River Tejipió, Brazil
Four food and beverage giants – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever – have allegedly been found responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic pollution in six developing countries, according to a new report.
International relief and development agency Tearfund have quantified the impact between the burning and dumping of plastic in developing countries from multinationals and climate change.
The Burning Question report focused on plastic pollution in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines and estimated that the four firms create enough plastic pollution to cover 83 football pitches every day.
It also reveals that the amount of plastic that is burnt creates emissions equivalent to 4.6 million tonnes of CO2, the same as 2 million cars on UK roads a year.
Research suggested Coca-Cola was the worst of the four companies with 200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution – or around eight billion bottles – burnt or dumped each year in the listed countries. PepsiCo, meanwhile, followed behind with a plastic pollution footprint of 137,000 tonnes per year.
Tearfund’s findings form part of its ‘Rubbish Campaign’ which urges the four global companies to switch to sustainable, refillable and reusable packaging alternatives instead of single-use plastic packaging and sachets.
Since May 2019, Tearfund has ranked the companies on how well they are implementing their four-point plan: report, reduce, recycle and restore.
According to the non-profit organisation, all but Coca-Cola have made new commitments related to the asks and at present, only Unilever has committed to reduce its total plastic use with plans to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025 and total plastic by a sixth.
PepsiCo has committed to reduce its use of virgin plastic by 35% by 2025, while Nestlé aims to reduce its virgin plastic by a third by 2025 and to invest up to CHF 2 billion ($2.08 billion) in sustainable packaging projects.
However, all four companies have agreed to disclose their global plastic footprint annually.
Tearfund notes a ‘few positive cases’, including Unilever’s dispensing delivery system offering refills in Chile and Coca-Cola’s returnable PET bottles in Brazil.
Dr Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, said: “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.
“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.”
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