Why Coca-Cola Won't Ditch Its Plastic Soda Bottles

The shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is about as Americana as it gets. Those bottles may have started out as glass in Coke's early years, but an overwhelming number of them today are made out of plastic. You can find plastic Coke bottles in every grocery store, Walmart, and gas station from sea to shining sea, and it's a harsh truth that, unfortunately, a lot of plastic eventually ends up in the sea (Ocean Conservancy). 

As depressing and overwhelming as the plastic pollution problem might be, the soda company isn't about to say goodbye to the plastic bottle anytime soon. This doesn't necessarily mean Coke is throwing its hands up in apathy, though. According to Coke, it's all about what consumers want.

Coke says consumers want their plastic bottles

Coke isn't hiding a secret about how much plastic it uses. The company admitted to the BBC in 2019 that it uses three million tons of plastic packaging a year in order to churn out around 200,000 bottles a minute. This staggering number is what landed the company the title of "top corporate plastic polluter," according to the Break Free From Plastic movement (via Food & Wine). Despite this not-so-Earth-friendly title, the soda company's head of sustainability, Bea Perez, said there are no plans for Coke to give up plastic. 

"Business won't be in business if we don't accommodate consumers," she said referring to consumer's preference for plastic over aluminum cans or glass bottles. Perez makes a good point. You can't easily seal up a glass bottle or aluminum can for later use, and even if the company did move to more aluminum bottles with a resealable cap, it might actually increase their carbon footprint.  

Coca-Cola is committed to more recycling

Just because Coca-Cola isn't following Starbucks' no-plastic straws lead and ditching plastic, it doesn't mean they aren't at least trying to cut down on plastic waste. Perez said that Coke has made a pledge that by 2030, at least 50 percent of their plastic packaging will come from recycled plastics. That's quite the goal to push for, but it's one Coke is hoping its customers will help it to meet. 

"So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are," Perez said. "They will change with us." Getting people to alter their habits when there isn't an immediate reward can be tricky, but the company is hopeful.