GLOBAL – Non-profit organization Oceana has urged the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo to enhance their utilization of reusable packaging and decrease the use of single-use plastic.

Oceana analyzed data from the Global Commitment 2023 Progress Report, which was released earlier this week by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. According to the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit, the report revealed that the two most polluting brands have significantly increased their plastic usage by hundreds of millions of pounds on a year-over-year basis.

The Coca-Cola Company increased its use of plastic packaging by over 6%, equivalent to over 454 million pounds (206,000 metric tonnes), reaching a reported total of 3.43 million metric tonnes in 2022.

PepsiCo increased its use of plastic packaging by 4%, or over 220 million pounds (100,000 metric tonnes), to a reported total of 2.6 million metric tonnes in 2022.

This increase coincides with additional data in the Ellen MacArthur annual report, which shows that the companies have made only marginal progress towards meeting their pledges to increase the use of recycled content in their plastic packaging and reduce their reliance on virgin plastic packaging.

Both companies reported no progress in increasing the weight of plastic in reusable packaging.

Coca-Cola disclosed that this percentage was only 1.3% in both 2021 and 2022, while Pepsi, for the second consecutive year, did not provide any data for this metric.

The companies have pledged to increase the volume of beverages they sell in reusable packaging by approximately 10 percentage points by 2030.

Coca-Cola, in its latest sustainability report, announced that the percentage of its products sold in reusable containers was 14% in 2022.

This represents a decrease of two percentage points from the 16% share that was reported when the company made its commitment to raise the proportion of its products sold in reusable packaging to 25% by 2030.

Oceana estimates, based on the company’s total reported sales volume, that the reported two-percentage-point decline in market share could indicate that Coca-Cola actually produced an additional 5.8 billion 500ml (16.9 US fl) units. We have reduced our use of single-use plastic bottles and cups over the last two years and have switched to reusable packaging.

Policy to help kerb single-use plastic pollution

Meanwhile, Oceana Canada has released a new federal policy roadmap, ‘Breaking the Plastic Cycle’, with an aim to reduce one-third of Canada’s single-use plastic pollution.

The organization claims that Canada can kerb 720,000 tonnes (t) of single-use plastic annually if its government follows Oceana’s advice.

The findings from Oceana’s new report, which focuses on single-use plastic packaging, suggest that despite the increasing population and associated demand, the country can significantly reduce its plastic waste generation by utilizing certain existing national policy tools.

Oceana claims that if its proposed action plan is implemented, it could significantly help the country in limiting its single-use plastic waste by 2026.

As per the guidance of the roadmap, Canada should impose bans on unnecessary and hard-to-recycle items and implement pollution prevention plans for some of its key sectors.

Oceana has identified seven sectors that are major contributors to single-use plastic waste. These sectors include grocery stores, e-commerce, dine-out food services, dine-in food services, beverage bottle producers, polyvinyl chloride or polystyrene producers, and the pallet wrap industry.

Collectively, these sectors generate 41% of the plastic packaging waste in Canada, and the roadmap has specific recommendations for each of these areas.

Grocery stores, for example, generate over 382,430 tonnes of single-use plastics annually. They should be mandated to remove non-recyclable packaging and reintroduce refill systems in order to achieve a 45% reduction in plastic packaging waste by 2040.