Greenpeace US announced the news earlier this week, stating that PepsiCo’s decision was influenced by its #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.

The campaign had united members of the public, charities and investor organisations such as Walden Asset Management and As You Sow, in urging big-name consumer goods and food and drinks brands to withdraw from the PLASTICS Industry Association.

Greenpeace’s specific concern around the association, which was founded in 1937 in a bid to bring together stakeholders across the plastics value chain, was that it was using “fronts” to push back against legislation on banning plastic bags from US states.

According to Greenpeace, the PLASTICS Industry Association had covertly formed a smaller body, called the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), to lobby against plastic bag charges or bans – in contradiction to many of its members’ plastics reduction strategies. ABPA states on its website that fossil-fuel-based plastic bags have less of an environmental impact than their paper, textile and bioplastic counterparts, in terms of energy and water use in manufacturing.

Greenpeace claims that APBA’s lobbying clout was strengthened through work with conservative lobby association the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

In light of these claims, PepsiCo has announced that it will leave the PLASTICS Industry Association at the end of 2019.

“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,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told Greenpeace.

PepsiCo is notably aiming for 100% of its plastic packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, and to use 25% recycled content across its plastics portfolio by the same deadline.

Snowball effect?

The move from PepsiCo comes shortly after the Coca-Cola Company decided to cut ties with the PLASTICS Industry Association earlier this year.

At the time, a Coca-Cola spokesperson said that the multinational beverage giant had ended its membership “as a result of positions the organization was taking that were not fully consistent with our commitments and goals”.

On a global scale, Coca-Cola is aiming to collect one bottle or can for every one it sells, in a bid to recycle the equivalent of all of its packaging by 2030. It has also set a 2030 goal to make bottles with an average of 50% recycled content, up from its 2017 rate of 7%.

Several of the company’s bottlers have gone one step further and set more ambitious, region-specific goals. Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), for example, is targeting 50% recycled content by 2020, while Coca-Cola Amatil is on track for more than two-thirds of the plastic used in its packaging, by weight, to come from recycled feedstocks by the end of 2020.

Responding to the news, the PLASTICS Industry Association’s interim president and chief executive Patty Long said: “We are aware that several prominent brands that are members of the association have been targeted by a persistent Greenpeace activist campaign to pressure them to leave our association.

“This is unfortunate – consumer brands are integral to making sustainability commitments into realities, by working with their suppliers to make lasting change. 

“Once again, we invite Greenpeace to work with us to help implement meaningful and sustainable advances to improve our environment, such as modernising and expanding recycling infrastructure.”

Sarah George  

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie