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Plastic packaging – worst polluters named and shamed

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé were the most frequent companies identified in 239 litter clean-ups and brand audits spanning 42 countries and six continents, according to campaign group Break Free From Plastic.

Teams audited over 187,000 pieces of plastic waste, identifying thousands of different brands.

The worst offenders, in order of most frequent brands collected in the clean-ups, were: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelēz International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive.

In Europe, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé were the “top polluters”, accounting for 45% of the plastic pollution found in the region. Coca-Cola was also the worst offender globally, the campaigners said, with its branded packaging found in 40 of the 42 countries.

Polystyrene, which is not recyclable in most locations, was the most common type of plastic found, followed closely by PET, which is used in bottles, containers, and other packaging, and is often readily recyclable.

Break Free From Plastic said it was time for the brands to “own up and stop shifting the blame to citizens for their wasteful and polluting products”.

Danone, Mars Incorporated, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Unilever have all committed to “work towards” 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. The target is being led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, as part of its New Plastics Economy Initiative.

Nestlé has made a commitment to do the same. Mondelēz last week announced that “all packaging will be made recyclable by 2025”. Perfetti van Melle does not appear to have made any firm commitments to packaging, according to its website.