For the third year in the row, big brands Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé have been accused of “zero progress” on reducing plastic waste, after being named the world’s top plastic polluters. American brand Coca-Cola was ranked the world’s number one plastic polluter by Break Free From Plastic in its annual audit, after its beverage bottles were the most frequently found discarded on beaches, rivers, parks and other public places in 51 of 55 nations surveyed. Last year, the brand was the most frequently littered bottle in 37 countries, out of 51 surveyed.
Cold drink brand Coca Cola fared worse than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined as Coca-Cola branding was found on 13,834 pieces of plastic, while PepsiCo branding was on 5,155 and Nestlé branding was on 8,633 pieces of plastic.
The annual audit was carried out by 15,000 volunteers around the world who identified the largest number of plastic products from global brands found in the highest number in countries. This year, the volunteers collected 3,46,494 pieces of plastic waste, 63% of which was marked clearly with a consumer brand.
Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic’s global campaign coordinator, said that the world’s top polluting corporations claim to be dedicated towards solving plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging. According to Emma, the only way to halt the growing global tide of plastic litter was to stop production, phase out single use and implement reuse systems.
“Multinational brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé should be leading the way in finding real solutions to reinvent how they deliver their products,” she said. Up to 91 percent of all the plastic waste ever generated has not been recycled and ended up being incinerated, in landfill or in the natural environment, according to a 2017 study.
The 2020 global audit of branded plastic waste also revealed that single-use sachets, which are used to sell small volumes of products such as ketchup, coffee and shampoo, were the most commonly found type of item, followed by cigarette butts, then plastic bottles.
National coordinator of the South African Waste Pickers Association, Simon Mbata said that the majority of plastic that the volunteers come across cannot be recycled. Such plastic products are everywhere, in the waste stream, on the land. When it is buried, it contaminates the soil. And therefore, whatever cannot be recycled must not be produced.