New Study Finds Alarming Amount of Plastic Trash Generated By Biggest Consumer Brands

by Rudy Sanchez on 03/31/2020 | 2 Minute Read

A recent study by a non-profit organization estimates that the “Big 4” global consumer goods makers, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, and Unilever, contribute over half a million tons of plastic pollution in six developing countries. The amount of plastic garbage these firms generate in these nations is enough to cover 83 soccer fields every day.

Coca-Cola was the worst offender, clocking in at over 220,000 tons of plastic waste that gets burnt or dumped every year while PepsiCo was second with over 151,000 tons.

The report, published by religious non-profit Tearfund, focused on four developing nations, China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, and Nigeria, providing a diverse range of countries, spanning three continents and representing some of the biggest markets for these consumer brands. 

Editorial photograph

Tearfund’s report also shines a spotlight on the environmental impact of burning plastic refuse, an aspect of plastic pollution that they say is not given as much attention as other consequences of our usage, such as the impact on oceans and waterways.

Tearfund also criticizes multi-national corporations for making sustainability commitments and goals while continuing to sell goods in single-use plastic, especially in developing nations lacking an infrastructure to collect and divert plastic trash. For example, the NGO points out that Coca-Cola has made no commitment to reducing the amount of virgin plastic, and that it is falling behind on its goal of collecting one bottle for every bottle sold by 2030, though they praise the brand’s transparency. Likewise, Tearfund recognizes PepsiCo’s global reporting but notes that it has not committed to bottle collection. 

Ultimately, the group calls for all four brands to publicly disclose the volume of plastic they sell, reduce by half, country-by-country, the number of plastic bottles they sell by 2025, transitioning to alternatives like refill. Tearfund would also like to see better recycling in developing nations, as well as improved working conditions for waste pickers.

You can find the full report here.

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