Four leading brands ‘behind half a million tons of plastic pollution a year’, report says
Four of the world’s biggest brands are responsible for half a million tons of plastic pollution being burnt or dumped every year, research has suggested.
The study also found that plastic burnt creates emissions equivalent to 4.6 million tons of carbon dioxide – the same that would be produced annually by two million UK cars.
The development agency Tearfund looked at plastic pollution from Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever across six developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines.
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It said Coca-Cola was the worst of the four companies, with 200,000 tons of plastic pollution – or around eight billion bottles – burned or dumped each year.
PepsiCo was the second worst with an annual plastic pollution footprint of 137,000 tons.
Tearfund said it was the first NGO to quantify the link between climate change and the burning and dumping of plastic from multinational companies in developing countries.
It is now urging all four to switch to sustainable refillable and reusable packaging alternatives instead of single-use plastic packaging and sachets.
“These companies are selling plastic in the full knowledge that it will be burnt or dumped in developing countries: scarring landscapes, contributing to climate change and harming the health of the world’s poorest people,” said Dr Ruth Valerio, Tearfund director of global advocacy and influencing.
“At present, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever make little or no mention of emissions from the disposal of their products or packaging in their climate change commitments.
“These companies have a moral responsibility for the disposal of the products they continue to pump into developing countries without proper waste management systems.”
According to Tearfund, nine out of 10 adults in the six countries said they would be likely to buy their products in refillable and reusable containers if it cost the same and helped reduce plastic pollution.
A spokesman for Coca-Cola said the firm wanted all its packaging to be recycled and that it was “committed” to ensuring it was created to be sustainable.
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“As part of a number of global commitments, we have committed to getting every bottle back for each one sold by 2030, with the aim to ensure that every plastic bottle contains at least 50 per cent recycled plastic by 2030,” a spokesman added.
A spokesman for PepsiCo said they were “working to reduce the amount of plastics we use and have set a target to, by 2025, decrease virgin plastic content across our beverage business by 35 per cent”.
Unilever said it believed plastic “has its place” in delivering products safely and efficiently but that its place was not in the environment and it was taking “radical action” to tackle the problem.
Nestle said it was “determined to look at every option to solve the complex challenges of packaging waste” and that its vision was none of its plastic ending up in landfill or the oceans.