Biggest plastic polluters named and shamed in new report

The world’s biggest plastic polluters have been called out in a new report from The Changing Markets Foundation

Released on 17 September, ‘Talking Trash: The Corporate Playbook of False Solutions’ accuses big plastic polluters of obstructing and undermining legislative solutions to the plastics crisis for the past few decades.

With research in over 15 countries that spanned five continents, Talking Trash analysed the top ten biggest plastic polluters: Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Perfetti Van Melle, Procter and Gamble, and Unilever.

The top polluters was Coca-Cola, which had a plastic footprint of 2.9 million tonnes per year, followed by PepsiCo (2.3 million tonnes) and Nestlé (1.7 million tonnes).

It claims that the voluntary commitments and group initiatives these companies are committed to are used to distract consumers and governments, enabling polluters to continue making decisions solely for larger profit margins regardless of environmental consequences.

The report also implies that plastic producers have even utilised the Covid-19 pandemic and the public's fear of catching the virus, as an opportunity to call for regulatory rollbacks and delays on legislation to restrict single-use, despite there being little evidence to suggest single-use plastic is safer to use during the pandemic

Talking Trash lists numerous recommendations on how these companies should move forward in proving a dedication to dealing with the plastic crisis.

These include the introduction of legislation that mandates at least 90 per cent separate collection of plastic waste, the inclusion of reuse targets to encourage greater rates of reuse and refill and the implementation of minimum recycled-content targets to create a circular economy.

Voluntary initiatives not enough

As well as the brands, Talking Trash also investigated the most prominent group initiatives, such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that these companies have signed up to.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the UK Plastics Pact that involved a range of businesses from across industry commiting to eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.

The report calls out companies for using initiatives to appear to be part of the solution and then opposing and lobbying to delay progressive legislation to tackle the plastics crisis behind closed doors, laying the blame instead on individuals for littering.

According to the report, Coca-Cola is committed to 10 voluntary initiatives to solve plastic waste while at the same time is also a member of at least seven trade associations that lobbied against deposit return systems (DRS) or other legislation to regulate single-use plastic.

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