Over 400 organizations have joined forces to demand that the five biggest plastic polluters commit to transparent, ambitious and accountable reuse and refill systems.
In an open letter, organizations and members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement, including City to Sea, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have called on the CEOs of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and Procter and Gamble to address the environmental, social and health impacts that their plastic use is having on communities disproportionally from the Global South. The letter was published on World Refill Day.
In the face of climate catastrophe, more than 400 signatories said plastics would add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in a single year, equivalent to 189 new 500 MW coal-fired power plants, and stressed that the production of the material is expected to rise by 40% over the next decade, driven in large part by single-use plastic packaging.
Plastics industry is responsible for climate crisis
The said companies all buy packaging from manufacturers supplied with plastic resin or petrochemicals by well-known fossil fuel producers like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron Phillips, Ineos, and Dow, the statement adds.
“The role of the plastics industry and the climate crisis cannot be separated. One report estimates that if the entire lifecycle of plastic were a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world,” the environmentalists pointed out.
Plastics disproportionately impact poorer and more vulnerable communities
In addition to fuelling the climate crisis, the production, use, and disposal of plastic create toxic pollution that harms both people and the planet. Plastic production and disposal, especially via incineration or landfill, disproportionately impact communities of color, low-income communities and indigenous communities by polluting the air, water, and soil.
At the same time, the toxic chemicals in plastic packaging and products cause irreparable damage to the environment, wildlife, and our own health through everyday use.
Reveal, reduce, reinvent
Signatories including businesses, campaigners and faith groups have stated that for the companies to move their reputations from “big pollution” to “big solution” they need to urgently:
- Reveal the full extent of their plastic footprint if they do not already do so. This is a core part of accountability and essential if corporations are to reduce their plastic footprint. Reporting should be per single-use plastic item, as well as by weight.
- Reduce the amount of plastic they use by setting ambitious, transparent targets, and supporting action plans on how to achieve them. Then, prioritize achieving those targets.
- Reinvent their packaging to allow for refill and reuse. To do this, they should commit to collaborating with other companies to standardize reusable packaging and build shared reuse systems and infrastructure.
Recent polling in 28 countries around the world revealed the vast majority of people agree that manufacturers and retailers should take responsibility for reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic packaging, with a global average of 85%.
Coca-Cola is responsible for one fifth of the entire world’s production of PET – polyethylene terephthalate, #breakfreefromplastic said, citing its Brand Audit, in which it found more Coca-Cola-branded waste than the next two top polluters combined.
World Refill Day, June 16, is a global campaign to prevent plastic pollution and help people live with less waste. It is run by British organization City to Sea.