Coca-Cola Is World’s Major Plastics Polluter

MANILA, Philippines (AFP) — Tens of thousands of pieces of plastic littering the planet come from just a handful of multinational corporations, and Coca-Cola leads the pack, an environmental group said Wednesday.

Environmental scientist Jennifer Lavers stands over some of the estimated 414 million pieces of plastic trash littering the white beaches of the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. (Silke Stuckenbrock)

Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo were named by Break Free from Plastics, a global coalition of individuals and environmental organizations, who said the companies largely manage to avoid cleanup responsibility.

The coalition’s volunteers collected nearly half a million pieces of plastic waste during a coordinated “World Clean Up Day” in 51 countries a month ago, of which 43% were marked with a clear consumer brand.

For the second year in a row, Coca-Cola came out on top, with 11,732 pieces of plastic collected from 37 countries across four continents, more than the next three top global polluters combined.

“Many of them have made commitments that they claim will make their products more sustainable, but largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that got us into this mess in the first place,” according to the report, released in Manila.

China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka dump the most plastic into the oceans, but “the real drivers of much of this plastic pollution in Asia are actually multinational corporations headquartered in Europe and the United States,” it said.

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé — responsible for the most pieces of plastic collected — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Others in the top 10 polluters include Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Philip Morris, and Perfetti Van Mille, the report said.

While global consumer brands acknowledge their role in perpetuating the crisis, the report said they “have been equally aggressive in promoting false solutions to address the problem.”

Promoting recycling is their way of shifting the responsibility to consumers, it said.

Just 9% of all plastic produced since the 1950s has actually been recycled, the report found.

The report deems single-serve multilayered sachets, common in Southeast Asia and aimed at low-income families that cannot afford bigger volumes of consumer products, as “the most damaging type of plastic packaging.”

Coca-Cola’s promotion of a single-use plastic bottle using plastic collected from the oceans, as well as PepsiCo’s efforts to promote recycling, “do not get to the heart of the problem and all but guarantee the plastic pollution crisis will grow worse,” according to the report.

Nestlé sells more than 1 billion products a day in single-use packaging “but has no clear plans for reducing the total amount” it puts into the world,” the report states.

“As companies continue to profit by pumping out excessive single-use plastic, communities all over the world are being forced to shoulder the burden,” it said, calling the situation “unacceptable.”

The report said companies should stop promoting “false solutions” — such as recycling and ‘bioplastic’ — and move away from a throwaway economy.

All the companies named have made public commitments to reduce plastic waste and increase recycling.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have pledged to make their packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. The beverage giants have also pulled out of a U.S. lobbying organization that represents the plastics industry.

Nestlé says it wants to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, and to increase the proportion of recycled material in its plastic bottles to one-third.

Break Free from Plastics counts 6,118 individuals and 1,475 organizations around the world as its members, including Greenpeace.

© Agence France-Presse

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