubled down regardless. Then the company set about battling federal and state legislative efforts that would have held the beverage industry accountable for the lifecycle costs of its packaging through bottle bills and bans on single-use containers.
In 2022, Coca-Cola announced its intent to sell 25% of its beverages globally in refillable containers. But there’s a glaring hole in its flagship market, the US, where the company has virtually no refillables in circulation apart from one small pilot project in Texas. We’re calling on Coca-Cola and its bottlers to change the course of history and lead the beverage industry once again by bringing back refillable bottles and supporting state-mandated refill quotas.
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