Over 75% of the 10 000 litres of waste collected during a three-month-long Greenpeace clean-up project was plastic. Almost 65% of branded materials salvaged from North American shores came from the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Nestlé.
Around the globe, 239 individual clean-up missions and brand audits undertaken in 42 countries on six continents helped Greenpeace create a detailed ‘waste map’ of ocean litter. This global snapshot reveals that candy wrappers were the most common item found, followed by polyethylene bottles, throw-away beverage cups, bottle caps and single-use shopping bags.
The ‘worst offenders’
Globally, the top five ‘worst polluting companies’ were identified; the Coca-Cola Company was named as the top polluter, followed by PepsiCo., Nestlé, Danone, and Mondelez International. In North America, the ‘worst offenders’ are Nestlé, Tim Hortons, PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s.
Greenpeace urges that plastic lined coffee and other beverage cups were the third most common type of plastic item found, with Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Starbucks being the main contributors. Starbucks ranked 7th on the branded waste list.
Fighting the tide
The first brand audit was conducted in the Philippines, says Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign. She was stunned by the rapid influx of new material, remarking: ‘You do a clean-up one day, and the next day the beach is filling up with plastic again.’
King cites market figures predicting that plastic production will increase by 40% in the next decade. She laments: ‘If this happens the situation is going to get much worse.’
What can be done?
Nestlé has responded to the ranking by saying that ‘the real problem’ is improper disposal of recyclables. The company argues that the results ‘demonstrate a clear and pressing need for the development of proper infrastructure to manage waste effectively around the world.’
The brand added that it striving to make 100% of its packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025. Nestlé says it is also exploring packaging solutions with its industry partners to reduce plastic usage and develop new approaches to eliminating plastic waste.
Similarly, PepsiCo comments that it wants all its packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025, and is also trying to boost recycling rates and reduce packaging.