- New report finds consumer brands Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever
are responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic pollution that is burnt or
dumped per year in just six developing countries
- The plastic that is burnt creates emissions equivalent to 4.6 million tonnes of
CO2 - the same as 2 million cars on UK roads a year
- Coca-Cola found to be the worst of the four companies investigated with
200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution - or around 8 billion bottles - burnt or
dumped each year in these developing countries
- PepsiCo is second worst after Coca-Cola with a plastic pollution footprint of
137,000 tonnes per year
A new study has revealed for the first time the hidden plastic pollution footprint four
of the world’s biggest consumer brands are responsible for, driving up global
greenhouse gas emissions.
International relief and development agency Tearfund has found that the emissions
produced from the open burning of Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever’s
plastic packaging on street corners, open dumps and in backyards in developing
countries is a major contribution to the climate emergency.
The findings, part of the organisation’s Rubbish Campaign targeting the four global
companies, show that they must urgently switch to sustainable refillable and
reusable packaging alternatives instead of single-use plastic packaging and
Dr Ruth Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, said:
“These companies are selling plastic in the full knowledge that it will be burnt or
dumped in developing countries: scarring landscapes, contributing to climate change
and harming the health of the world’s poorest people.”
Tearfund is the first NGO to quantify the link between the burning and dumping of
plastic in developing countries from multinationals and climate change. The research
focussed on plastic pollution in six developing countries - Brazil, China, India,
Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Dr Valerio added: “At present, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever make little
or no mention of emissions from the disposal of their products or packaging in their
climate change commitments. These companies have a moral responsibility for the
disposal of the products they continue to pump into developing countries without
proper waste management systems.”
The report also makes clear the scale of demand for change from consumers in
developing countries: in a new survey of 2,000 adults aged between 18 to 64 in India
conducted for Tearfund by Savanta ComRes, nine in ten (90%) respondents said
they would be likely to buy their products in refillable and reusable containers as
opposed to throwaway containers if it led to significantly less plastic pollution in their
community and the cost was the same.
Since May 2019 Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign has been challenging each company
with a four-point plan to step up the pace to take responsibility for their plastic
pollution. Tearfund has ranked how well the companies are doing in committing to
this plan. This league table reveals that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are barely off the
starting blocks, with Unilever far ahead.
For more information on the campaign and league table visit:
For further information, photos, case studies and interview requests please contact:
Melissa Barnston, Tearfund T: 07929 335146 or Sarann Buckby, Jersey Road PR T:
For out-of-hours Tearfund media enquiries please call 07929
Notes to editors-
To read the full report, its findings and methodology visit:
To find the full data results from the Savanta ComRes survey visit:
These new estimates have been peer reviewed by three leading experts in waste
and resource management. The full methodology is described in Annex 2 of the
report; in brief the method follows three steps:
- Estimate how much plastic each company sells in each country, using a
model informed by their global plastic footprint and national sales and volume
- Estimate the proportion of this that is dumped or burnt in each country, using
data on waste management compiled by the World Bank, plus data on other
specific collection initiatives.
- Calculate the climate emissions resulting from the plastic that is burnt, using
emissions factors from an academic study published in the journal
Atmospheric Environment in 2019.
- Last year Tearfund released the No Time to Waste report, backed by Sir
David Attenborough, which found between 400,000 and one million people
are dying each year in developing countries from illness and disease caused
by mismanaged plastic and other waste.
- Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign is challenging each company to sign up to the
following actions on plastic waste:
1. Report by the end of 2020 the number and volume of single-use plastic
products they use and sell in each country.
2. Reduce this amount of single-use plastic products by half by 2025 and
instead use refillable and reusable containers.
3. Recycle single-use plastics in developing countries, ensuring that by
2022 one is collected for every one sold.
4. Restore dignity by working in partnership with waste pickers to create
- More than 50,000 actions have so far been taken by supporters in this
campaign calling on these companies to adopt new sustainable packaging
methods and pledging to cut down their own plastic use.
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency and a member of the
Disasters’ Emergency Committee.
Tearfund has been working around the world for
more than 50 years responding to disasters and helping lift communities out of
For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit www.tearfund.org