Tuesday 23 August 2022 06:29, UK


The dozen companies named in a survey as being responsible for 70% of the branded packaging pollution found in the UK have been accused of “greenwashing” and urged to do more to protect the environment.

Around 4,000 volunteers collected litter along 13,000 miles of coasts, countryside, streets, rivers and green spaces over the past 12 months, producing data for the annual report into packaging pollution by the charity Surfers Against Sewage.

The report found that 12 companies, led by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonalds and including other major drinks and snack brand companies, are responsible for most of the packaging carrying branding.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Year after year, our citizen science brand audit reveals the same huge companies are responsible for the packaging pollution choking our environment.

“Despite public sustainability commitments, these dirty brands are failing to take meaningful action to stop this harm.

“We cannot stand for this blatant greenwashing any longer. Systemic change is urgently needed to end the pollution swamping the land and ocean.”

The survey also found nearly half of the reported packaging would be covered by an “all-in” deposit return scheme.

This would levy a charge that would be paid back to customers when they returned drinks containers for recycling.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson says 'we are challenging ourselves to do more'
Image:A Coca-Cola spokesperson says ‘we are challenging ourselves to do more’

Mr Tagholm added: “Businesses need to take responsibility for their polluting products and transition to models of reduction and reuse.

The volunteers for the survey found 10,843 branded items in total, linked to 264 companies, with 28,727 items recorded overall including both branded and unbranded items.

Tobacco products made up around 15% of all the rubbish found on beaches, and more than a quarter of the unbranded litter was cigarette butts, polluting soil and beaches with single-use plastic and toxic chemicals, the charity said.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson said: “We share the goal of eliminating plastic waste from the environment and acknowledge that The Coca-Cola Company has a responsibility to help solve this issue.

“That was the driving force in establishing our ‘world without waste’ goals, and while we continue to make progress against these targets, we are challenging ourselves to do more.”

A spokesperson for McDonalds said: “Over 90% of the packaging we use comes from recycled or renewable sources and can be recycled.

“As a business we have committed to sourcing all of our packaging from renewable and recyclable materials by 2025.”

A PepsiCo UK spokesperson said: “We are committed to reducing the plastic we use across our entire portfolio – for example, earlier this year, we announced plans to eliminate virgin fossil-based plastic in all crisp and snack bags, delivered by using 100% recycled or renewable content in all packets by 2030.

“We also believe that deposit return schemes can provide a critical source of high quality, clean recyclate which is why we continue to be supportive of well-designed schemes.”