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Earth Day call for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to reduce plastic pollution driving global climate crisis

22 Apr 2020

To mark this year’s Earth Day theme of climate action, international relief and development agency Tearfund is calling on the UK public to write to the CEOs of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo urging them to dramatically reduce the amount of single-use plastic they sell into developing countries.

Much of the plastic sold by these two companies is burnt on street corners, open dumps and in backyards in developing countries, not only severely impacting the health of people in poverty but also driving the global climate crisis through the huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions emitted by burning plastic. Since May 2019 Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign has been challenging Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever with a four-point plan to take responsibility for their plastic pollution. A new league table by Tearfund has ranked the progress of the four companies in relation to the four-point plan. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s commitments are falling significantly short of what is needed to tackle their plastic pollution, followed closely by Nestlé. Unilever has done the most to try and make changes by committing to halve their use of virgin plastics by 2025 and promising to collect more plastic than they sell. Dr Ruth Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, said: “The steps taken to date by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are a far cry from the action necessary to tackle a crisis of this magnitude. This Earth Day, with its 50th anniversary theme on climate action, it is more important than ever that these companies urgently reduce their reliance on single-use plastic and switch to refillable and reusable packaging alternatives. “Today is also the AGM of Coca-Cola where important decisions about its future will be made. We are calling on the public to use their voices to speak up and demand further action and responsibility from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s CEOs - for the sake of people living in poverty and the climate.”Tearfund’s four-point plan challenges the companies to-

  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. Restoring dignity by working in partnership with waste pickers to create safe jobs.

Tearfund’s latest report- The Burning Question - investigated the link between the burning and dumping of plastic in six developing countries and the resulting climate change impact. It revealed Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as the worst plastic pollution offenders and contributors to the climate emergency. The research focussed on plastic pollution from the four companies in six developing countries - Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines. Coca-Cola was 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 countries. PepsiCo came out second worst after Coca-Cola with a plastic pollution footprint of 137,000 tonnes per year. Since Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign launched more than 40,000 people have taken action by calling on these companies to adopt new sustainable packaging methods and pledging to cut down their own plastic use. 


For further information, photos, case studies and interview requests please contact: Melissa Barnston, Tearfund T: 07929 335146. For out-of-hours Tearfund media enquiries please call 07929 339813


Notes to editors:

To read the full report, its findings and methodology visit:

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day is a global response to the environmental crisis and is marked on April 22 each year. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event. In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day when the historic Paris Agreement on climate change was signed into force. For more information visit

About Tearfund

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 poverty. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit

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