One of the most universal experiences we have now as humans is living with plastic pollution. Take a walk on a street in New York, Lagos, or Mumbai and you’ll see the same ugly sight: plastic bottles and potato chip wrappers littering the streets, getting swept away by the wind, and ending up in the ocean.
This is not just anecdotal. Take it from BreakFreeFromPlastic, a three-year-old organization consisting of nearly 1,500 companies working to tackle plastic pollution. The organization issues an annual ranking of the world’s top plastic polluters. The list takes a lot of work to produce. This year, the organization engaged 72,541 volunteers across 51 countries to conduct 484 brand audits. The volunteers collected plastic waste close to where they lived, amounting to 476,423 pieces of plastic, 43% of which was clearly marked with a consumer brand. Plastic was cataloged in every part of the globe, including remote regions of Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, and Bhutan.
Using this data, BreakFreeFromPlastic tracked more than 8,000 brands responsible for the trash. This year, the top 10 global polluters were Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle.
It’s not a big shocker that giant corporations that make bottled drinks—C0ca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo—are the world’s biggest plastic polluters. But what’s a little disturbing is that these three companies were named the top plastic polluters last year as well, and none of them appear to have done anything significant to change their place in this shameful ranking.
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