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World’s leading plastic polluters include ‘Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’!

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have been ranked the world’s top plastic polluters for a fourth consecutive year. These rankings were released by Break Free From Plastic, a global movement to reduce single-use plastics and find lasting solutions to the global plastic pollution crisis. Among 2021’s top polluters, we find Unilever, Nestle, Procter and Gamble, Mondelz International, Philip Morris International, Danone, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive. According to the report, global plastic production grew from 20 million metric tons in 1966 to 381 million metric tons in 2015.

‘Companies have focused on recycling and pilot projects, but that’s not good enough. We need to reduce our dependence on single-use packaging and we want to see companies act to reduce it,’ said Joanne Green, senior policy advisor at Tearfund. She said that Coca Cola already collects sales items globally, but she would like to see them do so on a country-by-country basis.

According to the World Bank, approximately 93 percent of waste is disposed of in low-income countries on roads, open land, or in waterways, where it blocks drains, causes flooding, and makes waterborne diseases worse. Prior to now, attention to ocean waste was largely focused on ship and marine-based sources, but researchers now believe that nearly any plastic found on land could reach the oceans via rivers and streams.

In research studies, nearly a thousand species of marine life have been found to be susceptible to plastic entanglement or to ingesting microplastics, which then make their way back to humans through the food web. Globally, plastic waste is estimated to enter the world’s oceans at a rate of 8 MMT annually, ‘the equivalent of unloading a garbage truck of plastic waste every minute’.

Currently, the amount of plastics dumped into the ocean could reach up to 53 million tons per year by 2030, roughly half of the amount of fish caught from the ocean year-round. One reason for this is that, even though plastic waste generation in municipal solid wastes has exploded, recycling has not kept pace, resulting in more plastic finding its way into landfills. Several steps were offered in the report to address the crisis, including reducing virgin plastic production, for example by establishing a national cap.

In addition to these recommendations, developed-country governments should take specific steps to ensure their domestic waste exports are minimized and redirected to countries with adequate waste facilities. Waste capture technology could prevent plastics from entering waterways, while stemming plastic disposal directly into the ocean remains a priority as well. Judith Enk, president of Beyond Plastics, said, ‘This is the most comprehensive and damning report on plastic pollution ever published’.

Plastic pollution in the ocean is now a code red, she explained, adding litter cleanups will not solve the problem. She urged policymakers and business leaders to read the report and take action. Christy Leavitt, Oceana’s plastics campaign director, noted the United States can no longer ignore its role in the plastic pollution crisis, one of the biggest threats to our oceans and our planet today.


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