Four of the world’s largest plastic packaging producers, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestlé are responsible for creating 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year by burning plastic waste in developing countries.
According to a report published by the international development and relief agency Tearfund, these four companies sell billions of products in single-use packaging in developing countries, despite knowing that waste isn’t properly managed in these contexts and so the packaging becomes pollution.
Across the six countries of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines, these four companies create enough plastic pollution to cover 83 football pitches every single day.
In 2019, the four companies published their global plastic footprint, but they didn’t publish this on a country-to-country basis, therefore Tearfund has attempted to do this.
The authors calculated an estimate of the plastic packaging used and sold in each country, they then estimated the emissions by calculating the proportion of each company’s mismanaged waste that is openly burnt.
Coca-Cola was found to produce around 200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution across the six nations. PepsiCo produced 137,000 tonnes per year, Nestlé produced 95,000 tonnes and Unilever 70,000 tonnes.
Burning of Coca-cola’s plastic alone creates emissions equivalent to 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s the same as three-quarters of their global transport and distribution emissions.
At present, the four companies make little or no mention of the emissions from the disposal of their products in their climate change commitments.
The authors of the report state that if these companies really want to honour their claims to be concerned about global health and climate change, then rather than focusing on recycling, the companies need to dramatically reduce the proportion of single-use packaging, and instead switch to reusable and refillable packaging instead.
Tearfund has called on the four firms to report the number of units of single-use plastic products they use and sell by the end of the year, before reducing that amount by 50% by 2025.
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