Sending out an SOS

CampaigningEnvironment and climate changeGreat Britain

‘Walked out this morning / Don't believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles / Washed up on the shore.’

Message in a Bottle by The Police

As the slogan proclaims: ‘Coke is it’. However this ‘it’ isn’t something to be proud of.

Coca-Cola has today been named as the world's biggest polluter of plastic waste. And we want Tearfund supporters like you to give the Coca-Cola Company a cool, refreshing talking-to.

The company produces a staggering 108 billion plastic bottles every year. And that makes them the biggest plastic polluter in the world. 

With this in mind, Tearfund supporters, and anyone else concerned about plastic pollution, are being asked to send a message in a bottle to Coca-Cola, as part of our Rubbish Campaign.

The campaign has called upon four of the biggest producers of plastic packaging to clean up their act.

PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever have all agreed to discuss the issues raised with representatives from Tearfund. Meanwhile, Unilever has pledged to halve the amount of virgin (non-recycled) plastic produced by 2025. Coca-Cola, however, hasn’t made any comparable pledge regarding their use of plastic, nor have they yet agreed to meet with us to discuss the pledges we have asked these companies to make. 

Plastic and poverty
Plastic is a topic close to our hearts at Tearfund, as the worst impact of plastic pollution is on poorer nations, where there are often no official rubbish collection services. 

‘Multinational companies are selling billions of single-use plastic products in countries where waste isn’t collected,’ says Joanne Green, Tearfund’s Senior Policy Adviser. ‘They know that communities will have no choice but to burn it or live among it.’ 

It’s estimated that 1 million people die each year as a result of plastic pollution.

It’s estimated that 1 million people die each year as a result of plastic pollution. Add to that the effect of burning plastic on the climate.

‘As the world’s biggest plastic polluters, Coca-Cola bears a big responsibility for the mountains of single-use plastic that are making life harder for people in poverty,’ says Joanne. ‘They need to move away from virgin plastic.’

Here’s what to do:
Download and print our Message in a bottle letter template.
Find a used Coca-Cola branded plastic bottle (including Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Powerade, Innocent, Oasis and Smartwater). 
Write a message to Coca-Cola on a piece of paper (or your downloaded ‘paper bottle’).
Include your name and our #RubbishCampaign hashtag. 
Send your message (either in a bottle or on paper) to:
Coca-Cola Great Britain
1A Wimpole St
Marylebone, W1G 0EA

Make sure to take a photograph of your message to share on social media, sharing with @Coca-Cola and @Tearfund on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, along with the hashtag #RubbishCampaign.

Schoolchildren from Dorset join the Tearfund Rubbish Campaign

Plastic pledges
Over 34,000 people have signed Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign petition so far. It calls on four multinational companies: Unilever, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé to make four pledges:

  • Report on the number of units of single-use plastic products they sell worldwide in each country by 2020.
  • Commit to halve the number of these products by 2025.
  • Ensure that one single-use plastic item is collected for every one sold by 2022.
  • Work with waste pickers around the world to provide employment with dignity, helping to clean their environments.

Coca-Cola has agreed to commit to collect a bottle or can for every one they sell by 2030 – but that’s eight years later than suggested. It’s time they put a cap on their plastic production (pun intended).

Visit our Coca-Cola campaign web page for more details.


  • Thank God for what has been achieved so far through the Rubbish Campaign, especially Unilever’s pledge to halve the quantity of virgin plastic they produce.
  • Pray that Coca-Cola will respond to the call, and pledge to make rapid and radical changes to the way they package their products.
  • Thank God for the rubbish pickers and recycling hubs springing up in the world’s poorest nations – thanks to the work of local churches, supported by Tearfund. They are creating employment and improving the environment. Pray for these ventures to spread and grow.
Ben Cohen
Ben is Web Editor for Tearfund. This can sometimes feel a bit like being ‘senior hairstylist for…