Coca-Cola teams with Bill Nye on Earth Day recycling campaign

For this year’s Earth Day, leading soft drink brand Coca-Cola put a spotlight on the impact of plastics in our environment and the importance of recycling. The company partnered with animation production specialist Mackinnon & Saunders (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Corpse Bride) to release a three-minute film featuring an animated version of Bill Nye (the “science guy”) explaining the recycling system. In the stop-motion short, Nye stresses that recycling is good not just because it means fewer new plastics are introduced to the Earth, but doing so also reduces our carbon footprint.

Coca-Cola’s goal, as Nye notes in the film, is to “create a world without waste.” Christine Yeager, director of sustainability for The Coca-Cola Company North America, commented to Adweek that the company’s mission is “collecting a bottle in hand for every one that we sell.” The challenge among the general public is that about 59% of Americans have access to curbside recycling, but only 27% of plastic ends up in recycling, Yeager stated.

When plastic ends up in landfills or other areas instead of being recycled it can transform into much smaller microplastics, which in turn can find its way into our water supply or food, and ultimately, into humans’ lungs and blood. The issue at hand is not just about lowering the carbon footprint of soda consumers but also preventing a health crisis. According to data from the UN, less than 10% of plastic ever made has been recycled.

Coca-Cola has established a goal for 50% of its plastic packaging to be manufactured from recycled plastic by 2030. But, if sales continue to grow, net plastic introduced into the environment could increase even with Coca-Cola meeting its 2030 goal. The World Economic Forum forecasts that total plastic production from the world’s biggest companies is going to triple by 2050. Moreover, numerous environmental advocacy groups believe that recycling isn’t the solution to our climate crisis that many have claimed it is.

That said, the fact that Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo are both actively promoting recycling and sustainability is likely to resonate with a large swath of consumers. Interpret’s New Media Measure®, shows that 42% of Pepsi consumers and 39% of Coke consumers highly agree that it’s good when a brand has a sustainable or environmentally friendly business model, whereas just over one-third of the general US population agrees with that sentiment.