A California environmental group is suing Coke and Pepsi over claims they're polluting oceans with plastic bottles

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
  • The environmental group Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit against Coke, Pepsi and a handful of other companies over claims they polluted the Earth’s oceans and misled the public about their products’ recyclability.
  • Earth Island Institute filed the lawsuit against the 10 companies and called on them to pay for clean-up efforts as well as changing their product labelling.
  • Earth Island Institute’s suit claims that product labelling misleads consumers to think recycling is the answer to waste when less than 5% of today’s plastic gets recycled.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A California-based environmental organisation, Earth Island Institute, is suing Coke, Pepsi, and eight other major plastic producers including Nestle, over claims the companies misled the public about their products’ recyclability and polluted the world’s oceans with millions of pounds of plastic, according to a recent report by Vice.

Earth Island Institute filed the suit in San Mateo County Feb. 26, accusing the companies of filling the oceans with plastic and lying to customers by telling them it was recyclable.

“These companies push a product and then create misinformation campaigns so the public isn’t fully aware of the harms of the products when making purchasing decisions,” Sumona Majumdar, general counsel for Earth Island, said in a statement to Vice.

Coca-Cola has previously been accused of seven other cases of environmental violations since 2000 as well as Pepsi, with 27 previous environmental cases totaling in $US5,923,722 of penalty costs, according to the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

The world’s oceans are clogged with 150 million tons of plastic, according to Earth Island Institute’s suit. And oceans are filling up at a rate between 8 and 20 million tons of plastic per year, the bulk of which can be traced directly to these specific companies, the claim said.

“At this rate, plastic is set to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050,” according to Earth Island Institutes’ complaint.

Earth Island Institute called on the companies involved in the suit to fund clean-up efforts and change product labels.

According to claims in the suit, the labelling misleads consumers to think recycling is the answer to waste. However, 91% of plastic produced since 1951 has not been recycled, but rather litters the planet’s land, oceans, and air Vice reported.

Less than 5% of today’s plastic gets recycled, the report said. China used to buy most US plastic waste but has banned plastic imports since 2018. The US has attempted to find other buyers, but other countries might soon follow alongside China.

Earth island Institute claims Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars Incorporated, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris International, and Perfetti van Melle packaging are the top contributors in plastic waste.

“Plastic waste is a worldwide problem that demands thoughtful solutions,” William M. Dermody Jr., a spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, which represents Coke, Pepsi, and other non-alcoholic beverage companies, said in a statement to Business Insider. “America’s beverage companies are already taking action to address the issue by reducing our use of new plastic, investing to increase the collection of our bottles so they can be remade into new bottles as intended, and collaborating with legislators and third-party experts to achieve meaningful policy resolutions.”

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