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The Highest Bidder

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Planet Ark’s decision to welcome Coca-Cola as the major sponsor for their National Recycling Week campaign is disgraceful and frankly, shreds my confidence in them as the guiding light of recycling efforts in Australia.


It has taken me months to write this piece and it still glares back questioningly at me. How can I berate an organisation that has filled in some of the blanks for me, as to how, what and where to recycle all the by-products of my consumption? I stare at the friendly faces posted on their website and know for a fact that most of them had no part in the decision that lets Australians down and exposes us to more manipulation by this giant conglomerate.

Two questions I ask myself: why am I moaning about Coca-Cola so much when they have given incredible amounts of money to charities and environmental organisations, and are still providing jobs, and, am I stupid to focus on the point that over-consumption and the depletion of non-renewable resources is the elephant in the room that companies like Coca-Cola do not want to acknowledge. When I walk into my local supermarket and see premium shelf space dedicated to this company alone, premium spots pimping out single-use whatever to shoppers 365 days a year, I know that I am acting within reason.

The way I see it, Planet Ark has positioned itself as the “most trusted environmental organisation”. As such, I would expect it to hold itself to the highest of standards for choosing partnerships and sponsorships. One might argue that Coca-Cola is doing a lot for the environment. Take a look at their website for compelling and endearing evidence of their magnanimous efforts https://www.coca-colacompany.com/content/dam/journey/us/en/reports/coca-cola-business-and-sustainability-report-2019.pdf#page=22 and you would feel justified in supporting Planet Ark’s decision to promote recycling with a partner such as Coca-Cola. Planet Ark is certainly not the first to do so. WWF rode on Coca-Cola’s coat tails a long time ago. I admit that due to the ubiquity of the brand, any partnership promises prominent exposure for important messages to the whole world.

That is the lazy and cheap approach. I still believe that collectively, we can do better.

Any environmental organisation should embrace the three key cornerstones of sustainability and this includes the all-important act of reducing our consumption. Coca-Cola even went so far as promoting the 3Rs in their own way. See point below for details of Emeco collaboration where the phrase touted was Refresh, Recycle, Reuse. So, for me personally, Coca-Cola can do all it wants to convince us that they are doing the right thing but it is people like the folks at Planet Ark who should hold the torch and be the watchman that we so desperately need in this fight against climate change.

Unwavering and all-seeing protectors now sounds like something we need more than just “most trusted” because then it is a case of the wilfully blind leading the blind. Just as in the case of the nutrition industry in the United States. https://www.ibtimes.com/nutrition-industry-sold-out-coca-cola-pepsico-kellogg-hershey-other-junk-food-giants-registered

How dare I accuse such a reputable and beloved organisation of having a clear conflict of interest?

Try searching the internet on lawsuits against Coca-Cola or reading up on how Coca-Cola has tried and continues to meddle with Australia’s Container Deposit Scheme, to the point that they have now put themselves in contention for managing the planned scheme for the state of Victoria. Thousands of Victorians are pleading with the premier to not let this happen. What hope do we have when Coca-Cola has ‘given’ so much to environmental organisations to groom them into acceptance?

Some interesting facts and links how Coca-Cola has fought for its survival in the last 10 years, and won:

2010 Refresh. Recycle. Re-use. That is the tagline for Coca-Cola’s collaboration with Emeco to design a chair that took 111 plastic Coca-Cola bottles out of landfill. A good upcycling effort, no doubt, but I just feel that everything is about publicity and even the classic phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has been bastardised.

2010-2017 The Coca-Cola Foundation funded the Keep Australia Beautiful, Beverage Container Recycling Community Grants. The organisation did not reply on why the sponsorship ceased. This was one the activities meant to show they were doing their part. Supposedly almost half a million Australian dollars each year, but I do not have the actual amounts received by the grant recipients.

March 2013 Coca-Cola Amatil, Schweppes Australia and Lion Pty Ltd successfully challenged Northern Territory’s bid to introduce the container deposit scheme in the state, forcing the government there to step in. Although the matter was resolved, I am sure a lot of tax payers money and precious time was wasted battling something that more than 95% of Australians wanted. For more details, read: https://theconversation.com/coke-chokes-the-nt-container-deposit-scheme-12744 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Container_deposit_legislation_in_Australia

2014 Global Energy Balance Network claims lack of exercise, and not a bad diet or sugar, is to blame for America’s obesity epidemic. In 2020, emails revealed that the organisation has tried to downplay and conceal that Coca-Cola is a donor and to what extent. More evidence that the company wants to influence consumers to their detriment https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-8589497/Coca-Colas-work-scientists-low-point-history-public-health.html

2017 Coca-Cola is being sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Public Health Advocacy Institute in America for false advertising by paying researchers, medical professionals, and others to contradict independent scientific evidence about the adverse health effects of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/coca-cola-false-advertising-unhealthy-drinks#1

2018 and 2019 Coca-Cola named as one of the top (if not the top) global polluter in Break Free From Plastics’ Brand Audits.

January 2019 Researchers find proof of the soft drink company’s intention to influence China’s health policies https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/01/harvard-research-reveals-cokes-fingerprints-on-health-policy-in-china/

November 2019 Coca-Cola Amatil confirms that it is partnering with French waste management company, Veolia, to build a recycling plant in Australia. To date, there has been no news of any further development. I have written to Coca-Cola to find out if there is any progress. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-15/coca-cola-to-open-a-reccyling-plant-to-deal-with-its-plastic-wa/11707380

November 2019 Coca-Cola Amatil becomes the major sponsor for Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week. In this article https://www.cmo.com.au/article/668490/coca-cola-launches-latest-recycling-initiative-sponsorship/ it states that this decision came after “Coca-Cola was found to be the top global contributor of plastic waste for two consecutive years, according to a global audit of plastic rubbish conducted by the Break Free From Plastic global movement.”

January 2020 Beatrice Perez of Coca-Cola announces to BBC News at the World Economic Forum that customers value single-use plastic bottles because they are lightweight and easily resealed, and argued that getting rid of them would hurt sales. The article here https://www.ecowatch.com/coca-cola-plastic-pollution-2644896488.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1 features an important response to that statement from Greenpeace USA Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges.

April 2020 Coca-Cola is facing a class-action litigation over labelling issues and the presence of phosphoric acid in Coke. https://www.foodbeverageinsider.com/beverages/phosphoric-acid-heart-class-action-litigation-against-coca-cola Personally, I think it’s a waste of money. If you search what phosphoric acid is, you would try to drink as little of the stuff as possible. Let’s face it Coca-Cola isn’t the only one using it, so despite their safe amounts, people who consume a lot of soft drinks are at risk to its more adverse effects.

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