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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

Mopping up with the plastic-soup tap left open….

Recycling. A word that makes me happy. Like the swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of the skipping rope as pretty young girls in their light summer frocks jump up and down on a glorious sunny day. The effortless movement that seems able to go on for ever, Leonardo da Vinci’s perpetual motion machine. Recycling sounds like healthy, economical and sensible. Something which everybody would support and to which nobody could object.

If I think of recycling, I think of pumpkin peel, broccoli stumps and all the other vegetable scraps that are left over in my kitchen: I drop it in the recycling bin and later on I buy it back as compost to pamper my garden. I think of my cupboards, too small to offer sanctuary to everything which I wanted to save. It’s all languishing in the second-hand shop now, waiting to start a new life in a new collection tomorrow. Nothing but praise for recycling.

Initially, recycling plastic also sounded like music to my ears. It sounded to me like a happy solution for the devilish problem of the plastic that has been taking a continually stronger grasp on our world: the plastic bottles, bags, chairs – what isn’t made of plastic these days? – that ends up as litter on our streets and in our rivers, flowing to the sea where it – disintegrating to ever-smaller pieces – chokes the stomachs of unfortunate birds and fish. Or the plastic microfibers that float through the air and threaten our health. Recycling seemed a decisive step in the battle against that kind of misery.

Until I started looking at the figures.

The amount of newly-produced, un-recycled plastic in the world is growing at a tremendous rate. An additional 380 billion tons in 2018, within 10 years that means 530 billion tons of plastic per year. Exactly how much ends up as litter – in the fields, in the water or in the air – is not known, at least 16 billion kilos per year, maybe a lot more. Large multinational companies argue that all their plastic packaging will use recycled raw materials by 2025. That sounds impossible to achieve, but apart from that: it’s still plastic packaging. And a percentage of that will still end up in the ocean, the “lungs” of the word. Or in our own lungs.

Now, if I think of plastic recycling, I no longer think of girls having fun with their skipping rope, but of poor wretches mopping up the mess while the plastic soup continues to gush from the open tap. A PET bottle made of recycled plastic may use less petroleum to produce than a bottle made of new plastic – and that’s good – but we will not solve The Big Plastic Problem by migrating to recycled plastic.

The only real solution has the simplicity of a light summer frock: bring less plastic products to market. As a start: no more single-use plastics, like PET bottles and plastic bags. And the plastic that does still reach the shelves: collect it efficiently, for example with a deposit scheme.

Surrounded as we are by so many clever people in this world, surely we can start this movement without too much trouble?



More recycled PET in clothing: no guarantee for less fiber loss

Amsterdam, 27 February 2019 – Plastic microfibers are found everywhere: in water, on land and in the air. Machine washing of synthetic clothing is the biggest cause. At least hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of tiny fibers are released with every cycle.

In the report Fixing fashion, which was released this week, the British Parliament has determined that the textile and fast fashion industry are the most polluting sectors. The loss of microfibers is only one of many environmental problems the industry causes. It also includes water pollution, high CO2 emission, use of toxic chemicals, as well as numerous social maltreatments. The report, drawn up based on hearings by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, says it like it is and wants the industry to strongly reduce their environmental strain. The commission also wants the British government to take effective measures.

59 Textile companies in the United Kingdom have promised to use at least 25% rPET (recycled PET) in their garments by 2020. This has various (environmental) benefits: less new plastic has to be used, less plastic ends up in landfills, it creates a market for used plastic bottles and, not in the least, saves CO2. Due to these benefits, it’s understandable that even the parliamentary commission follows this course and suggests that much more fashion in the United Kingdom should be made from recycled plastic. This is to be stimulated by levying tax on all synthetic clothing that doesn’t consist of at least 50% recycled PET.

However, clothing made from recycled plastic unfortunately also leads to fiber loss. One environmental problem is therefore maintained in order to solve other (environmental) problems. The commission does add that clothing with recycled PET should be specially designed to minimize shedding, but doesn’t say whether this is technically achievable.  And “garments designed to minimize shedding” is as vague as it can be.

Without a norm for fiber loss there’s even a risk that the propagated way (more recyclables in clothing) will have counterproductive results for the plastic soup, because not less, but more plastic fibers enter the environment on balance.

Also read – Millions of microfibers in wastewater with every wash


Amsterdam, 18 December 2018 – The company Waste2Wear produces brand clothing made from PET bottles. 30% of those plastic bottles are retrieved from the ocean. Several clothing brands joined this initiative, brands such as Promiss, Claudia Sträter, Wehkamp, Steps, Oilly, Joolz and Expresso. Together with these companies, Waste2Wear’s Ocean Plastic Project processes two million bottles into 100,000 fashion items for the winter of 2018. Waste2Wear may seem to be a sympathetic idea: “We work together on solutions and say NO against Ocean Pollution.”

However, there is one big problem. The wear and washing of synthetic clothing generates millions of microfibers. A 2016 study of the European Mermaids Life+, published in Environmental Pollution, showed that on average 9 million of microfibers are released during the laundry cycle of 5 kilos of synthetic clothing. And these fibers are so tiny that they can found everywhere, in the air, in house dust and in
the water. These microfibers become part of the food chain and enter our bodies. This causes researchers great concern.

Does Waste2Wear try to save to world by removing plastic bottles from the ocean and recycling them into new clothing? Or is Waste2Wear part of the plastic soup problem? As this company’s clothing produces

On their website Waste2Wear discusses the microfiber problem. Waste2Wear recognizes in their FAQs that microfiber pollution is a major and growing concern for the textile and clothing industry. And there is a long way to go before this problem is solved. However, they continue to state that recycled plastics produce 55% less microfibers than the normal polyester. These numbers supposed to originate from a Swedish study. The first results of this research are “very positive for recycled plastic.”

This is where Waste2Wear misleads the readers. The quoted study from 2017, does not mention this number of 55% anywhere. Furthermore, the research never draws the conclusion that it is better to use recycled plastics. The study does state that it cannot support the, often made, assumption that textiles made from recycled polymers generate more microfibers than clothing made from “new”

The same authors published in Sustainability, the article “Microplastics Shedding from Textiles” in 2018. This article does not support the Waste2Wear claim either. On the contrary: “The results show little difference in [shedding] between virgin and recycled content in the fabric.”

Waste2Wear says NO against Ocean Pollution, but the painful truth is that Waste2Wear is part of the plastic soup problem.


Ban and avoid plastic glitters

Amsterdam, 7 December 2018 – Glitters are spreading fast. Nowadays they are found in products such as nail polish, hairspray, shampoo and suntan lotion. Then there are the party-glitters that you put on your face. It all seems harmless and nice, but it is not. Glitters are predominantly made of plastic, often a combination of aluminium and PET. They are flushed away with the shower water and easily end up in the environment.

Worldwide, the sale of all glitter products has grown tremendously in recent years. Most users don’t realize that glitters are bits of plastic and that using them contributes to the plastic soup. Social media such as Instagram are believed to be partly responsible for the growth because people share photos and imitate each other. See for example this page with glitter on tongues.

While the presence of microplastics in care products  has been amply discussed in recent years, glitters seem to have been ignored. The attention was focused primarily on banning microplastics with a scrub function. When legislation prohibits only those plastic scrub particles, glitters and other microplastics are beyond that scope.

Last year English scientists called for a ban on glitter.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Think twice about wearing glitters the coming holidays, and if you still want to, ask explicitly for glitters that are not made of plastic.”

Photo: Glitter advert

Also read: The European parliament wants to ban microplastics in cosmetics

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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

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Coca-Cola Largest Plastic Polluter

Amsterdam, 10 October 2018 – Worldwide research into the origin of plastic waste has identified Coca-Cola as the worst plastic polluter. More details on the research, based on the 239 cleanups that took place in 42 countries this year, can be found in the report Branded. In search of the world’s top corporate plastic polluters, compiled by Break Free From Plastic (BFFP). And their press release is available here.

About 10,000 volunteers picked up and identified the brand of over 187,000 pieces of plastic trash. The three most frequently registered brands are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé. And overall, polystyrene was the most common type of plastic found, followed closely by PET.

This report stresses the need for multinationals to take responsibility for the end stage of their products and not place the responsibility for plastic waste on the shoulders of consumers and (local) authorities. To avert the plastic soup crisis more products should be sold without plastic packaging or the packaging should be reusable.

Despite all their grand talk about the circular economy, multinational companies, producing food, beverages, cosmetics and cleaning products continue to offer their products in single-use plastic packaging. BFFP urges multinationals to drastically reduce their use of single-use plastics and really take their responsibility.

The top polluters in Asia are Western multinationals. These brands are, according to the report, responsible for 30% of the plastic pollution. In 2017, during a cleanup of a beach in Manila (Philippines) 54,260 pieces of plastic were collected and audited. This 2017 brand audit found Nestlé and Unilever to be the largest polluters.

Global Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic, Von Hernandez: “By continuing to churn out problematic and unrecyclable throwaway plastic packaging for their products, these companies are guilty of trashing the planet on a massive scale. It’s time they own up and stop shifting the blame to citizens for their wasteful and polluting products.”

Also read: Unilever largest polluter in the Philippines

European PET lobby falls short

Amsterdam, 28 September 2018 – France is one of the countries at the forefront in the fight against the plastic soup. Two years ago it banned the thin plastic bag. Not long after the ban on disposable tableware per 2020 was issued. Last summer drinking straws and plastic stirrers were banned and on 14 September the law was tightened even further, according to a report in Le Monde.  Now the availability of plastic containers and disposable articles in schools, universities and day-care centres is also prohibited per 1 January 2020. The measure benefits the environment, but is a thorn in the side of the European PET industry because of turnover losses.

The PET industry in Europe is represented by Petcore Europe and PET Sheet Europe. Together they have published a press release which states that the latest adaptation of the French law is in conflict with European legislation, in particular with the right to bring packaging onto the market and with the free movement of goods. Europe must first have its legal framework in order, before an individual country can pass such a ban. Whether this reasoning holds, is to be decided by lawyers.

In addition, the press release offers a sobering glimpse of how an industry that is increasingly under pressure, responds to Government measures to ban single-use plastics. The PET industry claims to be committed to the environment, but promotes a different solution. PET can be recycled optimally and the PET industry therefore urgently calls on European legislators to introduce a well-functioning system for the collection of plastic packaging “in order to close the loop”. The underlying idea is that PET can then continue to be produced without limits.

It really says: “the loop must be closed”. The PET industry is well aware that this is impossible, but does not breathe a word about it. For example, if clothing that is made from used PET, such as fleece sweaters, is machine washed and dried, plastic microfibres are produced. These are consequently transported with the waste water and can no longer be filtered out. The European Mermaids Life+ study revealed that the average release is 9 million fibres per wash. The PET industry is co-responsible for this great source of pollution and does precisely nothing.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Petcore Europe and PET Sheet Europe should be ashamed. They do everything to maintain a polluting production system as long as they possibly can. It is high time that the European Union enforces mandatory reduction measures and also takes into account the adverse effects of recycling, such as the microfibres from clothing that is made of PET. But of course: cheers for daredevil France, which once more sets the right example. “

Greenpeace campaign “Coca-Cola is flooding our oceans with plastic”

Amsterdam, 2 October 2017 – Greenpeace has begun a worldwide campaign against Coca-Cola. It is high time that the soft drink multinational acknowledges responsibility for its contribution to plastic soup and sets a sustainable course. According to Greenpeace’s report “The case against Coca-Cola”, the planet’s largest soft drinks company (500 brands operating in over 200 countries with a turnover of more than 178 billion dollars) sells more than 1,9 billion drinks across the globe every day. Many of these bottles end up in the oceans definitively, where they contribute to plastic pollution and animal suffering.

Nevertheless, Coca-Cola is continuing in the same old direction. Shareholder profit is more important than combatting plastic pollution, the proportion of refillable bottles is shrinking and the amount of recycled material in bottles worldwide is stuck at less than 7%, while there are already bottles in circulation made from 100% recycled plastic. The company is strongly resisting the introduction of deposit systems and it lobbies against stricter environment rules.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation. “We sincerely support Greenpeace’s appeal to Coca-Cola to phase out disposable plastic bottles as quickly as possible. Coca-Cola is largely responsible for plastic soup and one of the few companies in the world which could become part of the solution because of its market position. But Coca-Cola fails to do so.”

Sign the online petition here to support Greenpeace’s worldwide campaign to protect the oceans against Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles.