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In a global audit of plastic waste conducted by the Break Free From Plastic movement, Coca-Cola was found for the second year in a row to be the top polluting brand worldwide. The multinational beverage giant is accountable for more plastic waste than the next three biggest polluting companies combined. These findings run counter to the company’s latest push for green initiatives, with critics saying that these corporate responsibility campaigns have amounted to little more than greenwashing.
In a new annual report compiled by 72,000 volunteers of the Break Free From Plastic movement, Coca-Cola was labelled the world’s biggest plastic polluter out of 8,000 brands audited. Of the 37 countries across 4 continents surveyed, the company was accountable for 11,732 pieces of plastic litter – more than Nestle, PepsiCo and snack purveyor group Mondelez International combined. Coca-Cola was the top source of plastic in Africa and Europe, and the second biggest source in Asia and South America.
Responding to the questions from the movement’s organisers, Coca-Cola said: “Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue.” The company added that they were investing in local markets to recover bottles and cans, such as investment in recycling facilities and recovering organisations in Vietnam and the Philippines, and had launched a technological partnership to recycle poor quality PET plastics from ocean waste.
Despite these public green campaigns, what Break Free From Plastic’s global audit indicates is that these perhaps amount to nothing more than marketing techniques, according to some eco-activists. Alongside their poor record for plastic pollution on coastlines around the world, a leaked audio tape obtained by The Intercept recently revealed how Coca-Cola-backed organisations attempt to block recycling policies.
However, with this new report being surfaced of Coca-Cola’s lack of progress regarding plastic pollution, the company will have to face another public relations crisis. While some might cast doubt on the efficacy of global backlash and public pressure, other multinationals such as Unilever and Nestle have made strides after being named and shamed by organisations fighting ocean plastic pollution – suggesting that there is hope that the renewed spotlight on Coca-Cola will prompt more genuine initiatives.
Lead image courtesy of Will Rose / Greenpeace.