While the plastics haters continue to claim that alternative materials are better for the environment, it’s evident that the C suite at Coca-Cola isn’t fooled by their fake science. In a Reuters announcement from Lagos, Nigeria, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told the news agency that the drinks company is “committed to collecting and recycling plastic bottles rather than switching to aluminum cans” to reduce its carbon footprint.
“Along with multinational rivals, including PepsiCo and Nestlé, Coca-Cola has started offering recyclable aluminum cans as well as [recyclable] plastic bottles for some water brands, as the industry reacts to public outrage over the world’s oceans being polluted with plastic waste,” said Reuters.
But Coca-Cola’s launch of a range of cans for sparkling water in the United States is not part of a broader shift, Quincey told Reuters in the interview.
“We are not trying to engineer a strategic shift from plastic to aluminum,” said Quincey, adding that the firm was “focused on collecting” the plastic bottles and currently has a collection rate of about 59%. Quincey also noted that import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum that President Donald Trump set in 2018 to preserve national security also would not affect its plan.
“It’s not so big that it’s going to make us change our strategy,” said Quincey on the impact of the tariffs. “Given the relative weight of aluminum in our total business, it hasn’t caused a big change in strategy—just a cost increase that fed through to the consumers.”
The company’s drive to collect and recycle every plastic bottle it sells globally is “a better long-term answer” than switching to cans. “A recycled PET bottle has a much lower carbon footprint than an aluminum can or a returned glass bottle,” said Quincey.
It appears that Quincey is a pretty smart cookie! He’s not letting “plastiphobia” get to him, and is not being fooled by the fake news that consumers are “demanding” alternatives to plastics. Besides, if consumers aren’t smart enough—or concerned enough about the environment—to recycle a PET soft drink bottle, they certainly won’t be any smarter or concerned when it comes to aluminum cans or glass bottles.
He’s not even bowing to pressure from Greenpeace: Working with the Break Free From Plastic movement, Greenpeace claimed it recorded 11,732 branded Coca-Cola plastics in 37 countries. This is “more than the next three top global polluters combined,” the group told Reuters.
Quincey responded that this is a reflection of the drinks company being the “biggest brand” in the industry.
I might add that it’s also a reflection of the number of countries that have little to no recycling infrastructure in place, nor programs to educate their citizens in good environmental practices.
It’s reassuring to see someone of Quincey’s standing in the global corporate world of consumer products sticking with the science (in spite of his decision to withdraw from the Plastics Industry Association). He knows a beneficial, eco-friendly bottle material when he sees it, and won’t let anti-plastics activists distract him from a good business strategy.
We need to see more corporate leaders like Quincey stand up for plastics and work with the industry to push recycling as the optimal method for recapturing the value of plastics, especially PET.
Image: Pixarno/Adobe Stock