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Coca-Cola Is Making A Bottle Out Of Ocean Trash and We're Supposed To Act Like it’s OK

by Andrew Gibbs on 10/06/2019 | 2 Minute Read

On the same day as the world’s first-ever Plastic Health Summit, where researchers announced that microplastics cause accelerated cell death and can potentially damage our immune system, Coca-Cola unveiled their first-ever sample bottles made using recovered marine plastic, AKA, ocean trash. 

The irony is ripe. Coca-Cola, the single largest marine polluter, believes that the plastic ocean trash they are considerably responsible for could one day be used to repackage their beverages, which would then likely end up right back in the ocean. This is a poorly timed apology masquerading as a solution and is greenwashing at its finest.

In a 2018 Global Brand Audit by Break Free From Plastic, over 187,000 pieces of collected plastic marine trash were examined to identify the world’s brands that pollute our oceans and waterways. 

“Coca-Cola was the most prolific polluter, found in 40 of 42 participating countries. More than 75% of all 239 participating cleanups reported finding Coca-Cola branded products along their coasts, shorelines, parks, and streets.”

-Break Free From Plastic

Editorial photograph

Instead of designing a plastic-free solution that would solve Coca-Cola’s marine pollution problem, or creating a fully circular solution, they are instead doubling down on their use of toxic plastic. Even the label features bits of microplastic floating in the ocean as a cute design element as if the behavior should be normalized.

With an uptick in brands embracing ocean plastic, the question we have to ask ourselves as an industry and society, is why are we honoring something that shouldn't exist in the first place?

The idea of taking plastic waste out of the marine environment and turning it into something new sounds promising, even downright noble. But why are brands praising something that shouldn't even exist in the first place? Ocean plastic is a highly emotional plastic, and the idea of cleaning up out oceans tugs at the heartstrings of consumers the world over who are fed up with it, and brands like Coca-Cola are using tactics like this to divert the attention away from the real problem.

Plastic packaging has now been proven to be a hazard to our soil, our oceans, its inhabitants, and now threatens human health on a global scale.

With less than 4.4% of all plastic in the US recycled in the first place, many brands still perpetuate the myth of recycling and the misguided hope for a closed-loop circular plastic economy.

Whether something comes packaged in 100% virgin PET, 100% post-consumer recycled PET, or ocean plastic, it is still just as toxic, and we as an industry must do better.