COCA-COLA and PepsiCo have been condemned over the burning and dumping of 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year in developing countries.
Nestlé and Unilever are also accused over their contribution to pollution and climate change, in a report published today by UK-based international relief charity Tearfund.
An estimated 4.6million tonnes of emissions a year — equivalent to running 2million cars on Britain’s roads — are caused by the four global firms’ packaging being burned in the open.
Researchers uncovered the extent to which packaging produced by the firms contaminates swathes of developing nations — covering 83 football pitches in plastic every day.
Tearfund said Coca-Cola is responsible for 200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, or 8billion bottles, in six countries — Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Next worst is rival PepsiCo, with a plastic pollution footprint of 137,000 tonnes each year.
Nestlé accounted for 95,000 tonnes while Unilever left a footprint of 70,000 tonnes, according to Tearfund.
The charity urged manufacturers to switch from single-use packaging and sachets to sustainable refillable and reusable alternatives.
‘These companies are selling plastic in the full knowledge that it will be burnt or dumped in developing countries: scarring landscapes, contributing to climate change and harming the health of the world’s poorest people,’ said Tearfund’s Dr Ruth Valerio.
‘At present, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever make little or no mention of emissions from the disposal of their products or packaging in their climate change commitments.
‘These companies have a moral responsibility for the disposal of the products they continue to pump into developing countries without proper waste management systems.’
Coca-Cola said it has invested in recycling projects in Brazil, India and Mexico. PepsiCo said it is working to cut its plastic use and has pledged more than £40million to recycling schemes.