Coca-Cola has been branded the world’s worst plastic polluter for the third year in a row, in a damning report that further reveals the scale of the global plastic crisis.
In its annual audit of plastic waste found on beaches, rivers, parks and communities across the globe, Break Free From Plastic found Coca-Cola bottles were by far the worst offender.
The company’s branding was discovered on 13,834 pieces of plastic at 51 of the 55 sites surveyed — more than the combined total of Nestlé (8,633) and PepsiCo (5,155), which were the second and third worst polluters.
The project, which is undertaken by 15,000 volunteers, collected almost 350,000 bits of plastic waste, of which 63 per cent was marked with an identifiable brand. In total more than 5,000 brands were identified in the survey.
Greenpeace accused Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo of failing to adequately deal with the plastic crisis and of “teaming up” with oil companies to produce even more of the environmentally damaging material.
“To stop this mess and combat climate change, multinationals like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé must end their addiction to single-use plastic packaging and move away from fossil fuels,” said Abigail Aguilar, plastics campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The damning report comes just months after the three soft drinks manufacturers were accused of “hypocrisy” after a report claimed they had made public pledges to cut plastic waste while quietly undermining sustainability reforms through lobbying groups and trade associations.
According to research by Changing Markets Foundation, Coca-Cola remains the biggest plastic polluter in the world, with a plastic footprint of 2.9 million tonnes per year.
Plastic entering the marine environment is set to double by 2040 and, unless the world acts, more than 1.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be dumped on land and in waterbodies, one study suggests.
“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’s global campaigns coordinator.
“We need to stop plastic production, phase out single-use and implement robust, standardised reuse systems. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé should be leading the way in finding real solutions.”
Coca-Cola said the company was “making progress” on the “critical issue” of plastic waste.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
“Bottles with 100 per cent recycled plastic are now available in 18 markets around the world, and this is continually growing.”
PepsiCo said packaging “has no place in the environment” and that it was aiming to reduce its use of non-recycled plastic by 35 per cent over the next five years.
“We have a multi-faceted approach to drive both immediate and long term progress— reducing the plastic we use, increasing recycling rates and building an economy for recycled material,” a spokesperson said.
Nestle have been contacted for comment.