Walk along any beach today, and you are likely to find washed-up plastic — often in the form of soda and water bottles.
There’s more than 5 trillion tons of plastic now polluting the world’s oceans, and Coca-Cola, the largest beverage company on the planet, announced Tuesday it will take a small step toward reducing that number in the future.
The soda and water giant said it will increase the amount of recycled plastic in the bottles it manufactures in the United Kingdom, increasing the recycled component from 40% to 50% by 2020.
The company sent a statement to Global Citizen today saying the increase in recycled plastic was limited to bottles being produced in the UK, though it pointed out that globally it is trying to improve packaging by including plant-based materials in bottles.
Coke bottles are already 100% recyclable, but the company has been slow to make 100% recycled bottles.
Around the world, 1 million plastic bottles are bought every single minute of every day, according to The Guardian. If each bottle of Coke, Sprite, or Dasani water is created with brand-new plastic, plastic pollution will continue to grow at a staggering rate.
Plastic bottle sales are projected to rise to half a trillion a year by 2020, creating an environmental crisis, according to the report.
Jon Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian that the Coca-Cola proposal doesn’t go far enough.
“Other companies are already at 50% and are aiming to be at 100% by 2020. Coca Cola is huge in scale and this is not an ambitious target,” he said.
The environmental group has criticized drink companies, the top six of which in the world use an average of just 6.6% recycled plastic in their bottles when all of them could be using 100% recycled plastic.
Consumer pressure for more environmentally-friendly packaging may inspire Coca-Cola and the world’s other top drink makers — PepsiCo, Nestle, Suntory, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, and Danone — to make that change to 100% recycled plastic more quickly.
And then, perhaps, those beaches will be a little more beautiful and a little less polluted in the future.