Consumer brands responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic pollution

A new study claims it is revealing for the first time the hidden plastic pollution footprint four of the world’s biggest consumer brands are responsible for, driving up global greenhouse gas emissions.

International relief and development agency Tearfund has found that the emissions produced from the open burning of Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever’s plastic packaging on street corners, open dumps and in backyards in developing countries is a major contribution to the climate emergency.

The findings, part of the organisation’s Rubbish Campaign targeting the four global companies, show that they must urgently switch to sustainable refillable and reusable packaging alternatives instead of single-use plastic packaging and sachets.

Dr Ruth Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, said: “These companies are selling plastic in the full knowledge that it will be burnt or dumped in developing countries: scarring landscapes, contributing to climate change and harming the health of the world’s poorest people.”

Tearfund is the first NGO to quantify the link between the burning and dumping of plastic in developing countries from multinationals and climate change. The research focussed on plastic pollution in six developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Dr Valerio added: “At present, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever make little or no mention of emissions from the disposal of their products or packaging in their climate change commitments. These companies have a moral responsibility for the disposal of the products they continue to pump into developing countries without proper waste management systems.”

The report also said it makes clear the scale of demand for change from consumers in developing countries: in a new survey of 2,000 adults aged between 18 to 64 in India conducted for Tearfund by Savanta ComRes, nine in ten (90%) respondents said they would be likely to buy their products in refillable and reusable containers as opposed to throwaway containers if it led to significantly less plastic pollution in their community and the cost was the same.

Since May 2019 Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign has been challenging each company with a four-point plan to step up the pace to take responsibility for their plastic pollution.

Tearfund has ranked how well the companies are doing in committing to this plan. This league table reveals that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are barely off the starting blocks, with Unilever far ahead.

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