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Tearfund tears into plastic-bottle waste

03 April 2020


Bangladeshi workers wash toxic chemicals from plastic drums in the polluted Buriganga River in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week

Bangladeshi workers wash toxic chemicals from plastic drums in the polluted Buriganga River in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week

ABOUT eight billion Coca-Cola bottles are dumped or burned each year in just six developing countries, research by the Christian charity Tearfund has found. It estimates that more than half a million tonnes of plastic containers produced by Coca-Cola and three other multinational companies are thrown away every year in China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, and Nigeria.

The charity’s report The Burning Question, released on Tuesday, states that “across the six countries, 4.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are produced from the open burning of Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever’s plastic pollution. Preventing these emissions would equate to taking 2 million cars off the UK’s roads.” The emissions produced are contributing to the climate emergency and directly harming people’s health, it says.

The findings are part of the organisation’s Rubbish Campaign, launched last May, which has called on the four companies to abandon single-use plastic packaging for sustainable, refillable, and reusable ones.

Tearfund’s director of global advocacy and influencing, Dr Ruth Valerio, said: “These companies are selling plastic in the full knowledge that it will be burned or dumped in developing countries, scarring landscapes, contributing to climate change, and harming the health of the world’s poorest people.

“At present, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever make little or no mention of emissions from the disposal of their products or packaging in their climate-change commitments. These companies have a moral responsibility for the disposal of the products they continue to pump into developing countries without proper waste management systems.”

The findings follow Tearfund’s report last year, No Time to Waste, backed by Sir David Attenborough, which found that up to one million people a year were dying from the health impacts of plastic pollution and other waste.

As part of the latest report, a survey of 2000 adults aged 18-64 in India, conducted by Savanta ComRes, found that 90 per cent would be likely to buy products in refillable and reusable containers, rather than in throwaway containers, if it led to significantly less plastic pollution in their community and the cost was the same.

Tearfund’s Rubbish Campaign calls on the four companies to adopt a four-point plan. It says that they should: report by the end of 2020 the number and volume of single-use plastic products that they use and sell in each country; reduce this amount of single-use plastic products by half by 2025 and instead use refillable and reusable containers; recycle single-use plastics in developing countries, ensuring that by 2022 one is collected for every one sold; and restore dignity by working in partnership with waste-pickers to create safe jobs.

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