Just 56 Companies Responsible for Over Half of Global Plastic Pollution

Just 56 Companies Responsible for Over Half of Global Plastic Pollution 

A recent study published in the journal Science has revealed a startling truth – just 56 companies are responsible for more than 50% of the world’s plastic waste. What’s even more alarming is that just five of these companies contribute a quarter of the total identifiable plastic pollution. These companies are: 

  • The Coca-Cola Company, responsible for 11% 
  • PepsiCo, 5% 
  • Nestlé, 3% 
  • Danone, 3% 
  • Altria (formerly Phillip Morris), 2% 

Methodology of the Study 

Over the course of five years, volunteers from over 80 countries dedicated themselves to collecting and meticulously analyzing close to two million pieces of plastic waste. Their objective was clear: to attribute each item to its respective manufacturer. However, less than half of the plastic collected had identifiable branding, making it difficult to assign accountability. As a result, the focus was directed towards the portion of waste where the manufacturer could be determined, totaling over 50%. 

The Significance of the Findings 

While these numbers are shocking, they represent a significant step forward in the fight against plastic pollution. One of the main challenges in seeking to reduce plastic pollution lies in identifying where plastic waste comes from, and exactly who produced it.  Without that information, no one can be held responsible for environmental damage they are causing, nor can they be prevented from continuing to pollute the planet. 

 Marcus Eriksen, one of the study’s authors and a leading expert on plastic pollution at The 5 Gyres Institute, underscores the pivotal role of corporations: “The industry likes to put the responsibility on the individual 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.” 

Calls for Action 

The authors of the study emphasise the need for greater transparency in production and labeling of plastic products. They call for international standards to enable plastic waste to be traced and the manufacturers held accountable for the cost of removing it from the environment. Furthermore, they propose the creation of an international database where companies would be mandated to track and report on their products and packaging. 

This groundbreaking research coincides with the fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting (INC4) in Ottawa, Canada, where the global community is coming together to forge a legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution once and for all. Some of the study’s authors will be at INC4, sharing their findings with the attendees.  

What Can I Do? 

While it may seem daunting to tackle plastic pollution as individuals, our collective power as consumers should not be underestimated. By making informed choices and supporting companies committed to sustainable practices, we can drive meaningful change.  

Next time you’re in the supermarket, think about the packaging of the products you are buying. Are there alternative products without plastic packaging that you could buy? If not, maybe ask the supermarket to stock them in future. Additionally, consider reducing your overall consumption of single-use plastics by opting for reusable alternatives like water bottles, shopping bags, and food containers. Join beach clean-ups in your community, and support Take 3 for the Sea by taking 3 pieces of rubbish whenever you are out and about. Tell your family, friends and neighbours what you’re doing and why, and invite them to join you. The solution to plastic pollution is complex but if we all do our bit, together we can solve the problem.