A small number of global corporations are producing vast amounts of plastic that ends up polluting the environment

A new study suggests that just five companies, including Coca Cola and PepsiCo, are producing nearly a quarter of all the world’s branded plastic pollution.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, used data from more than 1,500 litter surveys conducted worldwide in 84 different countries, between 2018 and 2022. Volunteers cleaned up over 1.8 million items of plastic waste from parks, beaches, streets and other public spaces, and noted the brands and labels on every piece of litter, if they were still visible.

Researchers linked the brands to their parent companies, and were then able to quantify exactly how much of the branded litter was attributable to those parent companies.

The largest source of branded plastic pollution was the Coca Cola Company, which was responsible for 11% of all waste identified worldwide. In second place was PepsiCo, with 5%, then Nestlé (3%), Danone (3%) and Altria (2%). Altria is one of the world’s most important producers of tobacco, cigarettes and other related products.

Together, those five corporations were responsible for 24% of all branded plastic waste surveyed.


A new study suggests that thousands of chemicals, a significant proportion of which scientists know nothing about, are leaching into foods from plastic containers. 👇 pic.twitter.com/wVib0YB6qp

— RAW EGG NATIONALIST (@Babygravy9) April 27, 2024

Over half of the branded plastic waste could be traced to a group of 56 corporations.

Given that significant amounts of the plastic waste no longer contained legible branding material, the true contributions of corporations like Coca Cola would almost certainly be significantly higher.

The study authors say the new research makes clear the role that corporations must play in helping to address global plastic pollution.

“Reduced plastic production is a primary solution to curb plastic pollution,” the researchers conclude.

“Producer brand managers and policymakers should prioritize solutions that reduce plastic production.”

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