China backs down over PepsiCo, Coca-Cola pollution claims


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 21, 2009 at 6:32 PM EDT

China backed down Thursday on accusations that US soft drink giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are major water polluters after the companies rejected their inclusion on an environmental watch list.

The companies' Beijing bottling plants were included on a list of the top 12 factories causing water pollution issued by the Beijing Development and Reform Commission, the capital's economic planning agency.

But they insisted their plants abided by Chinese standards and Beijing authorities later confirmed the companies reached standards for waste water emission, although there was room for improvement, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

A spokesman with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said any enterprises that discharge pollutants to water, whether they reached standards or not, are considered as polluting factories, Xinhua reported.

The term "key water polluting factories" means the enterprises use a large amount of water and belong to chemical, medicine, electric, beverage and food manufacturing, the spokesman said.

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are comparatively large users of water and belong to the beverage industry, so they were listed, he added, according to Xinhua.

"The listed companies have reached the Chinese standards for pollutants emission," he said. "But there is no best, but better, in environmental protection."

A separate list of 15 top energy consumers in the Chinese capital included the Benz-DaimlerChrysler plant.

PepsiCo earlier issued a statement saying its inclusion on the list "simply reflects that the plant, which strictly adheres to all national standards for wastewater treatment and emissions, is a large user of water."

The company said it had won several awards in China for water conservation and added it would continue to work with Chinese authorities to further reduce water use.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola based in Hong Kong, Kenth Kaerhoeg, said the firm's Beijing plant "meets municipal wastewater effluent standards as well as the very stringent standards set by The Coca-Cola Company."

"In addition to complying with wastewater standards, the Coca-Cola system is working to improve the efficiency of our water use in all of our facilities. Globally, our goal is to improve efficiency by 20 percent by 2012," he said.

The Beijing city commission said in a notice published on its website that the 27 entities listed will be subject to increased supervision.

The commission told AFP Thursday that it could not immediately comment on the companies' reactions. The notice was still visible on the commission's website on Thursday.

The spokesman for Coca-Cola said the company would work closely with Beijing municipal authorities on their review of its operations there.

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