Coca-Cola, Danone and Nestle accused of making misleading environmental claims
A consumer rights organization and two environmental groups have filed a legal complaint with the European Commission over alleged greenwashing. They claim that the bottles are never made entirely from recycled materials.
Coca-Cola said its packaging complaints may have merit, while Nestlé said it was cutting its use of plastic packaging. Danone responded that it continues to invest in waste recycling infrastructure.
The complaint to the European Commission centers on the companies' claims that the single-use plastic water bottles they supply are either 100% recycled or 100% recyclable.
The European Consumer Organisation, backed by environmental groups Client Earth and ECOS, said it was misleading, especially when accompanied by green imagery or branding. They insist that bottles are never made entirely from recycled materials, and whether they can be recycled depends on a number of factors, including the infrastructure available.
“The evidence is clear: plastic water bottles are simply not being recycled over and over again to become new bottles in Europe,” said Rose Pritchard, plastics lawyer at ClientEarth.
“A 100% recycling rate for bottles is not technically possible, and just because bottles are made from recycled plastic does not mean they are not harmful to people and the planet.” “It’s important that companies don’t see recycling as a panacea for the plastic crisis – instead they need to focus on reducing plastic at the source.”
In response, Coca-Cola said it was "working to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use and investing in collecting and recycling the equivalent of the packaging we use." “We only place messages on our packaging that can be verified, clearly stating all relevant characteristics, to enable consumers to make informed choices,” it said. “Some of our packaging contains messages to raise awareness of recycling, including whether our packaging is recyclable and made from recycled material.”
A Nestlé spokesperson said: “We are working hard to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use; lead investments and support packaging circularity with partners, and clearly communicate with consumers who want to make informed choices. Since 2018, Nestlé has reduced the amount of virgin plastic packaging by 10.5% and we are on track to reduce the amount of virgin plastic by one third by the end of 2025.”
In a statement, Danone said: “We strongly believe in the circularity of packaging and will continue to invest and lead the campaign to improve collection and recycling infrastructure together with our partners.”
If the European Commission agrees with the complaint, it can organize a coordinated response from national consumer protection authorities, who can then take action.
This could include asking companies to correct the situation or imposing fines within their own borders. The commission does not have the power to impose its own fines.
It was previously reported that Coca-Cola, in collaboration with its bottling partner Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, is introducing 100% recycled plastic bottles across its soft drinks portfolio in Ireland and Northern Ireland.