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13.5 billion soft drinks in plastic bottles will be sold by retailers in the UK this year

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13.5 billion soft drinks in plastic bottles will be sold by retailers in the UK this year

Exclusive research commissioned by Good Morning Britain has found that 13.5 billion soft drinks in plastic bottles will be sold by retailers in the UK this year, which when laid out from top to bottom is enough to stretch around the world 68.5 times.

Statement from the British Soft Drinks Association who represent Coca-Cola, Britvic and have the PepsiCo franchise in the UK and all the other main manufacturers:
 
“All plastic bottles produced by British soft drinks manufacturers are 100% recyclable. We are urging the Government to press ahead with introducing a GB-wide deposit return scheme for all plastic and can beverage containers as our assessment suggests this is the best way to increase recycling levels and tackle litter.”

Following the overnight government ban on single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks, polystyrene cups or food containers from shops, takeaways, food vendors and other hospitality businesses in England [a similar ban already exists in Scotland and a ban in Wales comes into effect at the end of this month], our research looks into the rate and consequences of plastic production for soft drink bottles in the UK.

Amounting to 37 million plastic bottles sold per day and equivalent to going up and down the UK (North to South) more than seven times when laid out, the market is forecast to generate £11.3 billion in annual sales this year alone, from soft drinks in plastic bottles.

Despite current plastic pollution around the world, our findings revealed that the UK market is growing and set to increase by 7.8% over the next 5 years, predicting that by 2028,14.6 billion plastic bottles are forecast to be sold per year, 1 billion more than 2023.

This will lead to an extra 536.2 billion grams of CO2e being produced over the next five years. That is the equivalent of an extra 318,725 cars on the road. Put another way, it’s equivalent to driving 2.4 billion miles, or driving around the world 97,261 times.

Richard Lim, CEO, Retail Economics:

“There’s an astonishing number of plastic bottles sold each year in the UK and more needs to be done to make consumers aware of the environmental impact. Carbon labelling is one option, where consumers can quickly gauge the amount of carbon embedded in a product to help them make more informed decisions. But more work needs to be done to make the recycling process easier, helping to boost the amount of single-use plastics re-entering the supply chain.”

Research in more detail:

  • The market for soft drinks sold in plastic bottles ‘off premise’* in the UK is forecast to generate £11.3 billion in annual sales in 2023, from 9.5 billion litres of product.
  • This equates to 13.5 billion soft drinks in plastic bottles being sold off premise in 2023 – equivalent to 37 million bottles per day.
  • Between 2023 and 2028, it is forecast that the number of soft drinks in plastic bottles being sold off premise will grow by 7.8% to 14.6 billion.
  • Cumulatively, this will lead to an extra 3.1 billion plastic bottles over the next five years.
  • Carbon emissions from plastic bottled soft drinks sold by retailers are set to increase by 181.0 billion grams of CO2e in 2028 compared to 2023.
  • That is the equivalent of an extra 107,599 cars on the road in 2028 compared to 2023. Put another way, it’s equivalent to driving 817.6 million miles, or driving around the world 32,835 times.
  • 6 billion bottles (the amount predicted to be produced in 2028) would stretch around the world more than 73 times (73.8 times).
  • Cumulatively, this will lead to an extra 536.2 billion grams of CO2e being produced over the next five years. That is the equivalent of an extra 318,725 cars on the road. Put another way, it’s equivalent to driving 2.4 billion miles, or driving around the world 97,261 times.
  • 80% of the soft drinks in plastic bottles are 500ml or under.
  • An additional 840.0 million 500ml or under bottles are predicted to be sold in 2028 compared to 2023. Laid out top to bottom, these extra bottles would stretch around the world four times.
  • Cumulatively, this equates to an extra 2.5 billion 500ml bottles over five years. Laid out from top to bottom, these extra bottles would stretch around the world 12 times.
  • Carbonated soft drinks account for two-fifths (40.0%) of the number of litres of soft drinks sold, followed by dilutable (20.9%), bottled water (18.9%), still and juice drinks (7.2%), sports and energy drinks (6.6%) and fruit juice (6.4%).

Emily Stevenson, Co-Founder, Beach Guardian CIC:

“These figures perfectly highlight our continued and increasing consumption of unnecessary single-use plastics here in the UK. With this exclusive research, coupled with the volumes of plastics we find on our clean-up events, it’s reasonable to suggest that far more plastic bottles are littered daily than previously predicted.

“It doesn’t matter if these are littered in a city, or a forest, or a park or directly onto the beach – ultimately, the ocean will likely be the final sink for these plastic items, where they will remain for centuries until eventually fragmenting into microplastics, joining the estimated 125 trillion Microplastic particles already in aquatic systems. It is essential for each of us, in our daily lives, to make small but frequent changes to tackle this and reduce our use and incorrect disposal of unnecessary plastics.”

Statement from Nestle (owners of Buxton Natural Mineral Water):

  • Buxton Natural Mineral Water has achieved its 2019 commitment to not only have recyclable packaging but has also made its full range of bottles with recycled PET1 plastic (rPET), excluding caps and labels.
  • At Nestlé, we are dedicated to ensuring our packaging can have multiple lives and doesn’t end up as waste in landfill.
  • In the UK and Ireland, our efforts continue at pace to ensure as close to 100% of our packaging is designed for recycling by 2025, and we continue to work towards all of our packaging being recyclable or reusable.
  • Last year Nestlé Confectionery announced industry-leading packaging innovations for two of its best-loved brands – Quality Street and KitKat. In a category first, Quality Street moved to recyclable paper packaging for its twist-wrapped sweets. By replacing the double layer of foil and cellulose with a paper wrap, Quality Street will remove more than two billion pieces of packaging material from the brand’s supply chain.
  • At the same time, KitKat introduced wrappers made with 80% recycled plastic*. These wrappers can be recycled at more than 5,000 supermarkets across the UK – and placed in household recycling in the Republic of Ireland. The rollout began in October 2022 on the brand’s flagship two-finger products, before being extended across the entire range by 2024.

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