In a recent report by the campaign group Surfers Against Sewage, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and PepsiCo have been identified as the largest packaging polluters in the UK. The group’s annual audit analyzed over 30,700 individual polluting items collected by 4,000 citizen scientists from various locations including coastlines, canal paths, bridleways, and city streets over a 12-month period ending on June 5, 2023.

The Top 12 Polluters

The audit revealed that 12 companies were responsible for more than two-thirds (70%) of the branded pollution accumulated over the year. Coca-Cola was named the UK’s biggest polluter for the fourth consecutive year, responsible for almost a fifth (17%) of branded plastic pollution. This is despite the company’s initiatives to reduce plastic pollution, such as the introduction of attached caps across all its brands in May 2022. McDonald’s and PepsiCo followed in second and third place, respectively, with the three companies collectively responsible for 37% of all branded pollution.

Call for Accountability and Change

Surfers Against Sewage is urging these companies to take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products by reducing packaging and adopting circular business models. The group is also calling on the government to introduce an “all-in” deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks of all sizes and materials. The UK government has announced plans to introduce a DRS excluding glass in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but implementation has been delayed until 2025.

Company Responses

In response to the audit, a Coca-Cola spokesperson stated that the company is working with partners to encourage more recycling and supports initiatives aimed at eliminating litter. A McDonald’s spokesperson highlighted that over 90% of their packaging comes from recycled or renewable sources and can be recycled. PepsiCo UK acknowledged the problem of beach litter and reiterated their commitment to reducing the plastic used across their entire portfolio.

Despite these statements, the results of the audit underscore the urgent need for systemic change in the way companies handle packaging and waste. As consumers, we can play a role in this change by making conscious choices and advocating for more sustainable practices.

For more details, read the full article on The Guardian.