Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Ranked as World’s Leading Plastic Polluters

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According to a report, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been ranked as the world’s leading plastic polluters for the fourth consecutive year.

The rankings, released by ‘Break Free From Plastic,’ a global movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.

Unilever, Nestle, Procter and Gamble, Mondeléz International, Philip Morris International, Danone, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive are some other brands that are among the top polluters of 2021, the report said.

Global plastic production rose from 20 million metric tons in 1966 to 381 million metric tons (MMT) in 2015, a 20-fold increase over half a century, the report said.

“Companies have focused on recycling and pilot projects, but that’s not good enough. We need to reduce our dependence on single-use packaging and we want to see companies act to reduce it,” said Joanne Green, senior policy advisor at Tearfund.

“We are asking them to collect the items they sell. Coca-Cola is already doing it globally, but we want to see them do it on a country-by-country basis,” she added.

According to the World Bank, about 93 percent of waste in low-income countries is burned or discarded in roads, open land or waterways, where it blocks drains, causes flooding and exacerbates the spread of waterborne diseases, the report said.

Initially, attention to ocean waste focused solely on ship and marine-based sources, but it is now known that almost any plastic on land has the potential to reach the oceans via rivers and streams, the report added.

Research has shown nearly a thousand species of marine life are susceptible to plastic entanglement or to ingesting microplastics, which then make their way through the food web back to humans.

The report said an estimated 8 MMT of plastic waste enters the world annually, “the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute.”

At the current rate, the amount of plastics discharged into the ocean could reach up to 53 MMT per year by 2030, roughly half of the total weight of fish caught from the ocean annually, the report said.

Part of the reason is that while the generation of plastic waste in municipal solid waste has exploded, particularly since 1980, the scale of recycling has not kept up, resulting in more and more plastic finding its way into landfills.

The report offered a number of steps to address the crisis, first among them, reducing virgin plastic production, for example by establishing a national cap.

Other recommendations include specific actions by developed-country governments, which should ensure the export of their domestic waste is minimised and directed to countries where appropriate waste facilities are in place.

Improving waste capture technology would stop plastics in waterways, while stemming plastic disposal directly into the ocean itself also remains a priority, the report said.

“This is the most comprehensive and damning report on plastic pollution ever published,” said Judith Enk, president of the Beyond Plastics nonprofit.

“It is a code red for plastics in the ocean and documents how litter cleanups are not going to save the ocean,” she continued, adding it was urgent that policy makers and business leaders read the report and take action, the report said.

“The finger-pointing stops now. We can no longer ignore the United States’ role in the plastic pollution crisis, one of the biggest environmental threats facing our oceans and our planet today,” added Christy Leavitt, Oceana’s plastics campaign director. (Wion)