As the United Nations warns an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year, the equivalent of a truckload a minute, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé have been named the world’s top plastic polluters for the third year in a row.

The latest Break Free From Plastic annual audit, consisted of 848 clean-up events across 51 countries and six continents. The organisation mobilised 72,541 volunteers in total, who combed neighbourhoods, city streets, beaches and waterways.  

Of the plastic collected, Coca-Cola was ranked the world’s worst plastic polluter with 13,835 pieces of plastic collected in 51 of the 55 nations surveyed.  Second was PepsiCo with 5,155 items and third was Nestlé with 8,633.

Coca-Cola have been accused of “zero progress” on reducing plastic waste and came under more fire last year when it announced it would not ditch plastic bottles because they were popular with customers.

“The world’s top polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging,” said Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic’s global campaign coordinator.

Whilst there are ongoing efforts to increase recycling rates, global studies have found more than a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute and 91% of them are not recycled

Between 60 and 90 per cent of litter that accumulates on shorelines and on the seabed is made up of plastic. Marine litter harms over 800 marine species and is set to double by 2040 unless the world acts now.

Coca-Cola said the company was “making progress” on the “critical issue” of plastic waste.  

“Globally, we have a commitment to get every bottle back by 2030, so that none of it ends up as litter or in the oceans, and the plastic can be recycled into new bottles,” a spokesperson said. “Bottles with 100% recycled plastic are now available in 18 markets around the world, and this is continually growing.”

PepsiCo said packaging “has no place in the environment” and it was aiming to reduce its use of non-recycled plastic by 35 per cent by 2025. They also said that by “growing refill and reuse through businesses like SodaStream, which we expect will avoid 67bn single-use plastic bottles through 2025”.

They added that the company was investing in partnerships to increase recycling infrastructure, pledging more than £48m since 2018.

Nestlé said the company was making “meaningful progress” in sustainable packaging, albeit they recognised more was needed: “We are intensifying our actions to make 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce our use of virgin plastics by one-third in the same period. So far, 87% of our total packaging and 66% of our plastic packaging is recyclable or reusable.”
Read the full Break Free From Plastic annual report for more information.

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