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Unilever, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola among India's top 10 global plastic polluters: Report

By Our Representative 

Unilever, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Company emerge as the top international brands contributing to plastic pollution in India. Seven of the top 10 international brands --mostly fast-moving consumer goods – polluting India have consistently featured in the world's top 10 plastic polluters list based on the Break Free From Plastic's (BFFP) annual Brand Audit report.
Over 1,000 volunteers from across 19 states in India conducted brand audits to identify the most common plastic polluters in the country. The groups audited a total of 149,985 pieces of plastic, 70% of which were marked with a clear consumer brand.
Also in the top 10 international plastic polluters are Reckitt Benckiser, Nestle, Amazon/ Whole Foods, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor & Gamble, Kraft Heinz, and Mondelez International. Despite these corporations' sustainability commitments and initiatives, they still fall short in addressing the problem.
Meanwhile, the top 10 Indian plastic polluters are: Parle Products Private Limited, ITC Ltd., Britannia Industries Ltd., Haldiram's, United Spirits Limited, TATA Group, Marico Ltd., Hector Beverages Pvt. Ltd., Milky Mist Dairy Products and Balaji Wafers Private Limited. The top 10 international brands contributed 15% of plastic waste, while the top 10 Indian polluters made up just over 10% of plastic waste.
“Given that 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels, and that the fossil fuel corporations are actively shifting their focus to plastic as an increasing source of revenue, all of these companies are contributing significantly to both the climate crisis and the plastic pollution crisis,” said Satyarupa Shekar, Asia Pacific Coordinator of BFFP.
The pan-India Brand Audit Report also shifts back the focus of plastic pollution to the FMCGs, many of whom sell their products in low value packaging formats which they label as pro-poor and pro climate, but in reality have externalised the real costs on people and the environment.
Top 10 global brands contributed 15% of plastic waste, while top 10 Indian polluters made up just over 10% of plastic waste
The brand audit report also spotlights the contribution of waste pickers to plastic waste management.
"For years, the informal recycling sector in India has internalised the cost of plastic waste management that should have been borne by the producers. Now, with the anticipated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mandate, there is a risk that companies will set up parallel, centralised, private recycling systems that will displace informal sector workers”, said Lubna Anantakrishnan of SWaCH, who authored the India Brand Audit Report 2021.
“EPR systems should be designed in consultation with informal sector waste pickers, and investment should be channelled towards capacity building and formalisation, and supporting materials that are currently unviable for recycling,” she added.
BFFP claims to be be a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,000 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, a BFFP source said.
“BFFP member organizations and individuals share the shared values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain --from extraction to disposal -- focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions”, it added.

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