Greenpeace protests Coca-Cola’s role in ocean plastic pollution

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Greenpeace protests Coca-Cola’s role in ocean plastic pollution with giant sculpture outside their London headquarters.

Greenpeace dumped a 2.5 tonne ocean plastic sculpture outside Coca-Cola’s headquarters in London during April 2017. The sculpture, made from sand and waste Coca-Cola bottles, was created in protest of the company’s role in ocean plastic pollution.

The sculpture, Plasticide, was created by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and depicts seabirds regurgitating plastic during a family beach picnic. The sculpture blocked the entrance to Coca-Cola’s headquarters in London on Monday 10th April 2017, forcing employees to step over piles of sand before entering a side entrance. Activists also protested outside the headquarters, on Wimpole Street near Oxford Circus, and covered the sculpture with tonnes of sand and waste Coca-Cola bottles.

300 million tonnes of plastic are used each year globally and half of that is single-use plastics. Up to 12.7 million tonnes of waste plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Plastic bottles and tops are a major source of plastic packaging found in the ocean and Greenpeace believes companies such as Coca-Cola are not taking enough action to rectify this.

The senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, Louise Edge, confirmed Coca-Cola produces over 100 billion single-use plastic bottles every year. Many of which end up on beaches, in the ocean, and in landfill each year, despite their bottles being 100 per cent recyclable.

“But rather than dramatically reducing its plastic footprint, Coke is actually increasing its use of throwaway plastic bottles, which is polluting our oceans and being ingested by everything from seabirds to turtles,” commented Edge.

“Coca-Cola is trying to ignore the impact its plastic is having on our environment, so we’ve installed a monument to their role in ocean plastic pollution on their doorstep, to force them to confront the issue. This artwork weighs 2.5 tonnes, but every minute plastic weighing 10 times that is pouring into the sea. Our oceans simply can’t stomach any more of Coca-Cola’s plastic.”

A Greenpeace report concerning Coca-Cola was released on the same day as the protest and confirmed the company is failing to meet its own sustainability targets. Coca-Cola is also restricting access to packaging information. The report confirmed as few as 7 per cent of Coca-Cola’s bottles are made from recycled plastic and 60 per cent of the company’s packaging is single-use plastic bottles. They are failing to meet their target to recycle 75 per cent of their bottles and cans, sold in developed countries, by 2020.

In contrast, other companies such as Ribena and PepsiCo’s 7Up are already using 100 per cent recycled material in all their bottles.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson has commented they are one of few consumer goods companies whose packaging is 100 per cent recyclable and have reduced the amount of plastic they use in Great Britain by 15 per cent since 2007. They stated the company currently uses 25 per cent recycled plastic in all their bottles and they are joining the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs litter strategy working group. Coca-Cola has confirmed they will continue to increase their use of recycled plastic where possible and they recognise marine litter is a global problem that needs action and collaboration. The company stated they are open to working with others to create long-term and effective solutions.

A single plastic bottle can take hundreds of years to fully degrade and drastic action is needed by industry and individuals to find alternatives to plastic. Once such alternative is Ari Johnsson’s biodegradable water bottles, which are made from algae. The bottles can be composted once empty and provide a potential alternative to single-use drinks bottles.

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About Author

Kathryn has lived in the UK, Egypt, South Africa and New Zealand and is a trained scuba diving instructor and Great White shark safari guide. She is the author of No Damage (December 2014), the Managing Editor of The Scuba News New Zealand, a freelance writer, public speaker and co-founder of the marine conservation cause Friends for Sharks (August 2014). In 2015 she organised and completed a 10-month global speaking tour in aid of shark conservation: 87 events, 8 countries, 7000 people. Learn more about Kathryn’s book, No Damage at: http://www.kathrynhodgsonauthor.com/books/no-damage/

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