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Set, miss, repeat – big brands and plastic recycling targets

Joe Brock
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Pepsi at a grocery store in Pasadena

Special Report: Plastic pandemic - COVID-19 trashed the recycling dream

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Pepsi at a grocery store in Pasadena

By Joe Brock

(Reuters) - Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo, the world's top three plastic polluters according to a yearly brand audit by NGO Break Free From Plastic, have struggled for decades to increase the share of recycled plastic in their packaging.

In 1990, PepsiCo introduced a new plastic bottle with 25% recycled content. By the end of that decade the company said its bottles no longer contained any recycled content.

Coca-Cola began making plastic bottles in the United States with 25% recycled plastic. It phased them out in 1994 due to high costs, officials said then.

Coke and Pepsi declined to comment on these past targets.

In 2008, Nestle, the company behind Nescafe coffee and Pure Life water, set a U.S.-wide goal to make water bottles out of 60% recycled plastic within a decade.

That's a goal the company says was never met. Nestle told Reuters it was an ambitious target that didn't get the groundswell of industry and policy-maker support it needed.

Coke and Nestle said it is hard to get the plastic they need from recycled sources; Nestle said it often pays a premium for recycled material.

All three companies made new pledges in 2018:

- Coca-Cola set a target to hit 50% recycled content in all packaging by 2030. Currently, it's at 20%, and about half that rate for PET plastic, it told Reuters.

- PepsiCo said it would use 25% recycled content in packaging by 2025. It told Reuters in September it had reached 4% as of 2019.

- Nestle said it aims to use 15% recycled plastic in its packaging by 2025. The company told Reuters this is at 3% currently, up from 2% when it made the pledge.

(Reporting by Joe Brock; Edited by Sara Ledwith)