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You Can Fool Some of the People Some of the Time!

These world class companies are deliberately misleading the public into believing they are reducing the adverse effect of their packaging on the environment by replacing plastics with board on their multipacks. Please just click on this ‘must watch’ (3 min) video. This demonstrates why these companies are some of the world’s biggest users of ‘Single Use Plastic’ and without this plastic they haven’t even got a business.

Between them, Coke and Budweiser claim to have reduced their plastic use by 2250 tonnes, however, they could have chosen to announce this plastic replacement very differently. They could have said, between us we will be producing around 7,000 tonnes of extra packaging waste every year, as our new cardboard packaging weighs 3-4 times that of the plastic. In addition, we will be felling an extra 170,000 trees and increasing our CO2 emissions by some 300%. We decided to do this by replacing our plastic rings with paper board, in effect we are adding around 3,000 tonnes PA to our CO2 emissions and adding to global warming. (Coke actually claim there is a reduction of 3,000 TPA of CO2 but have given no figures to say how this is achieved).  

The companies have claimed their motivation for these changes is to reduce Single Use Plastic on their 4-6 compilation packs. They have given no reason as to why this is necessary, nor indeed why they need these compilation packs at all. In effect they are replacing one type of unnecessary packaging with another, both of which are 100% recyclable.

But the hypocrisy at the heart of this PR exercise doesn’t end there. As the video shows, the cans plastic linings would need very little added to the thickness of the plastic to completely eliminate the need for the aluminium can. They are well aware that aluminium is highly reactive and without the plastic protection, the aluminium would contaminate the cans liquid contents, making them undrinkable, subsequently, all these plastic linings are incinerated in the aluminium recycling process, creating more CO2 emissions.

To give some context to the scale of this deception, Coca-Cola, alone use and sell 1.8 billion drinks a day! Albeit not all in aluminium cans. However, worldwide, there are around 180 billion aluminium cans used every year. Not only does this equate to perhaps tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic which cannot be recycled, but it takes more energy to mine and produce aluminium than virtually any other metal on Earth. In addition, aluminium production is one of the world’s most environmentally polluting manufacturing processes, as each tonne of aluminium produced results in around 1.2 tonnes of untreatable toxic mud. It is estimated that there are 3,000 million tonnes of this toxic sludge stored around the world. This residue is so toxic it can result in the death of any animal or humans who have the misfortune to come into its contact.

Much of this environmental pollution is caused by the production of the 180 million aluminium cans per year used for Cola and Beer, the majority of which could easily be replaced by plastics with far less environmental pollution.

Finally, much is made of the recycling of aluminium, which is undoubtedly a benefit, yet according to Google, less than 50% of aluminium cans worldwide are recycled. Thus, around 90 million are ‘lost’ into the environment where they can take between 300 - 500 years to decompose. As between them, Coke and Budweiser are sold in around 200 countries in the world, we can safely assume their aluminium cans are littered all around the globe.

These comparisons demonstrate that the switch from plastic collation packs to board will not only produce a negative environmental impact, but if they really wanted to improve their carbon footprint, reduce deforestation and reduce packaging waste they would either;

1, Scrap the use of collation packs altogether


2, Add to the thickness of their plastic ‘lining’ and discontinue the use of aluminium altogether.

Yet, they choose to promote their ‘Plastic Reduction’ as somehow environmentally beneficial as it ‘Reduces Plastic Waste’. This PR conveniently disregards the real damage this change will inflict upon the environment. Is this hypocrisy, or is it that these companies are using anti-plastic propaganda as a promotional tool?         

As ever, I would welcome your views on any of the issues raised and why not join me on LinkedIn for more regular updates.



1 Comment

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Derek Ryden

HI Barry, I enjoy reading your blog because it presents a welcome contrast to much of the greenwashing out there. But I feel that you, too, are being disingenuous. Your arguments about CO2 emissions are no doubt correct, but you don't acknowledge that a large part of the concern about single use plastic is the effect of micro (and macro) plastics on wildlife. There are still compromises to be made, but you can't simply ignore half the argument. I have written to you before and not received any acknowledgement. A shame, because I would really like a fruitful discussion.

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