I don’t cover post-IPO companies a lot, and Coca-Cola is def on the list of ones I can generally ignore. But when the company sends out a hand-wringing press release about how awesome they are for launching a bottle cap where the cap stays attached to the bottle “for environmental reasons,” I’m sorry, my blood just boils.
Don’t get me wrong, better recyclability is a good thing, and fewer bottle caps failing to make their way to recycling? I’m all for it. But the context for this is that in the U.K. — like in the U.S. — bottles are recycled, rather than reused. And they’re recycled at rates that are pitiful.
In the rest of Europe, Coca-Cola and other drink manufacturers figured out a functioning system: pay a deposit when you buy a bottle or aluminum can and you get a deposit back when you return it. It works: In Norway, for example, in 2018, the return ratio of reusable bottles was 95%, and aluminum cans were returned in upwards of 98% of all cases. After being returned, the packaging is reused in some cases, or recycled in others. There’s a bigger reliance on plastic bottles that are sturdy enough that they can be reused 20 times before they are recycled; and beer often comes in reusable glass bottles that are actually re-used by the breweries, rather than having to melt and re-make the bottles after a single use.
In the U.S., in contrast, not only are the bottles not re-used, less than 30% of bottles are even recycled — the rest goes to landfill. In the U.K. — where Coca-Cola is patting itself on the back about its cap-connecting prowess — the number is around 45%.
“Coca-Cola Great Britain takes another step towards a World Without Waste for PET bottles,” good heavens, come the hell on. You know that this is bollocks, as they would say in the U.K.
Congratulations, Coca-Cola, on figuring out some details here, but as a company, you know that there are better solutions, and if you wanted to, you could put systems in place to drive recycling rates to 90%+, rather than the paltry 30-45% we’re seeing in the U.K. and U.S. Yes, the markets are bigger. Yes, cultural differences exist. But if you really gave two shits about the environment, how about you lean on local governments and recycling infrastructure, and help make some difference that actually matters, rather than incremental bullshit that really only serves to entice journalists to blow smoke up your asses?