Coke, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are top plastic polluters yet again

Global brands with plastic footprint of over 5 million tonnes are still failing on plastic



  • Volunteers all over the world collected plastic pollution and logged brands of the items found.
  • Coke, Nestlé, and PepsiCo were the most-recorded plastic polluters.
  • Greenpeace analysis of corporate plastic policies shows brands are focusing on recycling rather than reduction.

Coke, Nestlé, and PepsiCo have topped the list of world’s worst plastic polluters for the second year running, a global survey by Break Free From Plastic has found.

As part of World Cleanup Day in September, volunteers from the UK and more than 50 other countries collected plastic and logged the brands of the litter that they found. Today’s report, “BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.”, reveals the other companies in the list of top 10 polluters are Mondelēz International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle.

It follows a Greenpeace US report earlier this month which criticised the use of false solutions to cut plastics, such as swapping throwaway plastic for throwaway paper, or bio-based plastics. 

Louise Edge, head of Greenpeace UK’s ocean plastics campaign said: “Yet again we’re seeing these corporate giants such as Coke, Nestlé, and Pepsi polluting our rivers and beaches with plastic.

“But when it comes to their policies on plastics it’s clear that these huge global brands are planning to fail. They’ll continue to be the worst polluters for years to come unless they radically change their policies.

“These companies have the resources to come up with innovative reusable and refillable packaging. But instead they focus on recycling or swapping from one throwaway packaging to another. We urge these plastic polluters to focus on switching to reusable and refillable packaging now.” 

Greenpeace has analysed recent plastics announcements from Coke, Nestlé, and PepsiCo and found that companies have few measures to actually reduce plastic, and are  focusing too much on recycling. 



  • Plastic footprint: 3m tonnes of plastic, equivalent to 108bn plastic bottles per year.
  • Plastic announcements: Sending plastic round in circles. 100% recycled or renewable material in its plastic bottles.
  • False solutions: Coke openly admits to lightweighting – a technique which allows companies to report plastic reduction by weight, without taking away any items of plastic that could end up as pollution. Packaging swaps – Swapping plastic for cardboard on can multipacks, instead of removing packaging altogether. Swapping plastic for bio-based plastic, which could raise land-use issues, and is still problematic to dispose of.



  • Plastic footprint: 1.7m tonnes of plastic.
  • Plastic announcements: Switching from plastic to paper on Yes! Snack packaging, straws in Indonesia and Malaysia. 
  • False solutions: Instead of focusing on removing packaging, or innovation around reusable and refillable packaging, Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences is looking at ways to achieve plastic swaps to paper-based materials and biodegradable/compostable polymers.


  • Plastic footprint: lack of transparency, not disclosed. 
  • Plastic announcements: Increasing recycled content in bottles for its brands Lifewatr, and bubly and switching Aquafina to aluminium.
  • Offering refillable plastic and glass bottles in limited trials across Latin America and Asia for brands including Pepsi, 7UP and Mirinda.
  • False solutions: Focus on unambitious target to cut virgin plastic across its portfolio by 35% by 2025 and sticking to throwaway packaging model. Swapping virgin plastic for throwaway recycled plastic and aluminium, instead of rolling out refillable packaging worldwide. 



See Break Free From Plastic’s full Brand Audit Report 2019 here. See 2018’s findings here.

Pictures of UK World Cleanup Day are available here.

Top 10 polluters: 2018 to 2019


Ranking 2018 2019
1 Coca-Cola Coca-Cola
2 PepsiCo Nestlé
3 Nestlé PepsiCo
4 Danone Mondelēz International
5 Mondelēz International Unilever
6 7-Eleven Mars
7 Procter and Gamble Procter and Gamble
8 Unilever Colgate-Palmolive
9 Perfetti van Melle Phillip Morris
10 Mars Incorporated Perfetti Van Melle


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