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Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestlé Are World's Top Corporate Plastic Polluters for Third Year

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Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestlé have been named the world's biggest corporate plastic polluters for the third year in a row by Break Free From Plastic's latest annual audit. The organization engaged with 14,734 volunteers in 55 countries, who collected a total of 346,494 pieces of plastic waste — 63 percent of which was marked with a consumer brand.

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Participants then cataloged all that plastic, finding trash by more than 5,000 consumer brands. In their report, Break Free From Plastic names the "2020 Top 10 Global Polluters" as follows:

  1. The Coca-Cola Company
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Nestlé
  4. Unilever
  5. Mondelez International
  6. Mars, Inc.
  7. Procter & Gamble
  8. Philip Morris International
  9. Colgate-Palmolive
  10. Perfetti Van Melle
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Coca-Cola took first place on the list for a third consecutive year. This year, a total of 13,834 branded Coca-Cola plastics were recorded in 51 countries—that's up from 11,732 items in 2019. PepsiCo and Nestlé join Coca-Cola in second and third place, again for the third year in a row.

“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,” a campaign coordinator for Break Free From Plastic told The Guardian

“Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé should be leading the way in finding real solutions to reinvent how they deliver their products."

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Coca-Cola disputes the organization's claim that it is not making progress on reducing 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 Coca-Cola spokesperson told The Guardian. “Bottles with 100 percent recycled plastic are now available in 18 markets around the world, and this is continually growing.” 

However, Coca-Cola has faced backlash after saying that it would not ditch single-use plastic bottles earlier this year. In January, the brand suggested that ditching plastic would alienate consumers who like plastic bottles because they reseal and are lightweight.

"Business won't be in business if we don't accommodate consumers," Bea Perez, chief of sustainability officer at Coca-Cola, said at the time. "So as we change our bottling infrastructure, move into recycling and innovate, we also have to show the consumer what the opportunities are. They will change with us."

According to Tearfund's report, the burning of plastic packaging produced by consumer companies creates 4.6 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. That's the equivalent of 2 million cars. Every year, Coca-Cola creates 200,000 tons of plastic waste, equivalent to 8 billion bottles, and enough to cover 33 soccer field every day.

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