Shared responsibility

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After a long day in London yesterday, I of course bought a can for the train journey home. And, having experienced a packed train the previous weekend, with cans left lying around on the floor and tables due to overflowing bins, it made me realise that I always feel a bit protective over my ‘out-and-about’ cans, and where they end up. More often than not, I take them home with me (no, not to my can shrine, just to recycle).

This is something that was detailed also in an episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches programme that recently investigated Coca-Cola’s involvement in UK and worldwide plastic waste.

Reporter Ellie Flynn conducted an experiment on two of Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles – one, she threw in a public general waste bin found on the street, and the other, she put in her home recycling bin. Both bottles had trackers on. The ‘100 per cent’ recyclable plastic bottle that was thrown into the general waste bin headed straight to an incinerator. The other was taken to a plastic recycling facility.

Speaking to a spokesperson for UK council waste disposal, Flynn found out that mostly all waste deposited in general waste bins, whether the packaging is recyclable or not, is either burned or buried – both options creating massive environmental damage.

While there was an alarming absence of mentioning Coca-Cola’s canned packaging by Dispatches, one message I got from the Channel 4 documentary was that Coca-Cola needs to be able to better control where its used packaging goes. While that’s fair, it’s not always easy. If anything, this highlights even more need for decision-makers and local governments to work together in creating more widespread public recycling facilities, encouraging their use and investing in collections. Additionally, discouraging littering is also crucial – because we can blame ‘the big guys’ all we want, but the general public must also do better. Purposeful littering is a moronic act, but one that is clearly complex to criminalise appropriately.

Aluminium beverage can recycling rates in the UK are encouraging though, as we have seen recently with the Environment Agency’s reported 81 per cent rate – so that’s something to celebrate for now. And with World Environment Day coming up (5 June), I’m sure there will be more positive campaigning and knowledge spreading being done to crack down on packaging pollution.

On a final note, our events team has announced there is only one day left to take advantage of our Asia CanTech early bird rates for October’s show in Vietnam. Book your tickets here and join us for three days celebrating the metal packaging industry and all it has to offer.

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