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Christian charity calls out big brands responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic pollution a year

by Heather Preston

Tearfund's latest report reveals consumer brands Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever are responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic pollution that is burnt or dumped each year in the developing world.

The research focussed on plastic pollution in six developing countries - Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The study claims the plastic that is burnt in these countries creates emissions equivalent to 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 - the same level of pollution as 2 million cars on UK roads per year.

Senior policy advisor Joanne Green tells Premier these big companies sell billions of single-use plastic to poorer countries where open burning or dumping are the only means of disposal. 

"It creates respiratory illnesses and diseases for people and is also contributing significantly to the climate crisis" she said.

The Burning Question report found Coca-Cola to be the worst of the four companies investigated with around 8 billion bottles being burnt or dumped each year while PepsiCo had a plastic pollution footprint of 137,000 tonnes per year. 

Green says there are no enforced restrictions or measures in place to limit the amount of plastic brands supply to developing countries. 

"It's voluntary, it's what they decide to do. This is not a responsible business model," she added.

Tearfund is calling on Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to drastically reduce their production of single use plastic by 50 per cent over the next five years in a bid to tackle climate change.

Dr Ruth Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, said: "At present, [these brands] 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."

The charity is also urging governments to provide additional aid to poorer countries to help improve rubbish collection and management, and introduce legislation to limit single use plastic.

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