Coca Cola is misleading the public over single-use plastic bottles, says environmental campaigners in ASA complaint

Coca Cola is attempting to mislead the public about the environmental impact of its plastic bottles by suggesting they are not ‘single-use’ say plastic campaigning organisation, City to Sea in a complaint submitted this week to the Advertising Standards Agency ASA.

The company’s recent advertising campaign claims “single-use plastic bottles are only single-use if they are thrown away”, with ads appearing in newspapers and tube stations.

City to Sea have as a result, submitted a formal complaint to the (ASA) arguing that Coca-Cola misrepresents a commonly held definition of the word ‘single-use,’ which was the Collins Dictionary word of the year in 2018. This confusion has the potential to increase the volume of plastic bottles ending up in our environment, making worse the environmental damage that plastic pollution causes.

Rebecca Burgess, City to Sea’s CEO added,

“The holidays are coming, along with the iconic Coca-Cola truck. But this year, Coca-Cola have taken a new tack when it comes to their marketing – tapping into public concern on single-use plastic by redefining the word to sell their products; misleading customers and setting a dangerous precedent in the industry.

Whilst we welcome the news that their bottles can now be recycled, we know that in reality, many are not. Plastic bottles are consistently the most polluting items on our beaches and rivers and Coca-Cola is the worst offender[3]. We had no choice but to report these misleading claims to the ASA and we are encouraging others to do the same.”  

City to Sea’s Campaigns Manager, Steve Hynd added,

“We need green action, not greenwash to tackle plastic pollution. The way Coca-Cola are using the phrase ‘single-use’ is not how most people understand it, and it is not how legal entities define it. Just because a product can be recycled, it doesn’t mean that it’s no longer single-use. If Coca Cola want to ensure their bottles are not single-use, we would love for them to introduce a comprehensive refill system, where the same item is cleaned and re-used multiple times.”  

He continued, “Although plastic bottle recycling is widespread, bottles are still a significant source of plastic pollution. There are now more than 150 plastic bottles for every mile of beach in the UK and a government report revealed that an estimated 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every single day in the UK [4]  To deal with the plastics crisis we must reduce and re-use items, rather than rely on recycling”.

City to Sea are calling for:

  • Coca Cola to withdraw its ads, including on online platforms, and stop trying to mislead the public about single-use plastic bottles;
  • Coca Cola to tackle the use of single-use plastic bottles by shift towards a comprehensive refill scheme 
  • The government to introduce a deposit scheme to ensure far more bottles are refilled – or failing that, recycled.
  • The new government to introduce legislation to phase-out the use of all but the most essential single-use plastics

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