What does Coca-Cola look like when it says it is working to solve the plastic crisis? Some of the world's biggest plastic producers used an initiative in Ghana to fight against threats of plastic bans, but failed to deliver on some of their promises, according to an investigation published Friday.
More than 1 million pounds of trash is created each year by plastic pollution in the country. In 2015, floods killed more than 200 people in the nation's capital, and a government report found that trash caused the flooding. In the aftermath of the tragedy, there were calls for a ban on plastic.
In response, companies in the region that manufacture consumer products met to discuss how to "put across the strong position that no, banning plastic would not be the way to go." The Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises, or GRIPE, is described on its website as an industry-led coalition with a stake in the plastics sector to integrate sustainable waste management solutions. Coca-Cola was one of the founding members of the project. GRIPE was mentioned at international meetings in the last half of 2010 and collaborated on initiatives with government officials from the UK.
The fact that consumer-facing marketing to consumers in Ghana seems to be all that GRIPE has accomplished in the years since it was founded seems to be the result of the fact that the status quo is not changed. Despite an active social media presence, little high impact results have been achieved so far from the program.
In order to encourage its audience to join the recycling movement, a program was rolled out in partnership with oil giant Total. At least one bottle never left the recycling station, and when they visited four months after dropping off the bottle, the station was full to overflowing. The firm that recycles bottles said that funding for the program had run low. The center that was supposed to be a permanent recycle center was abandoned for months, as was the one that was supposed to be a permanent buy back center.
The cost of membership in GRIPE is dirt cheap for international conglomerates who benefit from the good PR it brings them. Nestle pays a small amount. Less than 1% of the global marketing budget is spent on it. GRIPE doesn't pay for plastic collected, it's purchased by outside partners The lack of a facility that can turn plastic bottles into new ones makes selling the collected plastic bottles much more difficult.
Global corporations and oil companies that are most responsible for the plastic crisis can use campaigns that look like they are helping to solve the problem, instead of pushing against real solutions.
Jeffrey Provencal is the founder of a plastic products company that is trying to establish a recycling center in the country. No accountability is present. You can make a statement by putting some money into the game.