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Coca-Cola pledges to sell 25 percent of beverages in refillable containers by 2030

Coca-Cola's refillable plastic beverage containers
The Coca-Cola Co. is committed to selling 25 percent of beverages in refillable containers by 2030, up from a current 16 percent.

With an eye to curbing plastic waste, The Coca-Cola Co.'s new goal is to increase the share of its beverages delivered in returnable/refillable containers. The company has committed to selling 25 percent of beverages in refillable containers by 2030, up from a current 16 percent. The pledge was in response to a pending shareholder proposal filed by As You Sow and Green Century Capital Management, asking the company to set stronger refillable container goals.

"We are pleased to see the company increase its commitment to reusable bottles as a proven method to reduce single-use plastic waste and promote a circular economy for packaging," said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. "We agree with the company that reusable packaging is among the most effective ways to reduce waste, use fewer resources, and lower carbon emissions. This action has the potential to substantially reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles used, many of which end up as ocean plastic pollution."

A recent analysis by Oceana indicated a considerable potential to reduce ocean plastic by increasing refill market share. It concluded that boosting the share of refillable bottles by 10 percent in all coastal countries in place of single-use PET bottles could reduce plastic bottle marine plastic pollution by 22 percent. 

Nearly half of the company's packaging consists of single-use PET plastic bottles, generating 3 million tons of plastic packaging annually, the equivalent of producing 200,000 bottles per minute. Single-use bottles are far more likely to be improperly disposed of and become ocean pollution, harming marine life. Refillable containers provide significant opportunities for faster, larger cuts in single-use plastic since they don't need to be remanufactured each time they are used. 

Coca-Cola has long operated significant refillable bottle operations in many markets. Refillable bottles have demonstrated their ability to substantially cut plastic waste while providing substantial profits with a 90 percent collection rate. The bottles can be reused from 20 to 40 times.

By comparison, less than 30 percent of single-use PET beverage containers are recycled in the U.S. Refillable containers account for 50 percent or more of company sales in more than 20 global markets, and 25 percent or more in another 40 markets.

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