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Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named worst plastic polluters for third year in a row

The audit was conducted by 'Break Free From Plastic' with the help of 15,000 volunteers from across the world.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named worst plastic polluters for third year in a row
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 10: A bottle of Coke-Cola is pulled for a quality control test at a Coco-Cola bottling plant on February 10, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé have been named the world's largest plastic polluters for the third year in a row. The multinational companies are now being accused of making "zero progress" after continuing to be the top three plastic polluters in the world. Soft drinks brand Coca-Cola was named as the world's number 1 polluter by Break Free From Plastic in its annual audit. The audit found Coca-Cola beverage bottles to be the most frequently littered on beaches, rivers, parks, and other litter sites in 51 of 55 nations surveyed. If anything Coca-Cola had a better record last year when it was the most littered in 37 of the 51 countries, reported The Guardian


Break Free From Plastic accused the top brands of providing lip service without actually doing anything to combat plastic pollution. "The world’s top polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging," said Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic’s global campaign coordinator. Priestland called on brands to phase out single-use plastics and start implementing reuse systems to put an end to plastic litter. "Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé should be leading the way in finding real solutions to reinvent how they deliver their products," she added. Coca-Cola was heavily criticized after the company announced it would not abandon plastic bottles. They tried to justify their stance by claiming they were popular with customers. 


More Coca-Cola branded bottles were found littered than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined. The audit found 13,834 pieces of plastic with the brand Coca-Cola while finding 5,155 plastic pieces with PepsiCo branding and 8,633 with Nestlé branding. More than 15,000 volunteers from around the world helped the audit in identifying the largest plastic polluters. They frequent public places and litter sites to make note of global brands on plastic pieces/products found in the locations. The volunteers collected a total of 346,494 pieces of plastic waste over the past year and of which 63 percent were marked clearly with a consumer brand. According to a survey by NGO Tearfund in March, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Unilever were found to be responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic pollution in six developing countries each year, in a survey by NGO Tearfund. A 2017 study found that 91 percent of all plastic waste generated hasn't been recycled and has only ended up being incinerated in the natural environment.


Coca-Cola refuted claims it made no progress and said it was working to solve the problem. "Globally, we have a commitment to get every bottle back by 2030, so that none of it ends up as litter or in the oceans, and the plastic can be recycled into new bottles," said a spokesperson. A spokesperson for PepsiCo said they were combatting the problem through "partnership, innovation, and investments." A statement from Nestlé said the company was making "meaningful progress" in sustainable packaging. "We are intensifying our actions to make 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce our use of virgin plastics by one-third in the same period," read the statement.


The most common type of plastic pieces littered were single-use sachets which are often used to pack small quantities of products such as ketchup, coffee, and shampoo. This was followed by cigarette butts, and then plastic bottles. "The majority of plastic we come across cannot be recycled. We find it everywhere, in our waste stream, on our land. When it is buried, it contaminates our soil. Whatever cannot be recycled must not be produced," said Simon Mbata, national coordinator of the South African Waste Pickers Association.


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