Dirty Dozen: UK charity calls out nation’s worst polluters
24 Aug 2022 --- Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), a UK-based marine conservation charity working with communities to protect oceans, beaches and marine life, recently released data in which twelve of the world’s largest brands are blamed for 70% of the UK’s branded packaging pollution.
Among these companies – nicknamed the “Dirty Dozen” – are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonalds, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Tesco, Red Bull GmbH, Suntory, Carlsberg Group, Heineken Holding and Mars.
Playing the part of pollutant
Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of SAS, says that these “dirty brands” are failing to take meaningful action to stop environmental harm.
“We cannot stand for this blatant greenwashing any longer,” he continues. “Systemic change is urgently needed to end the pollution swamping the land and ocean.”
“Businesses need to take responsibility for their polluting products and transition to models of reduction and reuse. Legislation such as an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme needs to be introduced urgently and governments must hold these companies to account.”
Among these companies – nicknamed the Dirty Dozen – is Coca-Cola.
Innova Market Insights has found that 23% of UK consumers believe large food and beverage companies, such as those listed in the Dirty Dozen list, are responsible for the pollution crisis.
However, although the figures are relatively close, the market researcher reveals that more (29%) Brits believe that consumer behavior should take the blame for the global environmental crisis.
Brands taking the lead
The charity’s largest beach cleaning program, Million Mile Clean, attracted thousands of consumers who collected packaging waste. As a result, over 264 businesses that were contributing to the packaging pollution catastrophe and filling up rivers and seas were called out over the past year.
Additionally, 28,727 goods in total, both branded and unbranded, were registered.
Little has changed in the Dirty Dozen for this year, contrary to their publicized sustainability commitments. According to SAS, brands are failing to change and reuse models, decrease packaging and facilitate recycling.
Their numbers show that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonald’s are the top three pollutants, accounting for a startling 38% of all found branded pollution.
Coca-Cola has occupied the top position for the third consecutive year. For this reason, the charity says it will “keep a close eye” on the company’s behavior amid its recently announced environmental sustainability initiative.
The beverage company announced a new reusable packaging objective, aiming for at least 25% of all beverages to be sold worldwide in refillable or returnable glass or plastic bottles and containers by 2030.
Presenting a panacea
By taking ownership of the whole lifecycle of their products, decreasing packaging and implementing circular business models, SAS urges these companies to take corporate responsibility and to stop damaging emissions.
Additionally, the charity calls on the government to implement an “all-in” Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) that covers beverage containers of all sizes and materials, including glass, rather than simply small containers that are considered to be “on-the-go.”
DRS programs are currently being used successfully throughout Europe, preventing pollution in 90% of containers in several instances. A staggering 55% of the goods examined from this year’s Dirty Dozen are thought to be recoverable through an “all-in” DRS.
The charity maintains that it has been waiting for a governmental DRS since it was first announced in 2018, but according to recent government comments, it won’t be implemented until at least 2024 – which amounts to 48 billion additional containers that are “choking our rivers and seas that could have been captured.”
SAS believes that the government is merely putting the problem off.
By Mieke Meintjes
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