Coca-Cola scores highest on sustainable packaging in 2021 Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard

USA – US multinational beverage giant Coca-Cola has emerged as the consumer-packaged goods company with the most sustainable packaging portfolio in the 2021 Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard. 

The scorecard by nonprofit As You Sow reviewed 50 consumer-facing companies, grading them on a number of factors including their packaging design, the amount of recycled content in their packaging, and their financial support of recycling efforts. 

The maker of Sprite and Fanta CSD brands scored “B” from the nonprofit for its transparency around its packaging use, strong commitment to recycling, and its support of producer responsibility initiatives. 

Coca-Cola has a pledge to make 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2025. And this past February, the company rolled out bottles made from 100% recycled plastic across its portfolio. 

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Additionally, as part of its world without waste campaign, Coca-Cola has pledged to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030. 

As You Sow reported that most companies had average to poor performance with Keurig Dr Pepper and Nestlé scoring a “C+” while eight earned an “F.”  

According to As You Sow’s Waste Program Coordinator Kelly McBee, the greatest areas of improvement came with companies’ pledges to make packaging 100% recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025, as well as commitments to improve packaging design. 

McBee said that Unilever made one of the best commitments among the 50 CPGs that As You Sow ranked. The food giant, which scored a “C,” committed to cutting out a third of its plastic altogether by 2025.  

However, McBee disputes the company’s claim that reaching its goal would require a 100,000-ton decrease in plastic, saying that this number would only represent one-seventh of its plastic use. 

The report also details how companies’ plastic reduction goals have increased “ninefold” since 2019, when only two had such commitments.  

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However, only 18 of the 50 companies tracked by As You Sow currently have pledges to reduce their plastic. 

Some commitments, such as PepsiCo’s pledge to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025, only amount to “half-steps” since they perpetuate reliance on plastic, McBee said.  

The beverage and snack giant earned a “D+” grade from As You Sow for its efforts around sustainable plastic packaging. 

The non-profit recommended that CPGs make their packaging less plastic-reliant if they were indeed committed to their lofty net-zero goals.  

Some of the measures it recommends include phasing out flexible plastic, getting their packaging certified as recyclable by a third party, and donating more money to recycling efforts.  

As You Sow, founded 15 years ago, does not just make recommendations, it is also known to hold CPGs’ feet to the fire to get them to adopt more sustainable practices. 

 After the nonprofit filed a shareholder proposal this year that would compel Keurig Dr Pepper to report how much of its plastic waste escapes into the environment, the beverage company committed to cutting its use of virgin plastic by 25% by 2025.  

The group has also triggered similar commitments from American snack and beverage giant PepsiCo and from confectionary and snack food company Mondelēz. 

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