In 1990, for example, Coca-Cola committed to having 25% recycled content in its bottles, but 30 years later they are only at 10%.
At the same time, the company has fiercely opposed progressive legislation that would help them to achieve these commitments, from deposit return systems to redesign obligations.
Following the leak of internal documents in 2017, Coca-Cola finally made a U-turn in its opposition to deposit return systems in Scotland.
Nevertheless, this report finds that it is still lobbying against similar legislation in Kenya, the Chinese province of Hainan and the US state of Georgia.
Big Plastic lobbying exposed
The report finds that other leading brands, including Nestlé, PepsiCo and P&G, have also failed to meet their voluntary commitments or shifted the goalposts.
However, even if these commitments were to be realised, they would still not be ambitious enough to make a dent in the plastic crisis.
The report reveals that Big Plastic is a well-organised and interconnected global network of organisations that lobby at every level to fight against proven solutions to solve the plastics crisis, which would require them to fully step up their responsibility and take on the true costs of plastic pollution.
Instead, they use distraction tactics which are designed to make people think real change is happening or that responsibility for the problem lies elsewhere.
One of the key tactics has been to saddle ‘litterbug’ consumers with most of the blame – and public authorities with most of the cost – for a waste problem created by these corporations.
Another major tactic has been a focus on recycling and the funding of education campaigns for consumers. All while the industry keeps producing plastic that is very difficult – if not impossible – to recycle, and opposes other legislative solutions such as deposit return systems that would drive mandatory collection of packaging.
‘The voluntary initiatives and commitments by the industry have failed. Policymakers should look past the industry smokescreen and adopt proven, progressive legislation globally to create the systemic change that this crisis so urgently needs.’
Campaigns director at the Changing Markets Foundation
Capitalising on Covid-19
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, plastic producers have co-opted the public health crisis and capitalised on people’s fear to call for regulatory rollbacks on environmental legislation and argue the case for single-use plastic.
In many cases they have succeeded. For example, many US states have suspended plastic bag bans and many companies have opted for single-use plastic bags and cutlery, banning or restricting reusables.
‘This report is a damning exposé of the tactics employed by the plastics industry and shines a welcome light on the shadowy world of corporate lobbying.
‘For too long the true cost of plastic production has been externalised, meaning plastic producers continue to get away with ecocide while waste management companies, consumers and marginalised communities around the world are left to deal with millions of tonnes of toxic plastic waste.
‘This report gives us further evidence that the real battle lies not just in changing the public’s attitude towards single-use plastic, but in highlighting the truth behind vested corporate interests and how the industry actively undermines attempts to tackle the ecological crisis we face.’
Founder of City to Sea
A tidal wave of plastic
The plastic pollution crisis is a deeply interconnected climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis and a public health crisis all combined.
Plastic is pouring out into the natural world at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year, or one rubbish truck per minute, and production has skyrocketed, with half of all plastics ever made having been produced since 2005.
Production is expected to double again in the next 10 –15 years.
Plastic saturates almost every surface of the planet – from the deepest abysses to the highest mountains and remotest islands – causing an unprecedented crisis for wildlife.
Images of animals choked by plastic and mountains of plastic waste are published daily. Just as insidious are the plastic particles we cannot see that are entering our food chain and our bodies with yet-unknown health consequences.
Virgin-plastic production is a major contributor to climate change, generating enough emissions – from the moment they leave the ground as fossil fuels and throughout their entire lifecycle – to use up 10–15% of our entire carbon budget by 2050 at current rates of growth.
Disposal of plastics through incineration and backyard burning also contributes to climate change and creates a toxic fallout undermining human and planetary health.