Top Ten Plastic Polluters - Coca Cola

Last year I decided to take on the top ten plastic polluters (alongside the top ten palm oil users) I spent months researching them, and then started emailing them monthly to demand they make changes. Not a single one (okay, maybe one) seemed to care. I gave up pretty quickly, because I didn’t feel that I alone could make a difference. I actively started boycotting/avoiding those companies as a result.


Now seems like a better time than ever to share my research – which is generally easy to find – and the responses I received.


What we need to understand is that buying from these companies, even just a little bit, is helping to line the pockets of those that are helping to destroy our home.


My original intention was to make this one single, ongoing blog post that I updated with a new company as I go on, however I have found that some of these companies are absolutely evil, while some genuinely seem to be trying to make a difference, and while they do create environmental damage, they don't all fall under the evil umbrella so I have decided to separate the posts, so each has its own vibe. You will find links to all of the other blogs here though.

  1. Coca-Cola

  2. Nestle

  3. Pepsi

  4. Mondelaz International

  5. Unilever

  6. Mars

  7. P&G

  8. Colgate-Palmolive

  9. Phillip Morris International

  10. Perfetetti Van Melle


Coca-Cola has been named the number one world-wide plastic polluter for the third year in a row. This has come from the latest audit done by Break Free From Plastic Movement which involves counting and documenting plastic waste collected from 55 countries.

Image Credit – Ashleigh Nicole

According to Greenpeace and iNews this huge soft drinks company creates around 3500 environmentally damaging, single use plastic bottles every second.That’s approximately 302,400,000 per day. That’s just plastic bottles though, that’t not including their packaging.

I know what you might be thinking – you can put these bottles in the recycling, right? Yes, you can. However, there is no guarantee that they make it to the correct place, and don’t end up in the ocean, or scattered elsewhere, and Coca-Cola do nothing to ensure they are recycled correctly, nor do they offer much as an alternative.


The same Greenpeace report also advises us that only 7% of their products are made using recycled materials. They do in some instances use bio plastics and plant based bottles, and while they are little less damaging to make, there is no guarantee again that they will be recycled correctly, which still means a form of plastic ends up in landfills/the ocean/nature and basically has the same effect as a regular plastic bottle.


While all of this is ridiculous, something that I really struggle is that this company once had bottle pretty much invented the bottle deposit scheme! In the early 1900s, for a refundable deposit, consumers could return their glass bottles, meaning that they were then reused. This scheme of course no longer exists.


Coca-Cola owns over 500 brands, and has over 4000 drinks options. I try to avoid all of the brands they own, but it can be so difficult, because how can we possibly know every single one, when they own so many? The Coca-Cola website alone doesn’t actually list all of the brands it owns.

Just a few brands that Coca-Cola owns. Image Credit – Sweet Sustainable Living

On their website, they talk about what they are doing to be more sustainable, and yet they recently reported that they won’t get rid of their plastic bottles, because their consumers like them (EcoWatch) This company makes around £59 billion per year, and they are worried that removing their plastic bottles will damage their sales. Instead they plan to focus on recycling, waste collection and using 50% recycled materials in their packaging.

It’s simply not good enough. How about 100% recycled materials? How about some kind of recycling initiatives to do more to ensure that their products are disposed of correctly? How about bringing back the deposit scheme?


If their plastic pollution isn’t enough to turn your stomach (never mind their ingredients) you might be shocked to find out that to make their drinks, this incredibly unethical company dehydrate regions that already suffer from water shortages, and lack of clean water. According to War on Want this has been happening or has happened, across several regions across the world, causing further water depletion, and meaning that farmers are unable to water their crops. This all has a very serious knock on effect, both for those living in those areas, and towards the environment.

Crimes against Humanity and Nature. Image Credit – Sweet Sustainable Living, image created prior to re-branding

I felt further shocked in reading this article to discover their links to violating workers rights, and the mistreatment of union workers. I am here to talk about their plastic pollution primarily, but I would highly recommend reading up on their disgusting treatment of their workers.


Perhaps if enough people stopped buying from then, it would start to make a difference.


Part of the journey to sustainability is finding and supporting ethical, environmental brands. Below you will find as many alternatives as I can find to the above brands.

  1. Lemonaid

  2. Chari Tea

  3. Karma Drinks

  4. Luscombe

  5. Whole Earth

Below you can find a copy of the email I sent to Coca-Cola. If you wish to send your own, please feel free to use this as a template, and I would suggest sending it to JOURNEY.SUPPORT@coca-cola.com rather than using the contact us form on their website. The response I received was very vague one, and did not address any of my points. Please do let me know if you send an email them!

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