Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé lead the '10 worst plastic polluters'

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé are the top plastic polluters of 2020, according to a new report by Break Free From Plastic, a group of almost 2,000 NGOs that monitor and expose plastic waste by the largest companies in the world.

Coca-Cola had the dishonor of taking the crown as the worst plastic polluter of 2020, says the report. To compile the rankings, Break Free From Plastic mobilized 15,000 volunteers from around the world to identify and catalog discarded plastics across dozens of countries. In total, the volunteers cataloged 346,494 pieces of plastic from 55 countries for the 2020 report.

That report found that Coca-Cola was by far the brand with the highest plastic waste impact of the group. Plastic waste made up of Coca-Cola products was found in 51 of the 55 countries. Arch-competitor PepsiCo didn’t fare much better. Plastic waste from its products was found in 43 of the 55 countries. The brands making up the top 10 list are as follows:

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

What’s most alarming is Break Free From Plastic says multinational corporations are pumping out so many single-use plastics that harmful plastic production could double by 2030 and possibly triple by 2050. Such increases would have a devastating impact on human health, ecological systems, and climate change.

Announcing the 2020 report, Emma Priestland, global corporate campaigns coordinator of Break Free From Plastic, said, “The world’s top polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging. We need to stop plastic production, phase out single-use and implement robust, standardized reuse systems. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé should be leading the way in finding real solutions.”

We’ve reached out to all the brands listed in this report and will update this post with any responses.


A Nestlé spokesperson has responded with the following comment:

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% 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% of our total packaging and 66% 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.

A Unilever spokesperson sent the following statement:

“To tackle the root causes of plastic waste we need to think differently about packaging. That’s why we are using more recycled plastic, developing reusable and refillable formats and switching to ‘no plastic’ solutions. We continue to make progress on innovative changes that will help people cut their use of plastic for good. There’s more work to do, but we are fully committed to halving our use of virgin plastic by 2025.”

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.