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Coca-Cola and Greenpeace: Squaring off on Recycling Plans

Coca-Cola and Greenpeace: Squaring off on Recycling Plans

Start a transportation and logistics management degree at American Public University.

By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, at American Public University

Mix Coca-Cola and Greenpeace, and you create a platform for passionate debate about recycling.

Coca-Cola recently launched a new campaign called “World Without Waste” to collect and recycle Coke’s annual worldwide distribution of 110 billion plastic bottles. Coke says the campaign has an “ambitious sustainable packaging goal.” Coca-Cola “wants to collect and recycle the equivalent of all the packaging it puts out into the world,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

That packaging would include plastic bottles, but also the plastic loops around Coca-Cola six-pack cans. Coca-Cola’s definition of “all the packaging” is not clear, but the size of the effort is huge.

Coca-Cola’s Recycling Plan for ‘World Without Waste’

To make the “World Without Waste” effort succeed, Coca-Cola identified three new corporate investment programs:

  • Develop more efficient packaging
  • Work with local recycling programs and companies
  • Educate consumers

Packaging involves the use of many materials, including plastic, paper and metal. Supply chains for all three materials are well established and improving. Coca-Cola is still exploring how plastic, paper and metal will be tracked and used in this new sustainability program.

Local recycling programs arise from grassroots organizations, such as church and social groups. Coca-Cola might look into these regional community recycling or green clubs as participants in its new program.

Educating the consumer is a matter of advertising in print, radio, television and social media.  Also, education could involve high school and college courses in reverse logistics, direct partnerships with grocery chains and food distribution centers, and outreach efforts to professional organizations such as the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA).

RLA works at the international level to promote and encourage businesses to re-use their discarded products, rather than send them to a landfill.

Greenpeace Does Not Seem to Agree with Coke’s Plan for Recycling

However, the environmental protection group Greenpeace does not seem to agree with the Coca-Cola recycling plan. The Greenpeace website shows a beach strewn with trash and plastic Coke bottles under the headline, “Demand corporations like Coca-Cola end plastic pollution!”

Greenpeace claims that Coke’s plan will not reduce the rapidly growing use of the company’s single-use plastic bottles globally. It appears that this recycling effort falls on the Coca-Cola pro side and the Greenpeace con side.

Coca-Cola and Greenpeace Taking Different Paths to Same Goal

Both Coca-Cola and Greenpeace have identified a problem – the increasing growth of plastic bottles washing on the shorelines of oceans, rivers and lakes. As a result, our water supply is at risk from contamination.

Greenpeace’s webpage says, “We’ve been campaigning for a green and peaceful future for 40 years — and we’re not stopping now. It’s time to rise up like never before and fight for our climate and communities.”

A positive aspect of both organizations is they are working toward a more sustainable and clean world. They see waste management as a concept, a policy and a law.

A negative aspect of both organizations is they are running toward the same goal, but on different paths.

Coca-Cola and Greenpeace are like athletes competing in the Olympics. They both want the gold medal for their efforts.

But when it comes to recycling and reverse logistics, it does not matter which organization wins. It is consumers who “take home the gold” in the form of a better community and planet.

Start a transportation and logistics management degree at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management, and Government Contracting. Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He has published two books, RFID Metrics and How Grandma Braided the Rain.