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Drinks companies among the UK’s pollution ‘dirty dozen’

Spirits, beer and soft drinks producers including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Suntory top the list of the companies with the highest rates of packaging pollution in the UK, according to a new report.

A brand audit from Surfers Against Sewage revealed the companies with the most packaging waste in the UK

To determine the brands that contribute the most to packaging pollution, marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) gathered data through a coordinated beach clean event, called Million Mile Clean 2021.

From 11-23 May 2021, 3,917 volunteers walked a combined total of 11,319 miles across beaches, rivers, mountains and more to collect packaging waste.

The volunteers submitted 26,983 items to the audit, which were then categorised by brand and parent company.

Drinks firms topped the audit’s ‘dirty dozen’, which outlined the companies that contributed most to packaging pollution across their brand portfolios. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and AB InBev took the top three spots; Heineken came in sixth; Carlsberg Group took eighth place; and Suntory, which invested more than US$1 billion in a sustainability plan earlier this year, was ninth.

The full list of most-polluting companies is as follows:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. PepsiCo
  3. AB InBev
  4. McDonalds
  5. Mondelez
  6. Heineken
  7. Tesco
  8. Carlsberg Group
  9. Suntory
  10. Haribo
  11. Mars
  12. Aldi

Brands owned by these businesses made up 65% of the items collected for the audit.

As a potential measure to reduce packaging waste, the SAS report proposed a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), through which consumers pay a deposit on an item at the point of purchase. Upon returning the empty container, consumers can then get their deposit back.

SAS said a DRS scheme would cover nearly 30% of the waste collected in the audit. An environment bill currently with parliament could allow for the introduction of a DRS initiative.

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