Here are the companies that are the world’s top plastic polluters

"Real solutions must change systems and power structures."

Image Credit: Justin Hofman/Greenpeace

Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the world’s top polluters, says a new report from environmental coalition Break Free From Plastic.

Thousands of volunteers from all over the world took part in a massive global audit of plastic trash as part of the global movement. Results show the Coca-Cola was, for the second year running, the biggest producer of plastic waste.

Over 72,000 people participated in 484 cleanups in over 50 countries and 6 continents to conduct the audit and identify the top polluting companies. Volunteers scoured beaches, waterways, and streets local to their homes in order to pick up plastic trash last month to gather the data. Results showed that 50 different types of plastic were found coming from nearly 8,000 brands. There were 476,423 pieces of plastic waste conducted however, nearly half of the plastic that was found was so eroded it could not be discerned who had produced it.

Coca-cola was responsible for 11,732 pieces of plastic found in 37 countries on four continents, “more than the next three top global polluters combined.” Although Coca-Cola was the biggest contributor of plastic in Africa and Europe, Nestle was found to be responsible for the most plastic in North America, followed by the Solo Cup Company. Coca-Cola was ranked fifth in North America.

Coca-Cola responded to the findings, as reported by the Intercept, stating: “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.”

“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement.

“Only by highlighting the real culprits can we push them to change their packaging and destructive throwaway business model,” explains Break Free From Plastic.

The group explains that although these huge corporations try to brand themselves as environmentally friendly and label their plastic products as recyclable, there is no guarantee that the plastic will actually get recycled. In fact, “since the 1950’s, only 9 percent has actually been recycled globally.”

Environmentalists say that many companies are pushing “false solutions” such as switching to bioplastics (which do not all biodegrade) and burning plastics through incinerators (which released harmful chemicals into communities).

Furthermore, it was revealed by The Intercept that Coca-Cola specifically has been funding organizations to undermine bottle bills and has been accused of interfering with environmentalists’ efforts to combat plastic pollution.

“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,” said Abigal 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.”

“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created,” states the report. “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.

“Real solutions,” the report concludes, “must change systems and power structures.”


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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.