Coca-Cola biggest offender of all branded pollution on UK beaches, new report confirms

Image Credit: George Frey/Bloomberg

In an annual Brand Audit that reveals the volume of plastic and packaging pollution, Surfers Against Sewage confirmed Coca-Cola was the brand that showed up on UK beaches the most. The audit was conducted from May 11-23 across 350,000 miles of beach with more than 50,000 volunteers who collected 26,983 pieces of packaging pollution.

According to the audit, the product names that were most often found included Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Bush InBev, McDonalds, Mondelez International, Heineken, Tesco, Carlsberg Group, Suntory, Haribo, Mars and Aldi, referred to as the “Dirty Dozen.” The Dirty Dozen are responsible for 65 percent of all branded pollution.

“Our annual Brand Audit has once again revealed the shocking volume of plastic and packaging pollution coming directly from big companies and some of their best known brands,” Hugo Tagholm, chief executive at Surfers Against Sewage, said. “Serial offenders including Coca-Cola—which tops the leader board year on year as the worst offender—are still not taking responsibility.”

Coke cans and bottles were “picked up three times more often than other brands during the cleans,” according to the report. The audit also revealed that Stella Artois and Budweiser made its way into the top 10 most polluting brands most likely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image Credit: Surfers Against Sewage

“Brands such as Stella Artois and Budweiser have moved up into the top 12 polluting brands with Anheauser-Bush InBev moving from eight to third in the Dirty Dozen companies ranking,” the report authors said. “This is likely to be due to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants increasing personal alcohol consumption in public recreational settings during lockdowns.”

Surfers Against Sewage is calling on companies to reduce their packaging and asking the government to enforce such action through the following steps:

1. Legislation that ends the production and consumption of non-essential single-use polluting plastics

2. Legislation that ensures effective resource use and waste management

3. Business models within companies that are focused on reduction and reuse

4. A shift in narrative away from traditional recycling models and towards reduction and alternative use for single use plastics.

“Legislation such as an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme needs to be introduced urgently and governments need to hold these companies to account and turn off the tap of plastic and packaging pollution flooding the ocean,” Tagholm said.

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