The world is literally swimming in the filth produced by private industry, with our oceans becoming a vast dumping-ground for waste as plastic manufacturers and petrochemical companies continue to rake in profits with little regard for the long-term cost of a growing plastic garbage crisis.
Thus it comes as a surprise that one of the biggest producers of plastic packaging, the Coca-Cola Company, has admitted that it produces a staggering 3.3 million tons of plastic packaging per year, the rough equivalent of 200,000 bottles every minute.
The company had previously refused to release the mind-boggling figure, but finally disclosed the information to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity that has been campaigning alongside UN Environment to convince governments and the world’s largest plastic producing corporations to commit to reduce and ultimately eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging by 2025.
The charity released a report that also includes data from over 30 other companies – including Mars, The Kellogg Company and conglomerates Unilever and Nestlé – who agreed to disclose their annual plastic packaging volumes, a move hailed by the foundation as “an important step toward greater transparency.” According to the report, the companies collectively produce eight million tons of plastic packaging on an annual basis.
Worldwide, humans produce 300M tons of plastic waste per year:
🗑️ 8.3B tons of plastic waste since the 1950s
🚯 79% ends up in landfills or the natural environment
♻️ Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled pic.twitter.com/WDcN4gdO42
— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 14, 2019
The exact figures of the plastic usage isn’t broken down in the report, but according to The Guardian, Coca-Cola’s reported volume is equal to 108 polyethylene terephthalate or PET plastic bottles per year – over a fifth of the global PET bottle output, which stands at about 500 billion per year.
About 150 companies have agreed to commit to the foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, but many of the top-tier corporations – including, L’Oreal, Pepsico, H&M, Walmart, and others – continue to refuse to own up to how much plastic packaging they produce.
The foundation’s commitment also calls to innovate to ensure that 100 percent of all plastic packaging can be easily recycled, reused or composted by 2025, and for a circular economy to be created that boosts the volume of plastic that is reused or recycled into new packaging.
Airlines, food chains and hotels have abstained from the commitment, as have most raw material plastic producers – with the exception of two companies, Indorama and Borealis.
The leader of the initiative, Sander Defruyt, has chided industry leaders for not moving with the urgency required to tackle a growing plastic waste crisis, telling The Guardian:
“They are still far from truly matching the scale of the problem, particularly when it comes to elimination of unnecessary items and innovation towards reuse models.”
“Ambition levels must continue to rise to make real strides in addressing global plastic pollution by 2025, and moving from commitment to action is crucial.”
The failure to tackle plastic waste, and allow corporations to dump their environmental externalities on current and future generations, has ramifications well beyond sustainability; the food system is grossly distorted by these kinds of market failures https://t.co/eZreTRNNV0
— Harry Rutter (@harryrutter) March 14, 2019
The use of plastic is key to the workings of the global economy, and while it causes huge harm to the environment, its usage has also paved the way to spectacular advances in modern society in the fields of medicine, food preservation, water transportation, hygiene, high technology and a range of other applications.
However, in an economy that places the greatest incentive on short-term profit and a culture that revolves around mass consumerism and convenience, plastics have also become a curse – with a “throwaway” mentality displacing durable, reusable, and washable products in favor of single-use disposables.
Plastics and microplastics have inundated the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment, with plastic drink containers trapping and confining – and ultimately killing – small marine organisms and small fish.
According to a report prepared for the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by 2050 it is estimated that the plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all fish.
And as fracked natural gas supplies increase in the United States and across the world, the cost of producing and exporting plastics has become cheaper, making the plastic market hugely profitable once again for the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.