What UCB’s PepsiCo contract means for Berkeley’s sustainability goals

PepsiCo’s products and production strongly contribute to a myriad of negative environmental impacts through plastic pollution and deforestation. Surpassed only by Coca-cola, PepsiCo is the second highest producer of plastic pollution globally. PepsiCo’s plastic pollution footprint is 137,000 tonnes per year, enough to cover 22 football pitches with plastic every day.

Only 9% of plastics are recycled as this vast quantity of plastic consumed outpaces the recycling system. Sixty percent of plastic waste is exported and burned in incinerators which not only releases more emissions, but also exposes often vulnerable communities to many toxins. Due to the degree the world’s recycling capacity is overrun, the only responsible way forward is to reduce and reuse.

 PepsiCo’s 2025 sustainability goals include increasing recycled content in their plastics packaging to 25% and reducing virgin plastic content in beverage packaging by 35%, but they have only reached 4% and 1% of these targets respectively. Using more recycled plastic will not solve the pollution problem or the growing international governance problem recycling is creating. 

Moreover, PepsiCo, according to Greenpeace, is responsible for deforestation due to its continued reliance on rouge palm oil producers. Suppliers to top brands such as PepsiCo cleared over 1,300 square kilometers of Southeast Asian rainforest since the end of 2015. While many companies, including PepsiCo, claim to be working to lessen deforestation caused by a reliance on palm oil, they often depend on whether suppliers issue a statement claiming no deforestation in assessing their success. Yet, unfortunately, even supposedly reputable palm oil suppliers often cannot or do not monitor their entire supply chain and thus there is no guarantee of sustainable sourcing. 

Considering the environmental degradation Pepsi products leave in their wake, removing them from UC Berkeley’s campus is a logical, necessary response which not only aids in meeting Berkeley’s zero-waste goals, but provides the opportunity for the campus to take leadership as a prominent global university.

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