56 Companies Responsible for Half of Global Plastic Pollution


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A new study on plastic pollution in 84 countries has linked half of branded plastic pollution to only 56 firms, with about 24% of the branded plastic waste analyzed connected to only five companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone and Altria.

A team of researchers analyzed plastic pollution data from the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit. The data spanned a total of 1,576 brand audit events over five years, from 2018 to 2022.

The analysis revealed about 52% of the 1,873,634 plastic items in the study were unbranded, which could be because sunlight, water or other environmental factors caused fading on labels.

“We found over 50% of plastic items were unbranded, highlighting the need for better transparency about production and labeling of plastic products and packaging to enhance traceability and accountability,” the authors wrote in the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances. “We suggest creation of an international, open-access database into which companies are obliged to quantitatively track and report their products, packaging, brands, and releases to the environment. Additionally, we recommend development of international standards around the branding of packaging to facilitate their identification.”

Of the remaining plastic items that did have visible branding, the study revealed the highest amount could be linked to one firm, The Coca-Cola Company, with 11% of the plastic waste items. The other brands linked to the highest number of analyzed plastic pieces include PepsiCo (5%), Nestlé (3%), Danone (3%) and Altria (2%). In total, these five brands made up about 24% of the branded plastic waste items.

In total, 56 companies were responsible for over 50% of the branded plastic items, while all of the branded plastic items were linked to 19,586 companies.

Much of the plastic waste could be traced back to companies that produce food, beverage or tobacco products, according to the study.

In addition to analyzing the plastic waste and tracing it back to brands via the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit data, the study authors also used data from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to look into plastic production rates by companies.

In comparing the two datasets, the researchers found that a 1% increase in production was followed by about a 1% increase in branded plastic waste.

“The industry likes to put the responsibility on the individual,” Marcus Eriksen, study author and plastic pollution expert at The 5 Gyres Institute, told The Guardian. “But we’d like to point out that it’s the brands, it’s their choice for the kinds of packaging [they use] and for embracing this throwaway model of delivering their goods. That’s what’s causing the greatest abundance of trash.”

Some of the study’s researchers are participating in the ongoing UN Treaty for Plastic Pollution talks this week, and they told The Guardian that the study findings highlight the importance of such a treaty in reducing plastic pollution at the source: plastic producers.

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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