Ocean plastic

Read about all the steps we're taking to address the problem of ocean plastic.

The rise of litter in our oceans and on our beaches can have a distressing effect on wildlife on land and in the sea. Liz Lowe, Sustainability Manager at Coca‑Cola Great Britain, addresses the problem and the steps the Coca‑Cola system is taking to help confront it.

The rise in beach litter and ocean waste is a shocking subject that has, quite rightly, been making media headlines increasingly often. No one wants to go to the seaside and find rubbish strewn along beaches, or know that it’s harming marine wildlife.

“It is our ambition that by 2030 we will collect all of our bottles and cans so that none of them end up as litter or in our oceans”

Our big ambition for 2030

I’m proud to work for Coca‑Cola GB – but with our drinks’ packaging among the waste that can be found where it shouldn’t be, I know we’ve got a real responsibility to help address this huge challenge. We’re taking action by setting ourselves a massive ambition: by 2030 we aim to collect all of our bottles and cans so that none of them end up as litter or in the oceans.

Where does the plastic in our oceans come from?

Around 80% of the waste found in the sea originally comes from land, and plastic is by far the biggest type of marine litter.1

A lot of the litter entering the sea comes via rivers, and because they sink quite quickly, plastic bottles and caps tend to be found closer to shores and on beaches. Around 70% of the plastic found in the open ocean is fishing related.2

What’s the answer?

For the past 20 years we’ve been working with partners all over the world to do the things we believe will help the most:

  • Supporting recycling programmes and infrastructure to better recover our bottles and cans for reuse
  • Running consumer awareness and education campaigns around recycling. 
  • Funding partnerships that protect and clean up our seas and waterways. For example, our projects with WWF and the Rivers Trust
  • Working globally with organisations such as WWF, Ocean Conservancy and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with initiatives such as the New Plastics Economy
  • Sponsoring clean-ups, such as the International Coastal Cleanup, the largest single-day volunteer event that helps clean the world’s waterways
  • And, of course, developing and refining our packaging so that not only is it all 100% recyclable, but it’s lighter and uses less plastic than ever before:

We’re also working with many of our partners and suppliers to help make recycling easier for everyone. And as part of the UK Government’s Voluntary and Economic Incentives Working Group we’re keen to explore any thought-through solution which encourages higher recycling rates and reduced litter, including the introduction of a well-designed deposit return scheme.

The future

Our packaging is valuable – we want to get it back into the system so we can recycle and reuse it and so none of it ends up where it shouldn’t. But in practice, our packaging may not be recycled in some communities due to a lack of local collection and recycling facilities.

The reality in developing countries

Whilst it is important that every country plays its role in this global issue the Ellen McArthur foundation estimates that around 80% of the plastic leaking into the natural environment is coming from 6 Asian countries – countries where there is poorly established and poorly regulated waste and recycling infrastructure. In these countries the Coca‑Cola system is working on actions to help encourage the provision of more effective solutions.

The Ellen McArthur foundation estimate that around 2% of the total lost plastics come from North America & Europe.3

What can we do in Great Britain?

Closer to home we’ve taken steps to make a meaningful difference. This includes investing in state-of-the-art recycling facilities, including the Lincolnshire-based Clean Tech plant; Europe’s largest plastic recycling facility.

We also support the announcement that a deposit return scheme (DRS) will be implemented in October 2027; a move that will support our ambition to recycle every single can and bottle we put onto the market. To make sure DRS is a success, we must have truly interoperable schemes in place across England, Scotland and Wales. Having a common approach will ensure we have a best-in class system in place – and is the only way we will improve the circular economy and cut litter.

But, we know there’s a lot more to do – this is one of the most important issues we face as a business. We want to do our part to help find solutions which really help, so that clean beaches and healthy oceans are our legacy for future generations.