Photo by maria mendiola on Unsplash

Coca-Cola was recently named the world's largest plastic waste producer in a global plastic audit, and it appears that won't be changing any time soon. The drink giant produces about three million tons of plastic packaging each year, or the equivalent of 200,000 bottles per minute, according to the BBC.

Global studies show that 9 out of 10 plastic bottles don't get recycled. We know that a huge percentage of our plastic waste ends up in the ocean, filling up the bellies of whales and breaking down into harmful microplastics. And with changes in how and where recycling gets processed, recycling itself has proven to be a non-solution to the planet's plastic pollution problem.

In light of this information, pumping out more and more single-use plastic bottles seems like a ridiculously irresponsible move. And yet, Coca-Cola recently announced that it will be sticking with single-use plastic bottles. Their reasoning? Because people like them.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

By the end of the decade, over half a trillion single-use plastic bottles will be sold annually. In 2016, fewer than half those bottles were picked up for recycling and just seven percent were turned into new bottles.

The Coca-Cola Company, which owns Coke products and some of the biggest brands in the beverage industry, including Minute Maid, Sprite, Dasani, and Smart Water, is responsible for over 100 billion single-use plastic bottles produced annually.

Americans, especially millennials, are becoming increasingly concerned with the dangers caused by single-use plastics. A study published in Market Watch found 73 percent of millennials would pay more for sustainable products compared with 66 percent among all generations.

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Picture a young sea lion — let's call him Joey — taking an afternoon swim along the coast of Alaska and coming upon a long, shiny plastic loop.

Of course, Joey doesn't know the loop is plastic. All he knows is that he's never seen something like this wriggling through the water before, and he'd love to play with it.  

"Sea lions are curious and playful creatures by nature," explains Sue Goodglick, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game program that studies and tracks Steller sea lions like Joey. So, she says, when they come across plastic objects like this, they usually like to play with it.

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