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Coca-Cola fuelling plastic problem in Samoa after shifting away from glass — critics

There are significant environmental concerns on the rise in Samoa after the world’s biggest beverage company, Coca-Cola, announced a jump from glass bottles to plastic. 

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Conservation Society vice president James Atherton says the island nation doesn’t have the ability to recycle plastic and will have to ship them elsewhere. Source: Breakfast

Without a way to process the material locally, it means that all plastic bottles there will likely be lost, burned or chucked in the landfill. 

Conservation Society vice president James Atherton told Breakfast today he is pleading with the company to reconsider the environmental implications of the decision. 

“We’ve actually gone away from a system that was quite effective from an environmental perspective,“ he explained. 

In an effort to boost the country’s processing ability, Coca-Cola Amatil has given NZ$54,000 to the Samoa Recycling and Waste Management Association to develop a plastics and can recycling programme

A spokesperson for the beverage company said it is committed to finding a way to boost the amount of plastic that Samoa can process without sending waste offshore. 

"We fully understand concerns about replacing glass with PET and cans. All packaging has a potential environmental impact so it’s not as simple as saying one format is better than another," the company added in a statement.

"There are advantages to PET: It’s lightweight, convenient and resealable and has a lower carbon footprint than many packaging formats when a circular economy is created, which is our goal. It can also be easily recycled into a new bottle. The challenge comes, like with all packaging, when it is not disposed of properly. That’s why we’re focused on working on solutions to ensure packaging is recovered and recycled so it can be turned into new packaging.

"While glass is reusable, it’s also heavy, which means transporting it produces more CO2 and potential climate change impacts; and it also requires large amounts of water to sanitise."

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Coca-Cola, Nestle and others have pledged all NZ packaging will be reusable by 2025. Source: 1 NEWS

In its annual report last year, Coca-Cola pledged to use at least 50 per cent recycled packaging globally by 2030. 

The company is also aiming to have 100 per cent of its packaging able to be recycled across the world by 2030. 

Since local production was shut down earlier this year, there’s been a huge uptake in plastic imports for Samoa, with most having to be shipped to Asia to be processed. 

“We want them to rethink the switch… They’re the ones making a bad problem worse,” Atherton told Breakfast. 

The impact of the switch was noticed within days as bottles started to pile up, he said, adding that it will take years before Samoa can catch up with collecting and recycling. 

Samoa’s Conservation Society has launched a petition asking Coca-Cola to “rethink the switch”.