Updated: May 28, 2019
Revelation comes as report calls on global firms to end secrecy over plastic footprint
Coca-Cola has revealed for the first time it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute – as a report calls on other global companies to end the secrecy over their plastic footprint.
The data from the soft drinks manufacturer was provided to the campaigner Ellen MacArthur, who is pushing for major companies and governments to do more to tackle plastic pollution.
The figures – which the company has refused in the past to disclose – reveal the amount of plastic packaging Coca-Cola produced in 2017. The company did not reveal the scale of its bottle production but when its packaging footprint is translated into 500ml PET plastic bottles, it amounts to about 108bn bottles a year, more than a fifth of the world’s PET bottle output of about 500bn bottles a year.
Coca-Cola is one of 31 companies – including Mars, Nestlé and Danone – that have revealed how much plastic packaging they create as part of a drive for transparency by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Combined, they produce 8m tonnes of plastic packaging a year.
But the majority of the 150 companies who have signed up to MacArthur’s global commitment to reduce plastic pollution are still refusing to publicly disclose figures on their own plastic packaging production. These include Pepsi Co, H&M, L’Oréal, Walmart and Marks & Spencer.
In a report published on Thursday, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation said data published for the first time, alongside what companies say they are doing to tackle plastic pollution, offered a new level of transparency about plastics and efforts to stop plastic waste and pollution.
But the foundation said companies and governments across the world had to do more. “The decision by more than 30 companies to publicly disclose their annual plastic packaging volumes in the report is an important step towards greater transparency,” the foundation said.
“We applaud the companies that are publishing this data and encourage all companies that make and use plastics to disclose their plastics footprint.”
One hundred and 50 companies have signed up to the foundation’s global commitment to reduce plastic waste, which aims to:
Eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reusable packaging.
Innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025.
Create a circular economy in plastic by significantly increasing the volumes of plastic reused or recycled into new packaging.
Sander Defruyt, from the foundation, said the action plans revealed by governments and companies in the report were a significant step forward. But he added: “They are still far from truly matching the scale of the problem, particularly when it comes to elimination of unnecessary items and innovation towards reuse models.
“Ambition levels must continue to rise to make real strides in addressing global plastic pollution by 2025, and moving from commitment to action is crucial.”
A first step by many of the companies who have signed the commitment was more openness. Alongside Coca-Cola’s data, Nestlé revealed it puts out 1.7m tonnes of plastic packaging annually, Unilever 610,000 tonnes, and Danone 750,000 tonnes.
Only two global raw material plastic producers have signed the commitment – Indorama and Borealis – and no airlines, food chains or hotels.
• This article was amended on 14 March 2019 to remove Burberry from the list of companies who have not publicly disclosed their plastic production. In fact, Burberry disclosed in the report that its plastic footprint is 200 tonnes.