International relief agency Tearfund is calling on the UK public to write to the CEOs of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, urging them to reduce the amount of single-use plastic they sell into developing countries.
The charity argues that much of the plastic sold by these two companies is burnt on street corners, dumps and backyards in countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria and the Philippines. This impacts the health of people in poverty and produces greenhouse gas emissions.
In Tearfund's research, Coca-Cola was found to be responsible for 200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution - around 8 billion bottles - being burnt or dumped each year in these countries. PepsiCo came out second worst, with a plastic pollution footprint of 137,000 tonnes per year.
Dr Ruth Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund, said: "The steps taken to date by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are a far cry from the action necessary to tackle a crisis of this magnitude. This Earth Day, with its 50th anniversary theme on climate action, it is more important than ever that these companies urgently reduce their reliance on single-use plastic and switch to refillable and reusable packaging alternatives."
Tearfund says Coca-Cola and PepsiCo's commitments are falling significantly short of what is needed, followed closely by Nestlé. Unilever has done the most to change, by committing to halve their use of virgin plastics by 2025 and promising to collect more plastic than they sell.
Dr Valerio continued: "We are calling on the public to use their voices to speak up and demand further action and responsibility from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo's CEOs - for the sake of people living in poverty and the climate."
Tearfund wants the companies to report the number of single-use plastic products they use and sell in each country, reduce single-use plastic products by half by 2025 and recycle as much as they produce.
40,000 people have taken action since the charity's Rubbish Campaign began, by calling on these companies to adopt new sustainable packaging methods and pledging to cut down their own plastic use.