A new report by the UK Christian charity Tearfund said that bottles and other single-use products made by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Nestlé are creating harmful plastic pollution in six countries. Spokespeople for the companies responded this week.
Called “The Burning Question: Will Companies Reduce Their Plastic Use?” the Tearfund report tried to identify each company’s plastic packaging footprint on a country-by-country basis. The charity says that it used methodology independently reviewed by the waste prevention firm Resource Futures and academics in the field of solid waste management.
“We have calculated a reasoned estimate of the plastic packaging used and sold by each company in six countries spanning three continents — China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria,” the report stated. “We shared this methodology with each company in December 2019 to give them an opportunity to respond.”
Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever are responsible for more than half a million metric tons of plastic pollution annually in those six countries, the charity said, meaning plastic that is dumped or is burned.
Here’s what the report found across the six countries studied:
- Coca-Cola’s plastic pollution footprint is more than 200,000 metric tons per year.
- PepsiCo’s plastic pollution footprint is 137,000 metric tons per year.
- Nestlé’s plastic pollution footprint is 95,000 metric tons per year.
- Unilever’s plastic pollution footprint is 70,000 metric tons per year.
This week, all four companies responded to the report with statements to Food Navigator. “At PepsiCo, we want to help build a system where packaging never becomes waste,” a spokesperson told the outlet. “That’s why we’re working to reduce the amount of plastics we use and have set a target to, by 2025, decrease virgin plastic content across our beverage business by 35%.”
Coca-Cola highlighted its World Without Waste effort to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030, which was first launched in 2018. “We believe that plastic still has a role to play as a valuable resource which can be used again and again, a spokesperson told Food Navigator. “However, we’re also focused on increasing our use of returnable and refillable packaging.”
Unilever, meanwhile, called plastic reduction “a critical part of the solution” and noted the company’s commitment to cut its use of virgin plastic for packaging in half within five years as well as to reduce its total plastic usage by more than 100,000 metric tons.
Tearfund wants to see more action, however. “We argue now that if all of these multinationals want to have longevity, they need to change,” the charity said. “They need to invest and innovate, and as the world’s leading brands and companies, they need to lead.”