Soft Drink Execs: Plastic Pollution a Low Priority to Shoppers
Soft drink executives have told the government officials that most shoppers do not care much about the effect of buying plastic bottles on the environment. Such statement could be seen in the documents released by Unearthed.
Companies such as Nestle, Lucozade Ribena, and Coca-Cola were invited for a soft drinks roundtable in order to discuss the present problems on plastic bottles specifically on the amount of waste and the issue on plastic bottle recycling.
Plastic pollution, specifically the single-use packaging including plastic bottles, has been gaining more attention from various individuals and environmental organizations across the globe due to the amount of plastic that has been entering the oceans. In the United Kingdom alone, there are an estimated 15 million plastic bottles that are being thrown away every day rather than being recycled. The data shows how people really do not care about the effects of plastic bottles if they are only thrown anywhere.
One of the reasons for the public outcry on the issue of plastic is the screening of Blue Planet 2, a documentary that includes the ill effects of plastics, which consisted of a footage of turtles that are trapped in plastic debris. Moreover, albatrosses are shown in the documentary feeding their offspring with plastics.
Inspired by the documentary, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has told the reporters that the issue on plastic should be tackled. He further mentioned the need to boost recycling rates, reduce the number of plastics that are being circulated, and to make the process of recycling easier by reducing the number of different types of plastic which are commonly used.
Drink company executives who joined the roundtable meeting told the officials that consumers who are aware of the state of the environment like the idea of less plastic. They further mentioned that those who are not concerned with the environment think that softer bottles are of inferior and substandard quality.
The executives also mentioned that addressing the problem of littering is easier than attempting to inform the consumers of the materials which their bottles are made up of. This goes to show how soft drink bottle users do not prioritize plastic pollution as much as they prioritize their own needs.
The report also mentioned that plastic bottle consumers usually say that they care about the environmental impact of drink packaging. In a survey conducted for Veolia, a recycling company, more than half of the consumers would instead choose a beverage placed in a recyclable container than over a similar product but placed in a non-recyclable container.
Meanwhile, 71 percent of the respondents in a separate survey mentioned that they would support an increase in the cost of a plastic milk bottle if it were made of recycled plastics and that these bottles would be recycled after use.
The executives further mentioned that introducing a new system together with the existing curbside collections could confuse the consumers who are more invested in getting rid of rubbish out of convenience rather than a financial reward.
Dr. Laura Foster, the Head of Pollution at Marine Conservation Society, mentioned that responsible consumers and manufacturers are becoming more aware that they do not want to see their product being a threat to the environment. She further indicated that giving incentives to those who are returning beverage containers through a deposit-return scheme (DRS) are increasing, with return rates of over 95% in countries where the scheme has already been introduced.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola stated that the company support DRS. She further mentioned that Coca-Cola had committed itself to double the amount of recycled plastic on its bottle to 50 percent by the year 2020. She said that they would get the materials from a recycling plant in Lincolnshire. By doing so, the company is hoping to contribute to the circular economy in the country.
On the other hand, the spokesperson of Nestle told that a well-designed deposit-return scheme that is easy to use could be a significant solution to achieve a higher recycling rate.
Meanwhile, a Danone spokesperson mentioned that the company supports efficient solution that would lower the societal costs, giving incentives to packaging producers in order to increase the recycling and reuse of their packaging.
The roundtable emphasized the role of the government in such issue. The executives mentioned that the government has a legal obligation to improve the recycling rates. Since litter is an issue in most parts of the world – from the streets to the marine environment – a government is needed to reduce litter and the amount of marine debris.
They also said that local authorities should support the call to bolster the existing household recycling infrastructure, noting the need to improve varied recycling approaches including DRS.
In the end, the decrease of plastic bottle consumption should start with the individual. By prioritizing products with recyclable materials, individuals could help reduce the environmental impact of plastic pollution on the rest of the world.