The No Time to Waste report created by Tearfund in collaboration with Fauna & Flora International, the Institute of Development Studies and WasteAid, found that up to one million people a year are dying from diarrhoea, malaria, cancer and other illnesses caused by mismanaged plastic waste.
Sir David Attenborough has publicly backed the study, calling it the first of its kind to highlight the impact of plastic not just on wildlife but on the world's poorest people.
Speaking to Premier, Tearfund's Senior Advocacy Campaigner Ben Niblett said: "One in four of us around the world live somewhere where there's no way to get rid of our rubbish. So when there is single use plastic people end up just living amongst piles of rubbish or burning it or dropping it in rivers."
Tearfund are calling on Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pepsi and Unilever to reduce the amount of single use plastic they sell to poor countries that do not have the infrastructure to safely dispose of it.
Mr Niblett said: "There
is no need for these companies with all the money and the power and the resources they have to be selling and dumping these products in these very poor and vulnerable communities.
"So we're calling on them to change that. And we're hoping the church will lead the way."
The study also revealed that 400 million tonnes of greenhouses gases are emitted every year from global plastic production. Tearfund want the Church to take action to support the poor.
Niblett said: "We are the world's biggest network. There are churches in almost every community in the world, even the poorest. And the places where others don't reach.
"We can take that voice of people living in very poor communities, and at the sharp end of plastic pollution, and we can take that to the most powerful people, to leaders and multinationals and leaders of governments, and that's the privilege the church has because of who we are, but it's also our calling.
"We are people who love Jesus, and we are people who love justice. And who better than us to put that into action by speaking out."
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