Coca-Cola Named The World's Most Polluting Brand

Coca-Cola has been named the world’s most polluting brand for the second year in a row following a global audit of trash, conducted by the Break Free From Plastic organisation.

You can read the full 2019 Global Brand Audit Report here, where Coca-Cola was found to have contributed to more waste than the next top three polluters combined.

In terms of the organisation’s methodology, according to The Intercept, “more than 72,000 volunteers fanned out onto beaches, paddled along waterways,and walked along the streets near their offices and homes picking up plastic bottles, cups, wrappers, bags and scraps for the one-day cleanup in September that was the basis for the audit.”

“Within 2 hours the volunteers collected at least 8 bags of garbage, or about 16.5-kg of discarded single-used packaging - a total of 1,124 items.”

“Sorting through the mounds of garbage, they found that the plastic represented 50 different types and could be traced back to almost 8,000 brands. Coke was responsible for 11,732 pieces of plastic litter found in 37 countres on four continents. Ater Coca-Cola, the next biggest contributors to the plastic pollution in the audit were Nestle, PepsiCo, Mondelez International - purveyor of snack brands like Oreo, Ritz, Nabisco and Nutter Butter - and Unilever. More than half of the plastic had eroded to the point where it was impossible to discern who had produced it,” the report said.

“The real problem is the continuation of the throwaway culture which is at the core of the company’s business model.” - 2019 Global Brand Audit.

Coke was found to be the largest source of plastic pollution in Europe and Africa, and the second-largest in Asia and South America. In the context of North America, Nestle was responsible for the most plastic found in the audit, followed by Solo Cup Company and Starbucks. Coca-Cola took the fifth position for companies producing plastic waste in North America.

“There are plenty of people out there in the world who would like to see plastic go away. We know that’s not going to happen… we’re all going to be using plastic for years and years, right?” Ben Jordan, Senior Director of Environmental Policy, Coca-Cola quoted in the 2019 Global Brand Audit Report.

Coca-Cola has since responded to the audit’s findings with a statement that reads: “Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans - or anywhere that it doesn’t belong - is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution.”

“Top 3 most common types of plastic found: PET, LDPE and O contributed to 93% of the type of plastic picked up.”

It continued to explain that “we are investing locally in every market to increase recovery of our bottles and cans and recently announced the launch in Vietnam of an industry-backed packing recovery organization, as well as a bottler-led investment of $19 million in the Philippines in a new food-grade recycling facility. We are also investing to accelerate key innovations that will help to reduce waste, including new enhanced recycling technologies that allow us to recycle poor quality PET plastic, often destined for incineration or landfill back to high quality food packaging material.”

The authors of the report note that “while individuals play an important role in paving the way for these changes, individuals cannot solve the plastic problem alone- that takes community.”

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