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Is Coca-Cola finally about to realise its plastic reduction goals?

For the world’s largest plastic-producing company, a transition to using environmentally friendlier packaging materials is long overdue. Is Coca-Cola finally getting serious about its 2030 targets?

In the global fight against plastic pollution, a problem which wreaks havoc on marine life and our planet’s overall well-being, Coca-Cola stands as the biggest obstacle, according to a report by the Sierra Club.

The company produces over 100 billion plastic bottles every year, earning itself the distinction of being the world’s most egregious plastic polluter.

Recently, the beverage giant declared its support for a budding Dutch start-up, CuRe, which is determined to elevate the proportion of recycled plastic incorporated into Coke bottles.

The news sounds promising, but Coca-Cola’s history reveals a pattern of unfulfilled commitments to making its product packaging less reliant on fossil fuel-based plastics.

In 1990, Coca-Cola pledged to achieve an average of 25 percent recycled material in its bottles, a promise that, over 30 years later, hovers around just 10 percent, according to The Plastic Soup Foundation.

The company has long floated its 50 percent recycled plastic goal to keep up appearances. In 2017, the company set a target of achieving 50 percent recycled plastic bottles by 2020, a deadline that was missed and has now been pushed to 2030.

Critics and environmental activists have openly argued that these goals seem more geared toward garnering positive press than effecting tangible positive change.

Despite this reality, Coca-Cola says it now aspires to elevate this figure to 50 percent by 2030. But even if it achieves its ambitious 50 percent recycled plastic target, the company’s historical contribution to the plastic pollution crisis remains substantial.

Speaking of Coke’s new partnership with CuRe, Wouter Vermeulen, Coca-Cola’s senior director of sustainability and public policy in Europe adopts a positive tone.

Vermeulen said that CuRe’s innovative technology can create food-grade plastic from traditionally challenging-to-recycle materials such as films, trays, clothing, and coloured packaging.

The senior director also emphasized Coca-Cola’s dedication to reducing reliance on oil for virgin packaging materials and promoting recycling.

With a specific focus on Europe, Vermeulen added, ‘We are currently focused on scaling CuRe’s technology in the right way for use in Europe as a first priority, before looking at how this could benefit other markets.’

As consumers seek alternatives to support companies committed to environmental responsibility, Coca-Cola’s collaboration with CuRe presents a potential turning point – as long as it expands beyond the European market, which is known for making use of Coke’s glass bottles more than any other region.

Only time will tell if this new partnership will translate into a meaningful reduction in plastic pollution or remain yet another manipulative greenwashing campaign.