Coca-Cola Yet Again Labelled As Top Global Plastic Polluter, Responsible For Littering Across 37 Countries
A global audit of plastic trash labelled Coca Cola as the most polluting brand for producing more plastic litter than the next top three polluters combined.
Break Free From Plastic, a global movement against plastic organised 484 cleanups and brand audits in 51 countries spanning six continents. It collected 476,423 pieces of plastic waste, claimed the report.
It's time we held them to account.
— breakfreefromplastic (@brkfreeplastic) October 23, 2019
More than 72,000 volunteers came out on beaches to collect plastic bottles, cups, wrappers, bags, and scraps for the one-day cleanup in September which decided the results of the audit. During the cleanup, the volunteers identified 50 different types of plastic that could be traced back to almost 8,000 brands.
The most common types of plastic found were polycarbonate, polylactide, acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene, styrene, fibreglass, and nylon, followed by Polyethylene terephthalate. Plastic bags (59,168), sachets (53,369), and plastic bottles (29,142) constituted the top three most common plastic items.
Coca-Cola was responsible for 11,732 pieces of plastic litter across 37 countries in four continents. After Coca-Cola, the next contributors to the plastic pollution were Nestle, PepsiCo, Mondelez International purveyor of snack brands like Oreo, Ritz, Nabisco, and Nutter Butter and Unilever.
“It will be impossible for the world to reduce plastic pollution without these brands making major changes to how they deliver their products. The time of relying on single-use packaging is over,” stated the report.
More than half of the plastic had eroded to a point where it was impossible to understand its origin or source of disposal, the report read.
Coke was the major source of plastic in Africa and Europe and the second-largest source in Asia and South America. In North America, the company responsible for the maximum plastic menace was Nestle, followed by the Solo Cup Company and Starbucks. Coca-Cola ranked fifth among the companies responsible for plastic waste in North America.
Break Free From Plastic’s name-and-shame effort has a clear objective: “Only by highlighting the real culprits can we push them to change their packaging and destructive throwaway business model.” In addition, said the group, it’s “a powerful tool to challenge the corporate narrative that plastic pollution is a waste management issue caused by individual consumers.”
Von Hernandez, global coordinator at Break Free From Plastic said, “Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment.”
“Recycling is not going to solve this problem,” he added.
This movement has urged corporations to reduce the production of single-use plastic and find solutions to curb pollution.
Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace’s south-east Asia plastic campaign coordinator, said: “Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis, unfortunately, continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system.
“These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future,” he added.
Coca-Cola responded to questions about the brand audit with a statement: “Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans or anywhere that it doesn’t belong is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution.”
Coca-Cola said it is working to address “this critical global issue”.
Allegations against Coca-Cola of being the top global contributor of plastic waste for two consecutive years hampers the company’s commitment towards becoming an environmental leader.
Eary this month, Coke introduced a plastic bottle made of recycled marine plastic, and last year the company pledged to collect and recycle “the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally.”
“We are investing to accelerate key innovations that will help to reduce waste, including new enhanced recycling technologies which allow us to recycle poor quality Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, often destined for incineration or landfill, back to high-quality food packaging material,” Coca-Cola said in the statement.