Decreasing ocean plastic pollution by increasing use of reusable packaging
Increasing refillable and reusable bottles in place of single-use plastic is an important way to combat the plastic crisis overwhelming our seas. Refillable bottles, the dominant form of reusable packaging used by major beverage companies and their bottlers, get reused as many as 25-50 times. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other major beverage companies should step up and make their pledges to increase refillables a reality.
Between 21 and 34 billion plastic PET bottles become marine pollution every year, contributing to the deluge of plastics entering our oceans and harming marine life. Despite beverage companies commitments to increase recycling efforts and use of recycled content, recycling alone can’t fix this problem. Just 9% of all the plastic waste ever generated has been recycled. Moreover, plastic PET bottles made with recycled content can still reach and pollute the oceans.
What Beverage Companies Should Do
By increasing the market share of soft drinks and water sold in refillable bottles – in place of single-use throwaway PET bottles – by just 10%, the beverage industry could decrease marine plastic bottle pollution by 4.5 billion to 7.6 billion bottles each year, a 22% decrease.
Refillable bottles were introduced by Coca-Cola in the 1940s. While many consumers remember the iconic glass refillable bottles, both glass and PET plastic refillable bottles are now widely used in, for example, India, Germany, Chile, the Philippines, and Mexico.
Some of the benefits of refillables include:
- Refillable bottle schemes have nearly a 100% success rate for getting the bottle back.
- Refillable bottles are reused 20 to 50 times.
- Refillable bottles can drastically reduce the number of single-use bottles being thrown out.
- Refillable bottles can be a climate-friendly option.
Increasing the share of refillables and decreasing marine plastic pollution by billions of bottles is achievable. Just four companies account for over 40% of sales (in terms of revenue) for the enormous non-alcoholic ready-to-drink market. These companies have the ability to change the overall beverage market, which means that increasing refillables and reducing marine plastic pollution is achievable in the near-term. That’s why Oceana is calling on global beverage companies to commit to substantially reducing plastic production and to increase refillables as a way to achieve this needed goal.
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