Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonalds brands make up 38% of branded litter in UK

The Surfers Against Sewage “Dirty Dozen” report calls on companies to “end their harmful pollution by taking responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products”.

As part of Surfers Against Sewage Million Mile Clean, 28,727 items were recorded overall, including both branded and unbranded items.

70% of branded packaging pollution found across the UK were made up of the following brands: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonalds, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Tesco, Red Bull GmbH, Suntory, Carlsberg Group, Heineken Holding and Mars.

We cannot stand for this blatant greenwashing any longer. Systemic change is urgently needed to end the pollution swamping the land and ocean.

The annual report found little difference compared to last year’s findings. Surfers Against Sewage said brands are “failing to reduce packaging, switch to reuse models and enable recycling”.

The top three branded litter accounted for were, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonalds, making up 38% of all branded pollution found.

For the third year running, Coca-Cola branded litter was the most prevalent. Coca-Cola recently announced a new reusable packaging target, aiming for at least 25% of all beverages worldwide to be sold in refillable or returnable glass or plastic bottles and containers by 2030.

“We’ll be watching carefully to see if words are put into action,” Surfers Against Sewage said.

“Blatant greenwashing”

Hugo Tagholm, Chief Executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Year after year, our Citizen Science Brand Audit reveals the same huge companies are responsible for the packaging pollution choking our environment.

“Despite public sustainability commitments, these dirty brands are failing to take meaningful action to stop this harm.

“We cannot stand for this blatant greenwashing any longer. Systemic change is urgently needed to end the pollution swamping the land and ocean.

“Businesses need to take responsibility for their polluting products and transition to models of reduction and reuse. Legislation such as an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme needs to be introduced urgently and governments must hold these companies to account.”

“Naming and shaming”

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said it was so “sick” of seeing “the same old culprits” it decided to “name and shame” them by projecting them over the White Cliffs of Dover (see video).

The environmental group is calling on companies to “take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, reducing their packaging and adopting circular business models”.

It’s also “demanding” government introduce an “all-in” Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers of all sizes and materials including glass, not just small containers classified as ‘on-the-go’.

It says DRS are already used across Europe with “90% of containers prevented from becoming pollution in many cases”.

Of the items monitored from this year’s report, SAS estimates 55% could be captured through an ‘all-in’ DRS.

“We’ve been waiting since 2018 since DRS was first announced yet it will be at least 2024 before DRS is introduced based on current government announcements,” SAS says. “That’s a total of 48 billion extra containers choking our rivers and seas that could have been captured. The government is simply kicking the can down the road.”

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