Coca-Cola sells more than 100bn single-use plastic bottles a year. Its plans to increase recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% are startlingly unambitious
Coca-Cola’s grand announcement on plastic packaging is a lot of PR fizz. But when you look at the detail, it’s all a bit flat.
The news that the company is to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% shows a startling lack of ambition from the soft-drinks giant to tackle one of the greatest environmental challenges facing us: the plastic pollution choking our oceans.
This new plan is no game changer. Limited to operations in the UK, Coca-Cola’s plans amount to increasing its existing target for recycled content by a mere 10%, launching yet another public awareness campaign to keep the focus on litterers, and trialling what appears will be little more than a promotional scheme for buying more Coca-Cola bottles.
The company’s plans, which it says it will reveal later this year, may feature a money-off voucher scheme to reward customers returning small Coca-Cola bottles to shops. This would be a cheap gimmick to try and move the story on from Coca-Cola’s major U-turn on deposit return schemes after Greenpeace revealed the company had been lobbying against these in Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels. If the vouchers can be redeemed on yet more plastic Coca-Cola bottles, this will only boost the already staggering global plastic bottle sales of a million a minute.
It’s also worth pointing out that Coca-Cola’s mildly higher goal to source 50% recycled content should be taken with a pinch of salt given the company’s history of failing to keep its promises. Coca-Cola got less than half way to meeting its global 2015 target to source 25% of its plastic bottles from recycled or “renewable” material, for example plant-based plastics. Globally the company reached a pitiful 7% recycled material.
Even putting these doubts aside, is reaching 50% recycled content in three years’ time significant? The truth is that 100% recycled bottles are feasible and have been rolled out for a number of soft drinks products over the past decade. In 2007, for example, Suntory’s Ribena became the first major UK soft drink brand to use 100% recycled plastic. Coca-Cola, the world’s biggest soft drinks company, is lagging far behind.
Nearly half of the more than 35m plastic bottles bought in the UK every day are not recycled. We need governments to step up and introduce what we know already works around the world. Deposit return schemes have a proven track record internationally for increasing collection rates of drinks containers.
After concerted campaigning, we now have clear political processes in motion for governments in Holyrood and Westminster to consider introducing well-designed deposit return schemes that can cover all drinks containers. To help these succeed, we need major players like Coca-Cola to get fully behind these processes to deal with the problem at scale.
Coca-Cola has previously claimed (pdf): “We are interested in innovations that deliver genuine, measurable long-term advancements toward sustainability and not just eye-grabbing marketing slogans that will earn us public relations points in the near term.”
The company’s new plastic packaging strategy is far from genuinely innovative. As the biggest drinks company on the planet, that’s not good enough.
This article was amended on 14 July 2017. An earlier version said that PR firm Edelman was responsible for the new announcement. Edelman has yet to start work with Coca-Cola.
JOHANNESBURG SOUTH – The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) gives helpful tips and insight on what should be left out of the dustbin.
“There are various waste streams and most of them are appropriate for recycling. By seeing waste as a resource, we can help protect virgin materials and aim to create a circular economy where very little waste is generated,” says Prof Suzan Oelofse, President of the IWMSA.
A nifty website for all those interested in being environmentally friendly is MyWaste. Founder of MyWaste, Mark Gibson elaborates, “It all comes down to knowing the different waste materials and what should be done with it. The website enables residents to select the waste they want to recycle. ”We then provide them with a list of their nearest recyclers and buy-back centres in their area.”
Oelofse and Gibson explore the most common waste streams below and the best course of action to keep it out of landfill sites:
“Car batteries are recyclable. Alkaline batteries are not often recycled and should be disposed of as a hazardous material. The best option would be to switch to rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, which are widely recycled after their lifespan,” guides Gibson.
Oelofse states that nearly all cans and tins can be recycled. “These include: food cans, aluminium cans, paint tins, steel beverage cans, oil cans and aerosol cans. Just make sure that it is clean!”
Electronic waste (E-waste)
E-waste is anything that operates from a power source (electricity or batteries) and includes computers, phones, household appliances and light bulbs, to name a few. “E-waste contains hazardous materials such as mercury and should not be disposed of at landfill. A lot of supermarkets collect e-waste for recycling, such as old bulbs and batteries,” mentions Gibson.
Another common waste stream in the dustbin – food waste. Old scraps of food and even garden waste can easily be composted at home.
“Most glass containers can be recycled, no matter the colour. Glass bottles do not need to be separated by colour, however it is advisable that the lids are removed,” advises Oelofse. Glass and break-ware items that can’t be recycled include: computer and television screens, light bulbs, car head lights, laboratory glass, windscreens, window glass, crystal and opaque drinking glass, mirrors, heat-resistant ovenware, ceramics and clay pots.
All used oil can be recycled and includes hydraulic oil, gear oil and engine oil.
Paper is another widely accepted waste stream for recycling and includes: newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard boxes and pamphlets.
Many plastic materials can be recycled. Gibson advises that bottle caps and lids are removed from plastic packaging. “The recyclability of this waste stream depends on the equipment of recyclers and what the lid is made of.”
CAPE TOWN – A South African expert says citizens have failed at using recycling as a method to combat waste.
Plastic could outweigh the amount of fish in our oceans by 2050, the World Economic Forum (WEF) warned in a report last week.
Plastic production has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to over 300 million tonnes worldwide last year.
Currently, only 14 percent of plastic goods – mostly packaging – are being recycled.
Plastics are fossil-fuel based and it’s impossible to remake plastic into the quality it was before, says Muna Lakhani, founder of Zero Waste in Africa.
Lakhani says South Africans have failed.
“We’ve been recycling for probably 30 or 40 years and it hasn’t made any sort of significant dent in the waste stream. The most problematic material in our recycling stream is indeed plastic.”
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—or in the case of Federico Uribe, a source of artistic inspiration. The Colombian-born, Miami-based conceptual artist transforms neglected everyday objects into surprising new forms that look startlingly lifelike. One such work is “Animal Farm,” a collection of barnyard creatures crafted from different recycled bits and ends, from rubber soles to clothespins.
Uribe drew inspiration for “Animal Farm” from his formative years on his family’s cattle ranch in Bogotá. Those childhood experiences in the countryside helped develop an appreciation for nature, a theme found throughout his work. Although Uribe originally studied painting and the fine arts, he decided instead to channel his classical painting background and love for nature into whimsical sculptures woven from multilayered recycled materials.
Animal Farm, which has been displayed at different venues since 2008, includes farmworkers made from pencils; horse and pigs built of scrap wood; donkeys and cows constructed from rubber soles; and even a ram made of rope. Uribe arranges his sculptures into site-specific displays at each gallery. You can find the prolific artist’s most recent work on his Facebook page.
A home that comes close to being Net Zero is highly sustainable just based on that alone, but Reclaimed Modern house designed by architecture firm Dwell Developments goes a step further, as it is also constructed from reclaimed wood, concrete and metal. It is located in the Columbia City area of Seattle, Washington.
The Reclaimed Modern home measures 3,140 square feet (290 square meters), has four bedrooms, a separate garage, and a spacious rooftop deck. It was built primarily from materials with a high amount of recycled content, while they also reused lots of materials collected from demolition sites of older buildings.
These repurposed building materials include metal and wood from a deconstructed barn in the nearby Willamette Valley. The corrugated metal they collected from this barn was turned into exterior cladding of the house, as well as to build the garden fence. The overhang above the rooftop deck was made from repurposed barn wood. The builders also used repurposed concrete for the pathway leading to the home, and they reclaimed this from a removed public sidewalk.
Reclaimed Modern home is fitted with a 7.29 kW rooftop mounted solar array, which the designers hoped would be enough to give this home a net zero level of energy consumption. Since it has only been lived in for a short time, there is no actual data to show whether they have succeeded. But the home has a HERS score of 15, which is excellent and the designers are also planning on adding another 4 kW of solar panels , which should bring this score to 0.
The builders also applied Enviro-Dri coating to the exterior of the home, which forms a weather-resistant barrier and seals the building against moisture. The home was also fitted with triple-glazed windows, while a blower test revealed wall airtightness to be at 2.5 at 50. The house took nine months to complete and was finished in October 2014.
Source: Jetson Green
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