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Walking the Talk
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Leave Pro-Plastics Lobbying Association

As more and more companies are transitioning away from single-use plastics and actively seeking more sustainable alternatives, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have announced their exit from the Plastics Industry Association.

The food and beverage giants announced their decision earlier this week, following a statement from Greenpeace to the same effect.

“Companies understand that they cannot publicly say they want to end plastic pollution, while financially supporting an association that lobbies for our continued reliance on throwaway plastics,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar. “This is a victory for every person that spoke up and asked Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to put their money where their mouths are, and tell the Plastics Industry Association to stop preventing plastic reduction efforts.”

Greenpeace is actively campaigning for companies to #BreakFreeFromPlastic — along with investors and organizations including Walden Asset Management, As You Sow, Sierra Club and The Last Beach Cleanup, the NGO has urged companies including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to reject the PIA and its lobbying against plastic bans. Greenpeace has called out the Association for using a front group, called the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), and working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a controversial, conservative public policy lobbying group known for its opposition to environmental regulations (which saw its own mass exodus of companies a few years back, after pressure from various stakeholder groups) — to push state legislators to prohibit plastic bans across the country. So far, 15 states have passed these preemption laws.

Of the company’s exit from the group, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said: “We withdrew earlier this year as a result of positions the organization was taking that were not fully consistent with our commitments and goals.” A PepsiCo spokeswoman said its PIA membership would end at the close of this year: “We do not participate in the policy advocacy work of the association or its subsidiaries, and our membership will conclude at the end of this year,” she said.

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The PIA has come under fire from environmentalists for lobbying to prevent plastic-bag bans in the US. Its APBA arm argues on its website that conventional plastic has the least environmental impact compared with other bags, requiring 70 percent less energy and 96 percent less water to make than paper bags. The Association said that Coca-Cola’s and PepsiCo’s departures are the result of pressure from Greenpeace.

“This is unfortunate — consumer brands are integral to making sustainability commitments into realities, by working with their suppliers to make lasting change,” a PIA spokeswoman said.

“Local communities should have the right to protect and preserve their environment without corporations interfering,” said Jan Dell, founder of The Last Beach Cleanup. “It is time for companies that claim to care about reducing plastic pollution to take a stand and reject the Plastic Industry Association’s lobbying to block local plastic bag and container ordinances.”

While Greenpeace has called out both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as being some of the biggest contributors to global plastic pollution, both companies have set plastic-reduction goals — one of Coca-Cola’s is to create packaging made of at least 50 percent recycled material by 2030; while PepsiCo is aiming for 25 percent by 2025 — and both are actively developing other solutions for reducing single-plastic use and waste:

It’s been a busy week for companies standing up against the powers that be, to use their power to help influence policies that directly affect not only the wellbeing of business, but of society. Yesterday, Ford, BMW, Honda and VW announced they’d reached a landmark agreement with California on a new set of emissions standards that can serve as an alternative path forward for clean vehicle standards nationwide.