More than 100 Olympic sports stars have urged Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to significantly increase the use of reusable packaging in a bid to tackle plastic pollution at the event.

The high-profile campaign, spearheaded by Sailors for the Sea (Powered by Oceana) and EcoAthletes, comes ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in France, which will see the largest-ever use of reusable beverage packaging at a sporting event.

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The letter, signed by 102 athletes across 43 sports and 30 countries, including Olympians, Paralympians, and world champions, calls for the aforementioned soft drink giants to make reuse a global standard and commit to a dramatic increase in reusable packaging by 2030.

The signatories argue that recycling alone is insufficient to address the current plastic crisis.

Research from non-profit company Oceana suggests that even a 10% increase in reusable beverage packaging globally by 2030 could prevent more than a trillion single-use plastic bottles and cups from entering the environment.

The athletes also want to see Coca-Cola and Pepsi ensure that future Olympics and other major sporting events advocate for legally binding targets to increase reuse in national legislation.

“Escalating plastic pollution poses a massive threat to the oceans and our health,” said Shelley Brown, director of Sailors for the Sea.

“Plastics are everywhere, from floating on the surface of the ocean, to sitting at the deepest point of the ocean floor, to the air we breathe and the water we drink. We must reduce the amount of single-use plastic being produced. The answer is simple – we need more reuse and less single-use.”

“Recycling won’t get us there, not even close,” added EcoAthletes CEO and founder Lew Blaustein.

“The only way we can get to where we need to go on plastic pollution is a systemic commitment to exponentially grow reuse and a dramatic drawdown of single-use.” 

The letter comes amid growing pressure on the beverage industry to reduce its plastic footprint.

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have faced criticism for their role in plastic pollution, ranking among the top global plastic polluters in annual brand audits conducted by the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement.

The Paris 2024 Games offer a unique opportunity for the beverage industry to demonstrate leadership in sustainable packaging and inspire a broader shift towards reuse.