A recent audit has collected thousands of pieces of plastic from beaches across the world in a bid to name and shame the corporate powers most responsible for manufacturing plastic pollution.
According to their findings, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the top three producers of branded plastic pollution globally.
Other household companies in the top 10 are Mondelēz International (the mother company of Chips Ahoy!, Oreo, Ritz, etc), Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris tobacco manufacturers, and candy producer Perfetti Van Melle.
The findings come from a new report published by environmental group Break Free From Plastic and Greenpeace Philippines last week. Through 484 beach cleanups in more than 50 countries, their volunteers collected 476,423 pieces of plastic waste, 43 percent of which was marked with a clear consumer brand. They identified 11,732 pieces of plastic as belonging to products made by Coca-Cola – that’s more than double the runner up Nestlé, who manufactured 4,846 of the pieces, and triple PepsiCo's 3,362 pieces.
“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created," Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement, said in a statement. "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.”
The audit collected plastic samples from across the world, from the tip of Canada to the bottom of southern Africa, and found most of the worst affected coastlines were in southeast Asia. Much of the pollution here had been sent from Europe and North America for recycling, however, they also found that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka are the largest sources of land-based marine plastic pollution.
It’s worth noting that there will be many large manufacturers of plastic that are not possible to identify. For example, a huge amount of plastic pollution in the ocean is discarded nets and fishing equipment, however, it’s not possible to trace these objects back to the company that produced them.
Nevertheless, the report hopes to highlight the responsibility multinational corporations have when it comes to dealing with this widespread environmental problem. Many of these companies have boasted about new initiatives to curb plastic use, however, these findings suggest there is still a long way to go.
“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," added Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia plastic campaign coordinator. "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.”
As a testament to the scale of this problem, scientists reported this week that whales have been spotted swimming in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for the first time.