Coca-Cola, Criticized for Plastic Bottles, Sets Recycling Goals--Update

By Cara Lombardo Features Dow Jones Newswires

Coca-Cola Co. said Friday it wants to collect and recycle the equivalent of 100% of the packaging it puts out into the world by 2030.

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The goal is part of a sustainability initiative announced by the soda giant called "World Without Waste." Nonprofits and environmental advocacy groups such as Greenpeace have criticized Coca-Cola and its industry peers for producing billions of plastic bottles that end up in landfills or bodies of water.

Coca-Cola said its efforts will include investing in more efficient packaging, local recycling programs and consumer education. The company isn't disclosing how much it expects to spend toward reaching the goal but said the moves could lead to future cost savings. Coca-Cola also said it wants to make bottles with an average of 50% recycled material by 2030.

The company uses a variety of materials, including glass bottles, aluminium cans and paper cups, but said plastics, which have come under the most scrutiny, will be the biggest area of focus.

The announcement comes a few days after McDonald's Corp. said it wants all McDonald's restaurants to recycle food-service packaging by 2025. It also wants 100% of its packaging to come from renewable or recycled materials or be certified by certain environmental groups.

Write to Cara Lombardo at cara.lombardo@wsj.com

Continue Reading Below

Coca-Cola Co., long criticized by environmental advocates for producing billions of plastic bottles that end up in landfills and oceans, said Friday it wants to collect and recycle the equivalent of all the packaging it puts out into the world by 2030.

The goal is part of a sustainability initiative announced by the soda giant called "World Without Waste." Coca-Cola said its efforts will include investing in more efficient packaging, local recycling programs and consumer education. It declined to say how much it will spend as part of the effort.

"Future growth comes with further responsibilities," Chief Executive James Quincey said on a media call. "As a company, we must grow with conscience."

Greenpeace, an environmental advocacy group that has identified Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., and Nestlé SA as some of the worst polluters, promptly criticized Coke's plan.

"The plan failed to include any reduction of the company's rapidly increasing use of single-use plastic bottles globally, which now stands at well over 110 billion annually," the organization said in a statement issued Friday.

Mr. Quincey disagreed.

"If we recollect all the bottles, there is no such thing as a single use bottle," he said. "Every bottle comes back and every bottle has another life."

Coca-Cola, rather than taking on the difficult task of recollecting all of its own bottles, aims to collect an equivalent amount of bottles as it produces. Mr. Quincey said the largest challenges will be in developing countries and the one-quarter of countries that don't have any form of formal waste collection.

"That's clearly going to be a lot of groundwork with a lot of other organizations and the governments to start building that infrastructure, " he said.

The announcement comes a few days after McDonald's Corp. said it wants all McDonald's restaurants to recycle food-service packaging by 2025. It also wants 100% of its packaging to come from renewable or recycled materials or be certified by certain environmental groups.

PepsiCo and Nestlé didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. PepsiCo has said it wants 100% of its packaging to be recyclable or recoverable by 2025, while Nestlé has said it aims to reduce its packaging material by 140,000 tons between 2015 and 2020.

Coca-Cola also said Friday it wants to make bottles with an average of 50% recycled material by 2030. Coca-Cola uses a variety of materials, including glass bottles, aluminum cans and paper cups, but said plastic, which has come under the most scrutiny, is its biggest area of focus.

Write to Cara Lombardo at cara.lombardo@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 19, 2018 11:43 ET (16:43 GMT)