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Coca-Cola: Let’s not waste this summer

Amsterdam, 25 July 2019 – Isn’t it nice to drink a cold coke during a hot summer? Coca-Cola sales will increase in summer, but how many of the sold cans and bottles will end up in our environment? If Coca-Cola has its way: zero. The beverage multinational has started the global “World Without Waste” campaign in 2018. Part of this campaign is the retrieval of all packaging worldwide for recycling and an increase of the recycled plastic used in packaging. And to achieve this all, they want to cooperate with local organizations. The plan is amazing as well as ambitious, since we are dealing with 3 million tons of plastic packaging per year. According to the calculations of British newspaper The Guardian this equals 200,000 plastic bottles per minute.

Dutch summer campaign

In the Netherlands this recycling plan has been developed and made part of the largest Coca-Cola campaign of the year: ”Let’s not waste this Summer”. Consumers are told not to buy Coca-Cola if they cannot help the company with recycling the packaging. All consumers should dispose of the packaging in a responsible way. And if you dispose in the right way, and prove it, you could even win a sustainable prize. Would this convince all the people, who have the bad habit of leaving their cans and bottles in the street, not to buy a coke? Of course not. This is a smart marketing campaign presenting Coco-Cola as a sustainable company, while they lay the responsibility of cans and bottles in the environment solely at the consumers’ door.

Three brands 100% recycled plastic

The returned PET bottles are used to make new bottles. This summer, Coca-Cola announced that three brands (Chaudfontaine, Honest and CLACÉAU Smartwater) will be in PET bottles entirely made of recycled plastic in the beginning of 2020. That means a reduction of 900 tons new or ‘virgin’ plastic in Europe every year. The global goal of the World Without Waste campaign is to use at least 50% recycled plastic for all bottles in 2025. To increase the use of recycled plastic in the bottles, a higher percentage of bottles need to be returned. That is why the consumers are urged to separate plastic from other waste. However, even bottles entirely made of recycled plastic can end up in our environment. And that chance of bottles ending up in our environment increases when the amount of bottles sold increases.

Coca-Cola and the deposit-refund system

Coca-Cola has an ambivalent attitude to the introduction of deposit on bottles. With a deposit-refund system you make sure that a high percentage of bottles is returned. You will not get a sustainable prize once but you will get the deposit refunded every time you return a bottle. A couple of years ago, Coca-Cola has stopped its opposition to deposits when governments want to introduce or extend the deposit-refund system. However, the company does not promote deposits as a means of retrieving recyclable packaging. This summer campaign would only be credible if Coca-Cola expressed their support for a deposit-refund system. 


Also read: Coca-cola largest plastic polluter

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Worldwide call for a Clean Planet: Bring in container deposits to combat pollution from bottles and cans

Amsterdam, 9 May 2019 – A worldwide network of environmental organisations from five continents is calling for the worldwide introduction of deposit return systems for drink containers. On Thursday 9 May at 9 am local time, these environmental organisations displayed the words ‘Clean Planet’ at iconic places in more than 20 participating countries.

In the Netherlands, the Recycling Netwerk Benelux, the Plastic Soup Foundation and GoClean De Liemers took part in this action. The enormous letters spelling out ‘Clean Planet’ – made from discarded drink cans found in litter – appeared on the banks of the Nederrijn river near Arnhem.

Attention to worldwide environmental pollution
This action draws attention to the global environmental pollution caused by drink containers. Around 1.6 trillion containers were sold worldwide in 2015 and it is expected that in 2019 this number will reach 1.9 trillion. Many of these end up in our environment. Container deposit systems are a proven and effective measure to prevent this pollution. The Statiegeldalliantie, speaking on behalf of almost all Dutch municipalities, all twelve provinces, all 21 water boards and 190 companies, has been calling for some time for extension of the statiegeld deposit system in the Netherlands to include cans and small plastic bottles.

The European Union wants to tackle drink container pollution effectively. The new European directive on single-use plastics stipulates that within ten years, 90% of plastic bottles must be selectively collected in all member states. In practice, this means introducing a deposit on plastic bottles in all EU countries, because such a high collection rate can only be achieved with a deposit return system.

Deposit on cans
With this action, environmental organisations in the Netherlands are drawing attention to container deposits specifically on drink cans. They ask the Dutch government to include cans in the legislative process for statiegeld. Together with bottles, cans usually account for 40 percent of all litter. During World Cleanup Day in September 2018, more than 35,000 pieces of litter were removed and recorded in the Netherlands. Among the most commonly found items, cans ranked number two and bottles came in third, according to research by the Plastic Soup Foundation. The cans pose a danger to animals and especially to cows. When a discarded can on pasture land is mowed, sharp pieces can get into feed for cattle. This leads to internal bleeding and perforated intestines in cows, which can kill them.

Deposit return systems are already effective in combating pollution from plastic bottles and cans in forty countries. As a result, the share of large bottles in street litter has been reduced by 70 to 90 percent, as calculated by research agency CE Delft in a study commissioned by the Dutch government.

 

 

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Disappointing UNEA resolution on plastic soup: Shell and Unilever get their own way

Amsterdam, 20th March 2019 – The world has chosen not to combat the plastic soup with a reduction in plastics production or the introduction of a ban on single use plastics.

This is basically the disappointing result of the fourth UNEA conference in Nairobi, where the member states of the UN agreed a resolution on combatting the plastic soup. Several countries, led by the USA, blocked suggestions to combat the plastic soup internationally.

 Multiple resolutions discussed.

During the UNEA-4 Conference, concluded last Friday, the resolution “Addressing single-use plastic products pollution” was ratified. Member states are called upon therein to take measures to curtail and limit the ecological consequences of plastic waste. However, there is absolutely nothing mentioned in there about coordinated international discussion, nor any mandated obligatory reduction of (packaging) plastics. Several resolutions were discussed at the conference with the aim of stopping plastics pollution but the more ambitious ones didn’t even make the grade. Norway, Japan and Sri Lanka together proposed working towards a new international agreement with binding objectives. India even introduced a resolution at the very last minute aimed at banning single-use plastic.

The rejected resolutions were all in line with the processes already proposed by more than 90 environmental organisations, including The Plastic Soup Foundation which expounds upon how a new international convention on combatting the plastic soup should be manifested.

Read about that proposal here.

Opposition from the United States of America

The environmental organisations, collectively in Nairobi, accused the USA of blocking any ambitious resolutions, delaying discussions and modifying texts. The USA chose to defend the interests of their petrochemical industries who have invested more that 200 billion dollars in new plastics production. Shell for instance, is one of these companies that has invested billions in new plastics and profits from cheap shale oil and gas.

The environmental organisations issued a joint declaration to the press.

The Guardian quotes David Azoulay of the Center for International Environmental Law as saying:

“The vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance. Seeing the US, guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening.” Even after the ratification of a greatly modified resolution, the American delegation announced that they did not feel bound to it at all.

Plastics manufacturers are happy

The World Plastics Council, the forum uniting plastics manufacturers, welcomed the resolution in a press release. They postulate that the first priority must lie in improved collection of plastic waste, especially in developing countries with large populations. The resolution however, imposes not one obligation on manufacturers to produce less (packaging) plastic. Unilever, one of the biggest polluters in South East Asia, also aims more towards recycling (mini) packaging instead of a reduction in production.

The Plastic Soup Foundation’s MD, Maria Westerbos:

“This successful lobby from the industry means that the plastic soup will only get worse over the upcoming years and that countries with the worst pollution will be landed with the worst problems. It is unbelievably disappointing that profits are once again seen to be more important than a habitable planet for future generations.”

Photo: Art installation made from plastic pegs by Angelika Heckhausen


Do also read – Protest Greenpeace bij Unilever tegen wegwerplastic.

Do also read – Nieuw industrieel offensief: Alliance to end plastic waste.

Do also read – Wil het Kabinet-Rutte wel echt minder plastic?

 

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At least 24 million nurdles washed up on dutch beaches

Amsterdam, 14thMarch 2019 – A small 24 million ‘nurdles’ have been washed ashore on the beaches of the Wadden Sea Islands and along the dikes of Friesland and Groningen (NL).  Cause? Containers falling overboard from the freighter MSC Zoe, early 2019. This has been established by researchers at State University Groningen (NL). The loss of nurdles initially appeared to be a one-off, but is in reality a structural problem.

Earlier this year, 350 containers fell overboard from the freighter MSC Zoe. Several containers held plastic nurdles, raw material for products made from plastic. These washed ashore on the beaches of the Wadden Sea Islands and also landed along the dikes of Friesland and Groningen. Nurdles are extremely difficult to clean up although in Schiermonnikoog (NL) they are attempting the job with a specially adapted ‘vacuum cleaner’.

They’re sure to keep washing ashore too. Researchers at State University Groningen (RUG-NL) have invented a clever way to map just where they can be found, with the use of volunteers and an interactive map at waddenplastic.nl .To enable this analysis, RUG researchers, along with the volunteers, map out quadrants along the flood line measuring 40x40cm and actually count all nurdles found in each section. This is repeated every ten metres, after which they enter the data on the website. Currently there have been three hundred quadrants counted, giving the baseline estimate of 24 million.

Recent evidence also indicates that containers falling overboard can definitely lead to veritable nurdle disasters. It has happened before in South Africa and in Hong Kong. However, we’re wondering how things stand with daily loss of nurdles and Shoreliner offers us insight there.

A quarter of a million nurdles are counted every two months.

The Shoreliner catches floating plastic waste along rivers and removes it. The office of Tauw Civil Engineers has developed this system for the Port of Rotterdam NV and the Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management (NL). It recently won an award as most sustainable project by the Port of Rotterdam.

The Shoreliner has been operating in the Lekhaven (NL) for two years already and is cleared out on alternate months. Apart from other floating plastic waste, approximately 250,000 nurdles are counted at every clear-out. This means around 3 million of them every year at this spot alone. The amount that reaches the sea via the Nieuwe Waterweg (NL) is reckoned at multiples of the amounts washing up from the containers lost by MSC Zoe.

No pacts have been made and nothing agreed about the loss of nurdles.

The nurdles collected in the Lekhaven originate at plastics manufactories situated upstream. These manufacturers are extremely shoddy in the use of their plastics, despite the sincere promises from the industry as a whole, around Operation Clean Sweep with regards to the prevention of loss of these nurdles.

The Plastic Pact was recently ratified. This contains the promise to reduce the amount of waste plastics in the environment by 20%, by the year 2025. Agreements about the loss of nurdles, however, are missing within this pact. Individual plastics manufacturers such as Dow Chemical, Sabic, or Brealis, failed to add their signatures to the agreement, although the trade organisation under which they fall and to which they are affiliated, The Federation of Dutch Rubber and Plastics Industries (NRK-NL), did sign. The question is, will the NRK actually tackle the problem of nurdle loss, or not.

Research collaboration

Together with the North Sea Society (SNZ-NL) and IVN (NL), we at The Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF-NL) are carrying out research around Clean Rivers which concerns the waste collected in the rivers and along the riverbanks of the River Maas and the River Waal. The nurdle scores high among items found in Dutch rivers. This research is about to be widely extended thanks to an important donation from the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

MD of PSF, Marian Westerbos: “Until there is real and documented commitment within the industry and while this continues to be unsanctioned, nurdles will continue to stream into the North Sea at a massive rate. This is a disaster that’s happening every single day.”


Do also read: Extensive loss of pellets at sea remains without sanctions

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Does the Rutte cabinet really want less plastic?

Amsterdam, 6 March 2019 – State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (D66) of Infrastructure and Water Management has promised that in 2025 the Netherlands will use 20% less (packaging) plastic than in 2017. Agreements to that effect were made in the Plastic Pact with plastic producing and plastic using companies. However, real plastic producers such as Dow Chemical, Sabic or Borealis, did not sign the Plastic Pact, did not commit to any reduction.

If you want less plastic, you in the first place need to produce less plastic. You would therefore expect the Cabinet to discourage plastic production. The contrary is the case. Not only did they fail to succeed in convincing individual plastic producers to sign the Pact, behind the scenes the cabinet has even been making efforts to bring new plastic factories to the Netherlands

Late last year, the British chemical giant INEOS faced the choice of location for the construction of new plastic factories that use cheap shale gas from the United States as the raw material for pellets. The choice was between Botlek and Antwerp; the construction involved a 3 billion investment. The company eventually opted for Antwerp. Both Belgium and the Netherlands lobbied hard to get the new get plastic factories, according to research by the journalist collective Follow the Money.

The article quotes Adriaan Visser (D66), alderman for major projects in Rotterdam, who in the municipal meeting on 17 January informed the council about the ways used to convince INEOS to choose for Rotterdam: “I can honestly say that we have done everything in our power to achieve this. And we did not stand alone. The port authority, VNO-NCW, the cabinet including the Prime Minister, the Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency have also made serious efforts to bring the company to Rotterdam.”

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “The cabinet has engaged in double‑speak, a cardinal sin in politics. We want clarity. If the cabinet promises us less plastic, it must first ensure that less plastic is produced, on Dutch territory to begin with. The fact that lobbying for more plastic goes on behind the scenes, nourishes the thought that the Plastic Pact is nothing more than a greenwash-operation for the stage.”

Photo: National Government


Also read: INEOS invests 3 billion euros in plastic plants in Antwerp 

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The Clean Rivers project receives almost two million euro to make the Dutch river delta plastic-free

Amsterdam, February 18, 2019 – The Clean Rivers Project has procured a donation of € 1,950,000.00 from the National Postcode Lottery (NPCL NL). This brings their goal of making all Dutch river estuaries free of plastic, ever closer.

The Clean Rivers Project was founded in order to get some insight into the amount, and the origin of waste along our riverbanks. This makes it possible to tackle the waste problem at source. It’s the first time that research on this scale with regards to river pollution has been undertaken in The Netherlands using ‘citizen science’: volunteers collecting data for scientific research.

Martijn Krabbé came along on the 18thof February to personally hand over the cheque as Ambassador for the NPCL, right where the instigators IVN Natuureducatie, Plastic Soup Foundation and Stichting De Noordzee were busy with a river waste project along the River Waal. “Our dream of making the river banks and estuaries free of plastic by 2030 can now really come true. The nice thing about this particular project is that anyone and everyone can help out. By creating more awareness, that’s just what is happening too,” said Joline de Weerdt, Regional Manager of IVN.

Clean Rivers

Millions of sea mammals and birds become trapped, entangled in plastic every year. They all see it as food too and can end up dying with a stomach filled with plastic waste. The potential, consequential threat to human health is not very far off if the plastic enters the food chain. Lots of plastic streams into the sea via our rivers. This is why Plastic Soup Foundation, IVN Natuureducatie and Stichting De Noordzee decided to collaborate in 2017 and instigated the ‘Clean Rivers Project’.

From about 200 pathways along the rivers Maas and Waal, these organisations carry out their research with the help of trained volunteers, giving them insight into the various types of waste, the most frequently found items and the most polluted hot-spots. The data collected is used to approach businesses and manufacturers and have them address their responsibilities, as well as bring things into discussion with policy makers and increase awareness under consumers. Large scale clean-ups are also organised annually, which attract up to 4,000 volunteers.

Extra contribution

With this extra contribution from the National Postcode Lottery, the Clean Rivers Project can be substantially expanded. The number of Dutch rivers that can now be cleaned up and researched, immediately becomes exponentially larger. Hundreds more researchers will now be trained.

This donation was made possible by participants in the Postcode Lottery and took place on the eve of the Gala for Good Money (Goed Geld Gala). On the 4thof March, The National Postcode Lottery (NL) announces just how much they will be able to donate to various charities and causes for the good of humankind and nature, all thanks to participants. Fifty percent of donations made by participants in the NPCL is earmarked for these causes. The total contributed in 2018 was more than € 357.5M.

Read more about the Clean Rivers Project at www.schonerivieren.org.

 

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Extensive loss of pellets at sea remains without sanctions

Plastic Soup Foundation organizes a pellet count in the Netherlands

Amsterdam, 28 January 2019 – At the start of this month freighter MSC Zoe lost at least 292 containers, some of which were filled with pellets. Pellets, also called nurdles and no more than 5 millimeters big, are used to make plastic products. The beach of Schiermonnikoog was covered with millions of these plastic granules. Because they can have a huge ecological impact on the fragile nature of the mudflats, the University of Groningen is investigating where they ended up. Contrary to larger pieces of plastic, these pellets can barely be cleaned up.

Unfortunately, the loss of the millions of pellets on the Wadden Sea wasn’t an exception. In October 2017 nurdles from two cargo ships entered the ocean near the South African harbor town of Durban, after which a massive amount washed ashore. Furthermore, a recent Danish report shows that an extraordinary number of pellets were found in the environment around Danish plastic factories – the royal warrant holders of Lego. In May 2018 around 450.000 pellets were found on just one beach in Scotland; twelve miles from the Ineos Polymers factory where they are produced. And in 2016 English consultant Eunomia calculated that up to 53 billion plastic pellets are lost and end up in the environment in the United Kingdom alone.

It is not surprising that pellet loss is considered to be one of the major causes of the plastic soup. Yet there is no national or international organization monitoring it. Because this has actually been a known problem for a long time, plastic manufacturers have voluntarily united in Operation Clean Sweep (OCS). By its own account, this industrial initiative applies the best possible practices to prevent pellets from ending up in the ocean. But basically, the industry has free rein and is never fined or confronted. The past 25 years the OCS has also never had to publicly show their accountability. MacKerron, vice president of the American NGO As You Sow: “Operation Clean Sweep provides no transparency on the scope and nature of spills or efforts made to clean up. Given what we know about the alarming rates of plastic leakage into oceans, companies can no longer hide behind vague pledges of best practices. They need to provide prompt and detailed disclosure about specific actions taken to prevent spills, and when spills occur, information on spill size, and actions taken to clean up.”

As You Sow has called to account the American pellet manufacturers Chevron, DowDupont, ExxonMobil and Philips 66 during shareholders’ meetings, and have demanded the creation of at least yearly reports that map the spills, describe which measures have been taken and how the spills were cleaned up.

It is extremely important to gather evidence, so we can enforce measures that lead to the industry taking care of transport without pellet loss. Where and in what concentrations are the pellets found on coastlines and shores? Everyone can simply help build this data with a smartphone, whether alone or in a group. The Great Global Nurdle Hunt takes place between Friday 8 and Sunday 17 February.

With that in mind The Plastic Soup Foundation will organize various pellet counts in the Netherlands that week, at new and still secret hot spot locations in places such as Zeeland and Limburg. Join us and sign up by e-mailing michielp@plasticsoupfoundation.org. You will then receive more information on dates, times and locations.

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Endless varieties of wildlife consuming and defecating plastic

Amsterdam, 27 November 2018 – Dutch researchers determined in 2015 already that the number of marine species affected by plastic either through swallowing it, or becoming entangled in it, had doubled since 1997: from a registered total of 267 to 557. In 2018, National Geographic reported this number as being around the 700. These numbers are, however, no reflection on the actual number of (marine) creatures impeded in any way by plastic. It merely reports on the number of varieties that were scientifically researched.

Do fresh water fish in the Amazon also ingest plastic? Until recently, this was an unanswered question because no research had ever been done. This is no longer the case and a total of sixteen varieties of fish in the River Xingu (Brazil) have since been scientifically researched. Thirteen varieties were found to contain microplastics – that’s 80%. A total of 172 fish were dissected and 96 pieces of plastic were retrieved from the stomachs of 45 fish. The most frequently occurring type of plastic was polyethylene. You can read the article from the magazine Environmental Pollution here. Scientists are alarmed that plastic pollution turns out to be widespread in the Amazon basin.

The fact that three varieties of fish held no plastic is no real indication that these fish are free of all plastic. It could just be coincidence that those examples just happened not to contain anything. If more examples of these three particular varieties of fish were examined it could easily transpire that they too have plastics in their innards.

Other than stomach contents, faeces is also a good indicator for the presence of microplastics. It transpires that practically all species, whenever researched, contain plastic in their poop. Not only humans but South American Fur Seals in the wild (a Science Direct itemor seabirds (as reported in Science of the Total Environment).

It’s gradually approaching the stage when there is no longer any point in tallying the numbers of creatures affected by plastic, but we must find proper scientific answers to the following: Which of the world’s species can we reasonably assume are not in any way touched by plastic, do not become entangled in it, neither ingest nor defecate it? Because the answer will indubitably be: horrendously few.

Photo: microplastics found in Amazonian fish 


Do read:

From plastic soup to plastic poop
Plastizers in plastic slow down babys language development 

 

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Microplastics in insects in rivers South Wales

Amsterdam, 13 November 2018– Is plastic pollution causing microplastics to penetrate the food chains of freshwater ecosystems? A recent research answers with a yes. Half of the examined insects from rivers in South Wales turned out to carry microplastics that must have originated from the water or the soil they live in.

Immature mayflies and caddisflies from three rivers were examined for microplastics. The sampling areas were found upstream and downstream of five water purification plants. On all locations microplastics were found in the insects. Contrary to the expectation of the researchers that insects downstream would contain larger amounts of plastics than those upstream, no significant differences were detected between the locations.

Because the examined insects have different diets, the researchers could also investigate whether choice of food plays a role in the exposure to microplastics. This turned out not to be the case. However, the mayflies that primarily live in the water, did turn out to contain considerably less microplastics. This in contrast with the mayflies that search for similar food on the river bed. So, a preference for a certain habitat, water or soil, might provide an explanation for the different amounts of microplastics found.

The researchers express their concern about the spread of microplastics in food chains through insects. Especially fish, but also other animals – such as amphibians and predaceous insects – feed on mayflies and caddisflies. This mechanism was also brought to light in another recent research.


Also read: Mosquitoes transfer microplastics from water to land 

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Polluting drink multinationals lobby against fixed caps

Amsterdam, 18 October 2018 – Soft drink caps are one of the most common items found on beaches. The caps are made of a plastic that floats, while PET plastic bottles sink. Last May, the European Commission proposed a new directive to reduce the plastic soup. The plans are in part based on the items that are most commonly found on beaches. It is therefore only to be expected that the European Commission wants to make it mandatory that caps be attached to bottles. After all, this has been successful with the pull tags of drink cans. The vote on the new directive is due next Wednesday. In the meantime, the lobby machine of the soft drinks companies are working hard to reverse this step. According to an investigationpublished earlier this month into the most commonly found brands, the top three polluters are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé. These three companies, together with Danone, sent a lobby letter to the European Commission. In the leaked letter, as reported by De Standaard, they state that the intended measure will not lead to the desired result. Instead, they believe that a deposit or other collection system will enable at least 90% of all bottles, including caps, to be collected by 2025. In the meantime, should it appear in 2021 that this approach is not viable, fixed caps can still be made mandatory. The Independent also reported on the story.

“If this proposal is accepted we will start introducing the mentioned commitments immediately,” the four companies promise. This sounds like blackmail as article 9 of the European Union’s proposal is already to have a collection of 90% in 2025.

According to Recycling Netwerk, the soft drinks industry is refusing to take important action to reduce litter. Recycling Netwerk summarises the industry’s tactics, saying that the companies are trying to postpone new measures to sometime in the future to gain time in the hope that the next European Commission will no longer introduce the directive.

The multinationals emphasise that a deposit system would be effective in attaining the goals. This is ironic given that they are resisting introducing a deposit system in countries such as Belgium, France and Spain. The four multinationals further state that in the Netherlands and Germany in March next year, they will assess the percentage of caps collected through the deposit system. But what they forget is that in the Netherlands, the deposit is only levied on large bottles and not on the small bottles. This is why small bottles are found everywhere as litter. In a report, CE Delft believes that 50-100 million plastic bottles, including the caps, end up as litter.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation says that “The soft drinks industry’s lobby letter unintentionally shows how important it is to impose a deposit system on allplastic drinks bottles andto ensure that the caps are attached to the bottle. Its attempt to avoid the proposed mandatory cap system clearly shows that cost reduction is always much more important than looking after the environment.”


Also read:
Coca Cola largest plastic polluter
European Commission proposal to reduce single use plastic