In a recent study, no one was surprised to learn that Coca-Cola is, once again, the world’s largest plastic polluter.
The audit was performed by environmental group, Break Free From Plastic. The organization gathered more than 72,000 volunteers in an effort to conduct almost 850 plastic clean-up events across the six continents. From beaches to rivers to city streets, the volunteers collected 476,423 pieces of plastic, most of which came from three distinct brands: Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Pepsi Co., in that order.
This marks the second year in a row that the brand audit by Break Free From Plastic has determined Coca-Cola as the world’s worst plastic producer. While almost one million Americans work in the plastics manufacturing industry alone, the beast of burden truly falls on the corporations that fail to reign in their plastics use to more manageable levels. According to the audit, more than 11,700 pieces of Coca-Cola brand plastic was collected in 37 of the 51 countries surveyed. By comparison, Nestlé — the second-worst offender — only had 4,800 pieces of plastic in 31 countries.
“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created. Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment,” explains Break Free From Plastic’s global coordinator Von Hernandez. “Recycling is not going to solve this problem.”
It makes sense that the food and beverage industry relies on so much plastic to produce and distribute their goods. Plastic is typically considered a clean container that doesn’t allow outside substances to infiltrate the quality of the good inside. It is also used to extend the life of the product and keep it safe during shipments. With product liability cases ranking among the top five personal injury claims made in the field, it makes sense that food and beverage manufacturers are struggling to shy away from plastics in the name of consumer safety.
Many environmental activists are encouraging these large corporations to shift to eco-friendly alternatives, but transitioning to biodegradable options doesn’t solve the problem. An estimated 92 million metric tons of paper are produced each year in the United States alone and up to 25% of all land in the United States is already being used to produce timber products — including paper. According to Abigail Aguilar, the plastic coordinator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, relying on these alternatives is merely a bandage for a much larger issue.
“Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis unfortunately continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system,” Aguilar explains. “These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future.”
Coca-Cola hasn’t said much regarding their outstanding reign, but the company has released an email statement to the Daily News in response. In the email, the company said that they find plastic pollution unacceptable. Furthermore, the company claims to be working with partners to deter pollution from happening in the first place.