I’ve just read the latest report from Break Free from Plastic Movement identifying the top polluting companies in the world. The report is based on results from the World Clean Up Day on September 21 this year.
Altogether 72,541 volunteers in 51 countries took part on the day and they collected 476,423 pieces of plastic waste and close to half of the waste collected was marked with a clear consumer brand.
All the branded waste was then catalogued and revealed who were the top polluters based upon the waste collected. The top ten global polluters were in descending order, Coca Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris and Perfetti Van Mille.
This is the second year in a row Coca Cola came in at number one. A total of 11,732 branded Coca Cola plastics were recorded in 37 countries across four continents, more than the next three top global polluters combined.
As we all know there has been an increasing focus on recycling but in order to make meaningful progress, we need to stop our reliance on single use packaging. In the report it states that of all the plastic produced since the 1950s only nine per cent has been recycled whilst the rest is burned, dumped in landfill or left polluting the environment.
Many of the large corporations who use large amounts of plastic have publicly made commitments to increase the ‘recyclability’ of their products. Unfortunately, they are still producing plastic that is either too low quality to recycle or impossible to recycle due to the design, chemical additives or hard to separate layers.
Apparently, the tubes produced by the Kellogg’s business for their Pringles crisps is the least recyclable packaging in the world today due to the problems associated with separating the different constituent parts of the packaging.
Even if all plastic packaging was collected for recycling much of it would only be fit for being used in ‘down-cycling’ as part of a lower quality product that would not be recycled for a second time.
There is some good news out there today. More and more consumers are not buying products that are packaged in single use packaging. This in turn is driving big corporations into acting and making public commitments that will take us out of the throwaway culture they introduced that got us all into this mess.
Nestle for example has committed to making all its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. Unfortunately, this commitment does not include plans for reducing the amount of single use plastics Nestle puts into the world annually. Every day Nestle sells over a billion products in single use packaging.
Coca Cola has recently announced the unveiling of a single use plastic bottle using plastic collected from the oceans of the world. This initiative will not stop or reduce Coke’s growing plastic pollution and does not get to the heart of the problem.
Certainly, change is taking place and in many cases it is driven by consumers becoming more aware of what the big companies are causing due to their single use packaging. Hopefully consumer pressure will grow with the oceans and communities around the world recover from this plastic blight.