coca-cola named the world's most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste

coca-cola named the world's most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste

coca-cola has been named for the second year in a row as the most polluting brand in a global audit of plastic waste. conducted by the break free from plastic global movement, it found that the company was responsible for more plastic litter than the next top three polluters combined.

coca-cola named the world's most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste

images via break free plastic
cover image © marco saroldi/wasteless auroville



the audit involved 72,000 volunteers, across 50 countries and six continents, taking part in 84 cleanup events. combing through beaches, city streets, oceans, rivers and neighborhoods, they collected a total of 476,423 pieces of plastic waste and found that coca-cola was responsible for a large majority.

coca-cola named the world's most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste




11,732 branded coca-cola plastics were recorded across 37 countries, more than the next three global polluters combined. in second place, 4,846 pieces of plastic from the nestle brand was found over 31 countries; in third place, 3,362 pieces of plastic branded pepsico was recorded across 28 countries; and in fourth place, modelēz international was responsible for 1,083 pieces of plastic across 23 countries.

coca-cola named the world's most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste



the study also focused in on specific continents, finding that nestle, solo cup company and starbucks were the top three polluting brands in north america. however, coca-cola was still featured in 4 out of the 6 continents recorded.


coca-cola responded to the audit’s findings with an emailed statement to online news publication the intercept: ‘any time our packaging ends up in our oceans — or anywhere that it doesn’t belong — is unacceptable to us. in partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution.’

coca-cola named the world's most polluting brand in global audit of plastic waste



‘we are investing locally in every market to increase recovery of our bottles and cans and recently announced the launch in vietnam of an industry-backed packaging recovery organization, as well as a bottler-led investment of $19 million in the philippines in a new food-grade recycling facility,’ it continued.


‘we are also investing to accelerate key innovations that will help to reduce waste, including new enhanced recycling technologies that allow us to recycle poor quality pet plastic, often destined for incineration or landfill, back to high-quality food packaging material.’


coca-cola has made recent efforts to diminish plastic pollution. earlier this month, coke introduced a plastic bottle made from recycled marine plastic, and last year the company pledged to collect and recycle ‘the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally.’



project info


organization: break free from plastic
report: branded vol. II identifying the world’s top corporate plastic polluters (read here)
company mentioned: coca-cola

  • I think the tone of this article is indicative of a much worse problem we face: criticism leveled outwards rather than Self-reflection. Coca Cola is not the worlds worst polluter, consumers are, including you dear reader.

    Jason k says:
  • there is a lot of irony in this story that is not lost on the reader. Everything this magazine is about is encouraging consumerism by motivating desire. Be careful in hiding these stories under a pseudo-intellectual-caring facade. perhaps your product stories should run with an eco-warning?

    Alex says:
  • So much for root cause analysis.

    Bill says:
  • So the customers from Philip Morris ranked 9 with 2239 instances of littering is ranked lower than customers from Mars with 543 instances in place 6. Something is not clear in the methodology. Fiberglass (filters) from Philip Morris are certainly not being counted. It is also not clear how much market presence is affecting the result. Coca-Cola is in more countries than the other products, and a ranking purely based on “present in countries” gives the same result. Instances of littering per country might be a better ranking – Coke, Unilever, Nestlé, Philip Morris….

    I think it is fair that the response from Coke ist included. The company is responding; the customers not yet.

    RBuss says:
  • @Jason K, actually your comment is a huge part of the problem we face today.

    Telling consumers to “do their part” through PR and marketing campaigns doesn’t actually change behaviors. By placing the onus on consumers (including you, dear reader), corporations secure a narrative that benefits them. “[We don’t need to change because] ultimately recycling is your responsibility!”

    Consumers will still buy products because they’re human — they’re not thinking about the environmental impact of buying diapers or a bottle of Gatorade. If you ask them about it, they may regret their choice, but it’s not top of mind all the time. How could it be? Most of the time, environmentally-friendly and convenient alternatives don’t even exist on store shelves.

    Now, if you make it illegal to manufacture disposable plastic bottles, then you’ve made a huge change over night. You’re not leaving it to the whims of the masses. You’re making an impact where it matters most — at its point of origin. You force corporations to innovate around alternative packaging. Consumers will continue to consume, but now their consumption isn’t as harmful to the environment.

    Let’s use a dramatic analogy: what’s the most efficient way to get people to stop smoking? Telling 100 hundred people to stop smoking or removing cigarettes from the market?

    Expecting billions of people to organically adjust their own behaviors is naive and frankly pretty classist if you’re expecting people in third world countries to such self-reflection when these places are more focused on fulfilling basic needs.

    Kevin says:
  • @Kevin so your saying its okay for the masses to litter? just as long as it not plastic????

    Sure, Coke could make more “eco-friendly” packaging, however without addressing the true problem of human behavior we will still have trash laying on the side of the street, floating in the ocean, or stuck inside helpless animals. Human behavior can and must be changed.

    C says:
  • Expecting 7+ billion consumers to just stop littering is about as naive as Nancy Reagan expecting everyone to “Just Say No.” People litter. Always have, always will. And no, it’s not Okay. But as Kevin suggests, changing the product at the point of origin changes what litter is, and thus what it does to the environment.

    Case in point: plastic microbeads were once a ubiquitous ingredient in facial washes and scrubs. Instead of asking consumers to filter their shower drains to collect all the microbeads and then recycle them, the U.S., Canada and a handful of other countries have banned their use entirely. So in these countries at least, no departure from the norm was ever required. Instead the source of the pollution has been corrected to greatly reduce their negative impact on the environment. Betcha never even noticed.

    BK says:
  • If it degrades naturally, it’s trash. If it doesn’t, it’s a time capsule. Big difference.

    Jim K says:
  • go back to glass or do some research and find a better way to do the packaging. after all plastic was an accident.

    sunil vijaya says:
  • You must change the article headline. It’s so incorrect. Coca-Cola or any other brand never said to drop the bottles to ocean. You say this coz bottles is labeled. What about the plastic bags??? Those are not label so plastic bags throwing is public responsibility and all branded consumer items are responsibility of the relevant company. Brainless article ever. It’s always and ever the responsibility of the consumer. Not the company.

    W.Fonseka says:

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