in name of environmental and consumer protection
against the Pepsi's advertising campaign in Hungary
Waste Prevention Alliance
Hulladék Munkaszövetség (HUMUSZ)
- 2002.01.06. -
Please help our work and protest Pepsi's environmentally polluting trade policy and its unethical advertising in every forum.
Please send e-mails to Pepsi Hungary
to the Pepsi headquarters in US.
Inform your friends, environmental and consumer protection organisations, the competitors of Pepsi, your local government and environmental authorities. Give information to your local media.
Please give us a response about your opinion and helping activities.
The environmental organisation called HUMUSZ (Waste Prevention Alliance) has started legal proceedings against the Pepsi Corporation because they favour disposable PET bottles over returnable PRB plastic drinking bottles. According to the posters placed in the shops:
The returnable plastic bottle:
- Takes too much place
- Is shabby
- Forces you to stand in queues
The disposable bottle is:
- Brand new
- Easy to handle
Our main objections are the following:
- The Pepsi advertises a solution, which causes 8-10 times more waste than the 'low-waste' one. The production of millions of plastic bottles depletes the valuable oil resources of the Earth; uses a vast amount of energy and causes dangerous environmental pollution.
- The Pepsi Corporation wants to shift the burden of handling waste to the general population.
- Now Pepsi wants to shift the recyclable homogenous process waste into the mixed communal waste. In Hungary, this is simply taken to the landfill.
- The company's activity can be considered as a 'habit-breaking' programme that discourages those people loyal to the low-waste packaging type, from bringing their bottles back to the retailers and supermarkets.
Since the political and economical transition (1989) disposable packaging has become more widespread than the reusables. There is more and more packaging waste in the households' litterbin. However a well-working selective collection and recycling system has still not been developed in Hungary.
The producers have been being to pay a certain product fee for the packaging they use since 1996, but the law was influenced by the packing industry's desires, so it is easy to avoid it and it does not fulfil its role.
Even if the system is bad, it will provide possibilities for environmental protection, but now the packing-industry (referring the EU principles) wants to destroy it, as well. Instead of this, they want to introduce a license fee system what would be even worse in that there would be neither governmental nor public control of incoming and redistributed money.
The government still supports this conception so it is not surprising that the Pepsi can advertise the disposable packaging over reusables without penalty.
Public administration proceedings
Humusz started public administrative proceedings against Pepsi because of its annoying advertising campaign and the increased production of waste. It (Humusz) started investigations at:
- the Ministry for Environmental Protection
- the Environmental Inspectorate for the violation of the waste-management law
- the Office For Economic Competition for misleading consumers
- the Committee for Advertising-Ethics
- the Consumer Protection Agency
We informed the Ministry for Environmental Protection that Pepsi's step is closely related to the successful lobbying activities of the packaging industry, and that from the end of year 2002, they want to cease the product fee for packaging materials. The governmental decree on the packaging waste is still lacking from the executive provisions of the general waste-management-law that was passed ending 2000. Even if it is ready, without a decree on obligatory refundable and refillable packaging, it will be surely a device in the packaging industry's hand for increasing emission.
We petitioned the Environmental Inspectorate to initiate an environmental legal action against Pepsi because of the serious violation of the waste-management law:
- The law describes the principle of producer's responsibility, meaning that the producer is responsible for choosing such product and technology characteristics that represent a favourable solution to waste-management.
- The law also specifies that, in case of the prevention of the arising waste and decrease of its quantity, the producer must prefer those solutions, which help keep materials in the production and consumption circulation.
- The law describes that from the products and packaging used for the same role, the producer should prefer those which are durable, can be reused several times and, as waste, cause less harm to the environment.
In our petitions addressed to the Office for Economic Competition, Advertising Ethical Committee and to the Consumer Protection Inspectorate, we listed the details of the advertisement's misleading nature.
On the posters, the question posed to consumers (asked in a friendly way) is inaccurate and it refers to a comparative advertising. 'Which one would you choose if their price were the same?' Based on the question and the picture, it is not clear what producer's which drinks are compared (there are three soft drink producers on the market with similar PRB bottle as the one on the picture).
The question concerning the prices is misleading; if the price is the same in that way, that the deposit is built in the refundable packaged product's (advertised) price; then the statement is not true because the consumer gets back the deposit fee from the refundable bottle's price.
If the thrown-away bottled product's price is equal with the price of the refillable bottled product without the deposit fee; than the pricing is manipulated. For the questions (written) on the top of the posters, the advertisement itself gives the right answer for the customer with the help of plus (+) and minus (-) signs. The pieces of information used for the comparison convey a false environmental message and are misleading to consumers.
The negative attributive used for the refillable bottle:
Takes too much place: Where, for who, when? In the conveyor-belt, in the crates, in the shops in the customer's basket or in the refrigerator - it takes the same amount of space as its disposable companion. Anyway, the consumer always returns to the shop and their basket always has room for the empty bottle and later for the new delivery it will be packed on the returning truck. In the bin not the refillable but the disposable one will be thrown and it really fills a lot of space.
It is shabby: It is misleading because if it was shabby, then it is the producer's fault and shame. After 8-10 refills the plastic bottles will be shabby. In the Pepsi bottling plants there is the possibility and the technique to sort worn bottles out (through fluoroscope automation). The material of the bottles taken out of circulation can be recycled so they still will not be delivered to landfills.
It forces you to stand in queues: It is misleading because it is not the consumer who forced this, but he/she is the one who suffers, because the traders make the conditions of refund continuously and on purpose worse. They open unpleasant bottle banks outside the shops, they force them into lines (often when it is raining) and it is not right that they oblige us to buy the amount of the deposit fee in the shop (so we have to stand in another line again.)
The positive signs for the disposable packaging are:
Brand new and beautiful: it is true for about 10 minutes, until it is emptied. Then the brand new and beautiful (expensive) bottle goes to the bin. Anyway, the consumer does not want to buy a nice bottle, but a drink.
It is easy to handle it: If they refered to the fact that it is easy to dispose of the empty bottle then it is true. Although its price is paid by the consumer and the environment. The consumer in the shop buys it and she/he also pays the litter-fee.
The authorities' reaction
The Office for Economic Competition (after 28 days) has started an investigation. Nowadays it is a great achievement because according to the competition law, the Office for Economic Competition can even decide if they start proceedings or not. According to the previous (old) competition law it had to be started immediately and the applicant could present his complaint, even as a private individual or as a civil organisation. At the present time, we cannot be plaintiffs; we must wait for months and years until they inform us about the result.
The Advertising Ethical Committee condemned Pepsi unanimously and it advises the advertiser to halt the further broadcast of the advertisement. With regard to the explanation that the advertisement violates the economic advertisements directly, which says it is forbidden to publicise an advertisement, which encourages environment-damaging behaviour.
We should not neglect that the popularisation of disposable bottles offers a bad example for the youth (under 18) and it does not encourage that ideal behaviour to be followed.
The other authorities have not replied yet. Although the director of the Environmental Inspectorate stated in a radio report that they are considering what should be done because there is no practise in the execution of the waste management law, they do not even have the right to collect penalties because the governmental provision is still not prepared for it. The Ministry for Environmental Protection is still silent. The Consumer Protection Inspectorate has not acted yet, they will try to organise mediation in a few months.
The Pepsi response
We asked the company in a letter to stop voluntarily publishing the advertising campaign and to keep the reusable packaging on the market in the long term. Some details of the reply:
"The FÁÜ Public Company"(the local name of Pepsi) "takes environmental protection seriously. I would like to remind you that our company was the first one, who presented the one litre refillable glass bottle in the 70's then in response to consumer needs in 1993 we introduced the larger volume refillable plastic bottles. One company only followed our example and today two firms only distribute sparkling soft drinks in refillable package. Every other manufacturer uses the disposable plastic bottles.
Seeing the ever larger amount of plastic bottles purchased by consumers, our company has supported the expansion of the selective waste collection and recycling for years, and in every forum we stand for the protection of the environment. Generally, I can say that we co-operate with you with pleasure in striving to attain the goal that our environment should be polluted the least by waste."
In contrast to the Pepsi's point of view - who says there is only one more company beside Pepsi refilling bottles - it is a fact that presently in Hungary there are 6 significant carbonated soft drink producers and all of them refill 0,2-0,33 litres glass bottles and aside from Pepsi, there are 3 other firms that distribute 1-2 litres refillable glass or plastic bottles.
A company with such a large market share should give an example and it should take the social and environmental demands into consideration.
Pepsi emphasises the efforts of recycling and it means mainly the selective waste collection in Győr. Humusz is watching these demonstrative attempts of the packaging industry and it has a rather bad opinion of it. It is more important that the recycling does not solve the waste problems in it, so the reusing systems (e.g. the refillable bottles) should be maintained by all means. The recycling means a maximum of 25-30% decrease of total waste quantity next to an increasing waste-production, while the re-usage can grant 90% reduction result.
We continued our protest on the street. We organised a spectacular demonstration in front of the Pepsi's head office in Budapest where we acted how will form the oil into waste and we gave a several cubic meter PETition to the company. (see pictures)
From the begin of our campaign, we loaded all events and documents on our web page. There is a possibility to vote: everybody can vote for the best packaging according to his/her opinion. Based on the present results, glass is leading with a full street's length. We receive really a large number of opinions on the Pepsi's campaign, but there is a serious debate on one of the most read web portal, as well.
In addition to us, there is much debate about Pepsi's behaviour and their campaign was discussed in many places, too. Mainly the Internet content -providers have dealt with this issue; however it is worth consideration that the commercial media is silent, after all, they do not dare speak against a company that advertises for several million HUF.
Campaign for the refillable bottles
Beyond focusing the public attention on the packaging's environmental problems, we could not make any real achievements (although the governmental procedures are still pending) so we will continue the campaign. It is no use to campaign against such a big company because the other bottling company's behaviour is very similar so instead of that we focus on popularising the refillable packaging. We would like to prove by all means that this is the best alternative in from the standpoint of environmental protection. We started a postcard sending campaign to the decision-makers and the companies with incorrect behaviour, we also will call the consumer's attention to the problem by asphalt-painting.
Waste Reduction Alliance