5 Dec 2018 - KANSAS CITY — The world’s biggest beverage companies are joining efforts to tackle a global plastic waste problem. Whether the efforts succeed may depend on a question: Will the “circular economy” be unbroken? Technology is making more single-use plastic bottles recyclable, but messaging from industry and government may be needed to inspire the consumers of the products to recycle.
Each year at least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute, according to the report “The New Plastics Economy.” While the ratio of weight of fish to weight of plastic in the ocean was at 5:1 in 2014, it could be 1:1 or worse by 2050. The World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation prepared the report with analytical support from McKinsey & Co. Globally, about 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, according to “The New Plastics Economy.”
James Robert B. Quincey, president and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, said he believes plastic environmental problems could be solved, especially through the handling of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles.
“The good news about plastic is, it’s a completely solvable problem, especially PET, because PET is fully capable of being collected, recycled and turned back into bottles,” he said Sept. 6 at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston.
He added, “New technology will make it easier, but new technology is not needed. What’s needed is to solve the organizational problem of collecting the bottles and then putting in the infrastructure to basically chop them up and make them virgin material again.”
The Coca-Cola Foundation and national non-profit organization Keep America Beautiful run a recycling bin grant program. This year it will distribute 4,500 recycling bins in public space locations.
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars, Inc., Nestle S.A. and Unilever all have signed onto a New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. In total, nearly 300 packaging producers, brands, retailers, recyclers, governments and non-governmental organizations have signed the global commitment to eradicate plastic and pollution at the source. The commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with U.N. Environment, was unveiled Oct. 29 in Bali.
One goal is that 100% of plastic packaging be easily and safely reused, recycled or composted by 2025.