A report by non-profit organisation Break Free From Plastic ranked Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestlé as the world’s top plastic polluters for the third consecutive year.
The organisation conducted 575 on the ground audit events in 55 countries across six continents with the help of 14,734 volunteer waste pickers and found that 63% of waste collected was marked with a clear consumer brand. The results of the audit can be found in Break Free From Plastic’s 2020 report titled “BRANDED Vol III: Demanding Corporate Accountability for Plastic Pollution”.
Based on the organisation’s worldwide audits, the world’s top polluters in 2020 are: The Coca-Cola Company; PepsiCo; Nestlé; Unilever; Mondelez International; Mars, Inc.; Procter & Gamble; Philip Morris International; Colgate-Palmolive; and Perfetti Van Melle.
“It’s not surprising to see the same big brands on the podium as the world’s top plastic polluters for three years in a row,” said Abigail Aguilar, Plastics Campaign Regional Coordinator, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
“To stop this mess and combat climate change, multinationals like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé must end their addiction to single-use plastic packaging and move away from fossil fuels”.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced each year and five trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide. Single-use plastics account for a third of all plastics produced, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels. Just nine percent of plastic is recycled; the rest is sent to landfills, incinerators or left in the natural environment. Roughly eight million tonnes of plastic flow into the oceans each year.
While a growing number of individuals are committed to reducing their consumption of single-use plastics – an estimated 326 million people from 177 countries took part in the Plastic Free July challenge last year for instance – Break Free From Plastic is approaching the global plastic crisis with a prevention is better than cure outlook, and is holding corporations accountable for the significant role they play in producing single-use plastics and perpetuating the plastic pollution crisis.
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By collecting data on plastic waste and publishing its findings the organisation is challenging the narrative about who is responsible for the plastic crisis and how to solve it. “Brand audits enable us to shift the focus back to the companies that are responsible for creating the problem in the first place, and empower us to demand that they stop producing unnecessary throwaway single-use plastics,” the report states.
The organisation urges that these businesses take full responsibility for externalising the costs of their single-use plastic products to the rest of society, such as waste collection costs, treatment and the environmental damage caused by its plastics and advocates for what it calls “proper solutions” to the problem, such as reuse and refill alternatives to consumers.
If little is done about the plastic problem and business continues as usual, plastic production is anticipated to quadruple by 2050.
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Cover image by Karolina Grabowska.