PepsiCo was the top plastic polluter in India in 2022 followed by CG Foods India (a maker of instant noodles and snacks) and Perfetti Van Melle, the maker of confectionaries like Mentos and Alpenliebe, said a report highlighting plastic pollution across the globe.
According to the 2022 Brand Audit by Break Free From Plastic, the most common plastic products found in India were food packaging, household products and other packaging materials.
Break Free From Plastic is a global movement working towards eliminating single-use plastics, among other things.
The report said that single-serve sachets and flexible packaging are a concerning trend in Asia and Africa. In Asia, companies sell food, personal care and household products in sachets which is an intentional corporate strategy to market products in small quantities at low cost to appeal to consumers in emerging economies.
“Sachets’ true costs are externalised, as communities suffer the consequences from this unrecyclable low-value waste choking waterways, burdening waste management systems and their workers, disrupting coastal communities’ livelihoods, creating health risks, and contaminating food systems,” the report stated.
Break Free From Plastic has analysed the plastic crisis in India and across the globe for the last five years, i.e., 2018-2022. The top polluter in India was Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) in 2021, Tamil Nadu Co-operative Milk Producers' Federation in 2020, SS Food Products (a maker of baking products) in 2019 and Perfetti Van Melle in 2018.
Plastic pollution across the globe
The Coca Cola Company, which is also the official corporate sponsor of COP27 in Egypt, has been the world’s top plastic polluter for the fifth year in a row, according to Break Free From Plastic.
PepsiCo and Nestle were the next top polluters globally in 2022.
“Instead of allowing companies like Coke to green wash their image, governments need to compel polluters to invest in reuse and alternative product delivery systems that avoid the problem in the first place,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator, Break Free From Plastic.
The report emphasized that the top plastic polluters are not countries but rather fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies headquartered in Europe and the US, which produce millions of tonnes of single-use plastic packaging annually.
Regarding the product types, food and beverage wrappers, followed by bottles and sachets, have been the top category recorded every year across all regions.
“Governments worldwide now have the justification and opportunity to effectively address and reverse the plastic pollution crisis by coming up with a global plastics treaty that cuts plastic production, makes corporations accountable for the pollution they are causing and mainstreams reuse-based alternatives,” said Hernandez.
The report said that the next five years would be defined by important new fronts in the fight to end plastic pollution such as legal actions against corporations and a robust policy against the plastic crisis.