Main image: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire
A new report from ocean conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage reveals that almost two-thirds (65%) of all branded packaging pollution across the UK can be traced back to just 12 companies: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev, McDonalds, Mondelez International, Heineken, Tesco, Carlsberg Group, Suntory, Haribo, Mars and Aldi.
The charity’s annual Citizen Science Brand Audit exposes the ‘Dirty Dozen’ behind the packaging pollution pandemic which is blighting UK landscapes and decimating the environment.
Coca-Cola has taken the top spot yet again, with branded items such as Coke cans and bottles being picked up three times more often than other brands during the audit.
‘Turn off the tap’
Alongside the Dirty Dozen parent companies, the report also reveals the top 10 most-polluting food and drink brands in the UK, including household names such as Walkers, McDonalds and Cadbury.
To highlight the damage these companies are causing, the charity has installed an attention-grabbing art installation at Watergate Bay in Cornwall (main image), depicting a super-sized industrial pipe spewing plastic pollution on the beach and calling on companies to ‘turn off the tap’, in reference to the packaging pollution flooding into the ocean.
‘Plastic packaging is polluting the ocean, impacting marine species and destroying habitats. The findings of Surfers Against Sewage’s Beach Brand Audit highlight the types of pollution that are escaping into the marine environment and the brands that are responsible. I believe that this kind of work is critically important in order to urge companies to urgently reduce their packaging pollution before it is too late.’
Chair in Conservation Science and Exeter Marine strategy lead
Litter in the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have had an effect on the type and volume of items recorded during this year’s Brand Audit.
Stella Artois and Budweiser cans made their way into the top 10 most-polluting brands, causing their parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, to rocket up the ‘Dirty Dozen’ leader board to third place (from eighth place in 2019).
The charity attributes this surge to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants during consecutive lockdowns. Similarly, plastic and glass bottles and cigarette butts accounted for just under half (48%) of unbranded pollution.