Coca-Cola, Danone, and Nestle are facing allegations of providing deceptive information regarding their plastic water bottles’ environmental claims of being “100% recycled.”
These allegations have prompted a consumer organization and two environmental groups to file a formal complaint with the European Commission, citing concerns of “green washing.”
The accusers contend that these companies’ bottles are not entirely composed of recycled materials, contrary to their marketing assertions.
Coca-Cola, for its part, has defended the veracity of its packaging claims, Nestlé stated its commitment to reducing plastic packaging usage, and Danone affirmed its ongoing investments in recycling infrastructure.
The term “green washing” refers to a deceptive practice wherein companies market their products as more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or green than they actually are.
Such practices can mislead consumers who are seeking to make eco-conscious choices to benefit the planet.
The complaint lodged with the European Commission is focused on the companies’ claims that the single-use plastic water bottles they distribute are either 100% recycled or 100% recyclable.
The European Consumer Organization, in conjunction with the environmental groups Client Earth and ECOS, asserts that these assertions are misleading, especially when accompanied by environmentally themed imagery or branding.
These organizations argue that the bottles are never entirely comprised of recycled materials, and their recyclability depends on various factors, including the availability of appropriate recycling infrastructure.
According to Rosa Pritchard, a plastics lawyer at Client Earth, “The evidence is clear – plastic water bottles are simply not recycled again and again to become new bottles in Europe.”
She added, “A ‘100%’ recycling rate for bottles is technically not possible, and just because bottles are made with recycled plastic does not mean they don’t harm people and the planet.”
She emphasized the need for companies to focus on reducing plastic at the source rather than portraying recycling as a solution to the plastic crisis.
In response, Coca-Cola emphasized its efforts to reduce plastic packaging usage and investments in plastic collection and recycling.
The company asserted that it only conveys messages on its packaging that can be substantiated, with relevant qualifications provided to enable informed consumer choices.
Some of its packaging includes messages to raise recycling awareness, including information about recyclability and recycled content.
Nestlé’s spokesperson stated their commitment to reducing plastic packaging usage, supporting packaging circularity, and communicating transparently with consumers who seek to make informed choices.
Nestlé claimed to have reduced its virgin plastic packaging by 10.5% since 2018 and expressed intentions to achieve a one-third reduction in virgin plastic by the end of 2025.
Danone, in a statement, expressed a strong belief in packaging circularity and pledged to continue investing in and advocating for improved collection and recycling infrastructure in collaboration with partners.
If the European Commission supports the complaint, it can coordinate responses from national consumer authorities, which may result in actions taken by those authorities.
These actions could involve requesting the companies to rectify the situation or imposing fines within their respective jurisdictions. However, the commission lacks the authority to impose penalties on its own.
Last Updated: 08 November 2023