Global sustainability movement Break Free From Plastic has released its 2020 Brand Audit, demanding accountability for plastic pollution by sharing the top offending large corporations in the world

With this audit, the movement is urging the corporations to re-evaluate their systems and set measurable goals for reducing the amount of single-use plastic they use.

A group of almost 15,000 volunteers across 55 countries mobilized to conduct the 2020 audit, cataloging 346,494 pieces of plastic—63 percent of which was marked with a clear consumer brand.

The top offenders just happen to coincide with some of the biggest household names: Coca-Cola came in as the top plastic polluter, marking the third consecutive year the brand has held the top spot. Coca-Cola's plastic waste was found in 51 out of the 55 countries surveyed. Following in second place was PepsiCo, with Nestlé in third. Break Free From Plastic found that the top offending plastic polluters in the 2020 audit were extremely similar to those in previous audits.

“It’s not surprising to see the same big brands on the podium as the world’s top plastic polluters for three years in a row. These companies claim to be addressing the plastic crisis yet they continue to invest in false solutions while teaming up with oil companies to produce even more plastic. To stop this mess and combat climate change, multinationals like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé must end their addiction to single-use plastic packaging and move away from fossil fuels,” said Abigail Aguilar, Plastics Campaign Regional Coordinator, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The top 10 global plastic polluters in 2020 revealed by Break Free From Plastic’s audit are as follows:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Nestlé
  4. Unilever
  5. Mondelez International
  6. Mars
  7. P&G
  8. Phillip Morris International
  9. Colgate-Palmolive
  10. Perfetti van Melle

The report states, “2020 has disrupted every part of our lives, creating circumstances ripe for the systemic change we desperately need. There has never been a better time to demand greater corporate accountability for the plastic pollution crisis that plagues our planet. Brand audits are one tangible tool to push corporations and policy makers towards building better systems for a plastic-free future.”

The shift towards eliminating single-use plastics is a fundamental one that will take an immense amount of effort and commitment by each company. The top offenders in Break Free From Plastic's audit have issued responses the the audit as reported by Fast Company, and their statements are below.

Coca-Cola spokesperson:

“In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical issue of packaging waste and are making progress. Globally, we have a commitment to get every bottle back by 2030, so that none of it ends up as litter or in the oceans, and the plastic can be recycled into new bottles. Bottles with 100 percent recycled plastic are now available in 18 markets around the world, and this is continually growing. We’ve also reduced plastic use in secondary packaging and, across Europe, we are now using new paperboard technologies to hold can multipacks together without plastic. For package-less options, globally, more than 20 percent of our portfolio comes in refillable or fountain packaging.

Addressing plastic waste and recycling challenges requires collective and collaborative thinking and action from the best and the brightest, including others in the industry, the public sector and civil society. While we recognize the progress we’ve made against our World Without Waste goals, we’re also committed to do more, faster so that we grow our business the right way.”

PepsiCo spokesperson:

“PepsiCo firmly believes that packaging has no place in the environment and we’re taking action through partnership, innovation and investments to spur systemic change toward our vision of a world where plastic need never become waste. While setting ambitious plastic reduction goals, including decreasing virgin plastic in our beverage business by 35 percent by 2025, PepsiCo is also committed to growing refill and reuse through businesses like SodaStream and SodaStream Professional, which we expect will avoid 67 billion single-use plastic bottles through 2025. And, we are investing in partnerships to increase recycling infrastructure and collection, pledging more than $65 million since 2018. We have a multi-faceted approach to drive both immediate and long term progress—reducing the plastic we use, increasing recycling rates and building an economy for recycled material and reinventing our packaging to go Beyond the Bottle without single-use plastic.”

Nestlé spokesperson:

“The latest “Break Free From Plastic” Brand Audit 2020 Report highlights the continued challenges we face as a society in tackling the issue of plastic packaging waste. We know we have an important role to play in shaping sustainable solutions to tackle the issue of plastics waste. We are intensifying our actions to make 100 percent of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and to reduce our use of virgin plastics by one-third in the same period. So far, 87 percent of our total packaging and 66 percent of our plastic packaging is recyclable or reusable. While we are making meaningful progress in sustainable packaging, we know that more needs to be done. Our ambition is to create a circular economy in which we eliminate waste and reuse the resources we already have.”

As eco-minded consumers and with movements like Break Free From Plastic, we continue to do our part to fight climate change and save our ecosystems, but the pressure is on these corporations to make a real and major shift for the better of our planet.