A global audit carried out by environmental group Greenpeace to determine the contribution of multinational corporations to the plastics problem found that food and beverage firms Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé are the top plastic polluters.
Greenpeace conducted the audits along with other members of the Break Free From Plastic movement, which is a global movement working towards a future free from plastic pollution.
The programme involved 239 cleanups and brand audits across 42 countries and six continents.
The members audited more than 187,000 pieces of plastic rubbish belonging to thousands of brands.
The audit identified Coca-Cola as the biggest polluter, with Coke-branded plastic pollution found in 40 of the 42 participating countries.
Break Free From Plastic global coordinator Von Hernandez said: “These brand audits offer undeniable proof of the role that corporations play in perpetuating the global plastic pollution crisis.
“By continuing to churn out problematic and unrecyclable throwaway plastic packaging for their products, these companies are guilty of trashing the planet on a massive scale. It’s time they own up and stop shifting the blame to citizens for their wasteful and polluting products.”
The trash collected in the cleanup drive also featured other top global consumer brands, including Danone, Mondelez International, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive.
Overall, the most common type of plastic found was polystyrene, which is not recyclable in most locations. Next in the list is PET, which is used in bottles, containers, and other packaging.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Philippines Campaigner Abigail Aguilar said: “We pay the price for multinational companies’ reliance on cheap throwaway plastic. We are the ones forced to clean up their plastic pollution in our streets and waterways.”
A majority of these brands, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have already set targets to ensure their packaging is reusable, recyclable or biodegradable.
The Break Free From Plastic movement has urged companies to curb usage of disposable plastic, redesign delivery systems to reduce or completely remove packaging, and assume accountability for plastic pollution.