Biggest Plastic Polluters Accused of Hypocrisy

A new report has criticised large multinational companies for backing plastic-related legislation in certain geographies while lobbying against it in others.

The report by the Changing Markets Foundation, titled ‘Talking Trash: The Corporate Playbook of False Solutions to the Plastic Crisis’, has focused on the ten biggest plastic polluters, a list that includes Coca-Cola, Mars Incorporated, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

Having analysed these businesses’ voluntary and group initiatives across 15 countries and regions, Changing Markets argued that the companies use these initiatives as a tactic to delay and derail progressive legislation. The Foundation has also accused them of distracting consumers and governments with empty promises and false solutions.

“Our analysis found a shocking amount of overlap between corporate membership of the initiatives that claim to solve plastic pollution and trade associations and lobby groups that actively work to undermine ambitious legislation,” noted Changing Markets.

According to Changing Markets, Coca-Cola recently proclaimed support for some legislation in the EU but still lobbies against it in Africa, China and the United States.

Unilever is another business that has pledged to reduce its use of virgin plastic by 50% by 2025, however, Changing Markets has accused it of pushing single-use plastics on countries like India, the Philippines and Malaysia.

In response to the ‘Talking Trash’ report, Unilever, the first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastic reduction across its portfolio, said it is under no illusion that there needs to be a circular economy. IT said there is no single solution or quick fix to the plastic problem and the company is fundamentally rethinking its approach to packaging and products.

Coca-Cola said its failure to achieve its rPET target provided the company with an opportunity.

“We launched the first bottle containing rPET in 1991 and had a global goal of 25% rPET in all-out plastic bottles that we have not reached. This miss has provided an opportunity to learn,” said a spokesperson, adding that bottles with 100 percent recycled plastic are now available in 18 markets around the world.

For Changing Markets, mandatory collection in combination with recycled content targets is the way forward.

“Until companies give up their game, call for mandatory collection and producer responsibility, and stop delaying and derailing legislation and distracting from their true accountability for the plastics crisis, they are not doing any more than talking trash,” noted the Foundation.