| | |

The Biggest Disposable Plastic Producers in the World

This post contains affiliate links. 

<img src="biggest-plastic-producers-in-world.jpg" alt="Biggest disposable plastic producers in world">

The thing I love about the zero waste (low waste) movement is that it’s about the individual. There are so many things that we (as individuals) cannot control, but we can control who we purchase from and what we purchase. We can control our consumption habits and our travel habits. Before I became familiar with the origins of the recycling movement (and the zero waste movement) I thought if I recycled everything I could I was environmentally responsible.

My journey toward zero waste is still ongoing. Do I still use disposable plastic occasionally? Yes, but I try my best to limit my consumption of it. I also use reusable or sustainable options whenever possible and limit my consumption from the companies that are responsible for producing most of the disposable plastic pollution worldwide.

<img src="john-cameron-774356-unsplash.jpg" alt="Coke bottle pollution">
Photo by John Cameron

I started my zero waste journey by decluttering my house. Through the decluttering process I realized there are so many things I didn’t want or need–yet they were taking up space in my home. When I planned a party I had to spend at least a day shoving things into closets or creating piles. So I started decluttering in 2012. In 2015 I read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Then I saw the Minimalism documentary and TED Talk by Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I quickly became a minimalist, but there was still something missing. I wasn’t consuming as much but there was so much disposable plastic in my house.

That’s when I learned about zero waste gurus Bea Johnson (Zero Waste Home) and Lauren Singer (Trash is for Tossers). Despite becoming a minimalist, I was NOT as environmentally responsible as I thought I was. In fact, I was just another consumer burning through disposable plastic. Everything I purchased was enshrined in plastic–shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, disposable cutlery, disposable plastic cups, tampons with plastic inserts, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, water bottles, lotion, sponges, soda, dish washing liquid, most of my food, the list is really endless. If you’d like to learn about more sustainable options please see my resources page.

What I find ironic is that the recycling and anti-litter movements were started by the beverage and plastics industries. It makes sense. In the 1950s, the beverage industry started to shift from refillable containers to throwaways to save money on transportation. It lowered transportation costs (which also lowers CO2 emissions), however, it created an unsustainable litter problem. Originally, the companies that created the litter were blamed, but these brilliant titans of industry didn’t go down without a fight. They created an anti-littering campaign that soon shifted the blame from the producers of the litter, to the consumers of the litter. Throwing a bottle on the ground became uncouth, but producing it was just fine.

<img src="plastic-bottle-on-beach.jpg" alt="Plastic bottle pollution on beach">
Photo credit Louis Hansel

Heather Roger’s 2006 book, “Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage,” discusses how Americans have been conditioned for continual consumption of disposable goods to increase profits. Products that were once refillable or in reusable packaging were “tossed” aside for disposable options. The recycling industry was a shiny bauble that distracted us from the cultural shift of reusable to disposable. In the meantime landfills filled up, plastic filled the oceans, and low grade plastics were shipped overseas to become a developing nation’s problem.

I want to note that I am not anti-plastic. I am against the prolific use of disposable plastic. Plastic is a versatile material that can be used in ways other materials cannot. I drive a car that uses gasoline and is made up of metal, plastic, and fiberglass. Plastic is also lighter and cheaper to ship, thereby lowering transportation costs. Refillables are not always the answer. For example, hospitals must follow certain sanitation protocols.

Yet there are sustainable packaging options for so many products. Consumers are becoming more aware of this and are actively demanding better packaging. Cardboard, paper, molded fiber, cotton, and aluminum are all more sustainable options. Glass is heavier to transport, but can be used as a refillable option. It should come as no surprise that the oil and gas industries are heavily involved in the disposable plastics industries. It begs the question of who truly benefits from the consumption of disposable plastics?

Several cleanup groups have done waste sorts in some of the most polluted areas in the world. These locations do not have adequate sanitation services to keep up with the trash and recylables. In industrialized countries, we have trash recycling, yard waste, and compost collection. In developing nations, each individual may be responsible for their own trash collection, which makes disposable plastic an even bigger problem. According to these waste sorts, the biggest plastic waste producers in the world are Coke, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive.

Knowing the company name is only half the battle. Many of these companies have hundreds of brands that we may or may not be aware of. Listed below are some of the popular brands of the companies listed above. This is not an exhaustive list. There are additional brands not listed that may be specific to certain regions of the world. These companies also own various subsidiaries throughout the world. You can click the links to the companies to find a full list of their brands.

<img src="infographic-biggest-polluters.png" alt="infographic plastic bottle polluters">

I am listing these brands because packaging changes need to happen on the manufacturing level. Only when we as consumers demand more sustainable packaging will it happen. I want to note that some of these companies have promised to cut waste by 2025. There are several options these companies could take to lower their plastic pollution. The beverage companies in particular have multiple options at their disposal.

Solutions

  • Use more aluminum. Aluminum cans are one of the most recycled products in the world. Like plastic, aluminum is also lightweight. Coca Cola’s standard 20 ounce bottle is the same size or smaller than Monster and Red Bull aluminum containers. So if other beverage companies can put their product in a 20 or 24 oz aluminum container, why can’t Coke or Pepsi? Most aluminum cans consist of 70% recycled aluminum content, making aluminum a better option both in the creation of new product and its recycling capability. Aluminum can be recycled almost infinitely, whereas plastics can only be recycled a few times. Yet, beverage companies have been resistant to this change.
  • One potential mitigation would be deposit returns on each plastic bottle. Deposit returns were once popular in the U.S., but the beverage companies have fought hard to discourage deposit systems because it cuts into their bottom line.
  • Another option is utilizing recycled plastic in the production of new products. However, beverage companies have been resistant to using recycled plastic because of the coloring. Recycled plastic is not as crystal clear as new plastic. Plastic can only be recycled so many times before it is down cycled permanently or landfilled.
  • Lastly, producers could use bioplastics or corn based plastics. That idea has gained some traction, but still hasn’t taken off. Bioplastics would not break down in a landfill (as landfills are anaerobic), but bioplastics can be composted in industrial facilities. None of these options are a perfect solution, but they are better than our current system.

The Brands

Many of these companies have sustainability programs, which I have also linked below. You can decide if they are doing enough to correct the problem. Change on this scale takes time. This requires a paradigm shift on the part of the consumer. It’s time to take matters into our own hands. Some of the brands below are beloved (by myself included). There is some indication that some of these companies are not making the changes necessary to solve this problem.

I say some, because Unilever has recently announced a shift from disposable plastics! Yay! When it comes to sustainability, Unilever is leading the pack. In the meantime I plan on limiting my purchases of the brands below. I will also contact my favorite brands to encourage them to adopt more sustainable packaging. I am the mother of young children. I want them to grow up in a world in which the great pacific garbage patch is shrinking, there are more fish in the sea than plastic, and where they can live healthy and productive lives.

Coke Products

See Coke’s sustainability plan
Contact Coca Cola Customer Service at 1-800-438-2653 or here

Coca Cola
Dasani
Minute Maid
Fanta
Georgia Tea & Coffee
Gold Peak
Minute Maid
Mellow Yellow
Powerade
Simply Orange
Smart Water
Sprite
Surge
Vitamin Water
Zico

Pepsi Co

See Pepsi’s sustainability plan.
Contact Pepsi’s Customer Service at 1-800-433-2652 or here.
7up
Aquifina
Brisk
Cheetos
Doritos
Fritos
Gatorade
Lays Chips
Mirinda
Mountain Dew
Pepsi
Quaker Oats products (including Life Cereal, Cap’n Crunch, Aunt Jemima, Chewy granola bars, Rice-A-Roni etc.)
Ruffles
Sabra Hummus
Sierra Mist
Starbucks (grocery store coffee)
Tostitos
Tropicana
Walkers

Nestle

Not only is Nestle draining lakes dry (while the residents go without), but they are also one of the biggest disposable plastics producers on the planet.
See Nestle’s sustainability plan
Contact Nestle Customer Service at 1-800- 225-2270 or here.
Alpo dog food
Beneful
Boost
Carnation
Cat Chow
Coffee Mate
Cookie Crisp
DiGiorno Pizza
Dog Chow
Fancy Feast
Friskies
Gerber Baby Food
Haagen-Dazs
Hot Pockets
Jack’s Pizza
Kit Kat
Lean Cuisine
Nescafe
Nesquik
Nestea
Nestle Ice Cream
Nestle Pur Life
Optifast
Perrier
Poland Springs
Purina
S. Pellegrino
Smarties
Stouffers
Toll House
Tombstone

Procter & Gamble

See Procter & Gamble’s sustainability plan
Contact Procter & Gamble Customer Service at 1-800-331-3774 

Luvs
Pampers
Tide
Bounce
Cheer
Downy
Dreft
Era
Gain
Bounty
Charmin
Puffs
Always
Tampax
Head & Shoulders
Aussie
Herbal Essences
Old Spice
Pantene
Cascade
Dawn
Febreeze
Ultra Joy
Mr. Clean
Swiffer
Braun
Gillette
Venus
Art of Shaving
Clear Blue
Metamucil
Pepto Bismol
Prisolec
Vicks
Crest
Fixadent
Oral Care
Scope
Ivory
Olay
Safeguard
Secret

Unilever

See Unilever’s sustainability plan. They have ambitious plans to lower their waste and greenhouse gas emissions.  I’m hopeful that Unilever will be leading the pack on sustainability.
Contact Unilever Customer Service at 1-800-298-5018 or here.
Axe
Bryers Ice Cream
Cif
Clear
Cornetto
Dove
Hellman’s
Knorr
Lipton
Lux
Magnum
Pure Leaf
Sun Silk
Surf
Ben & Jerry’s
Brut
Comfort
Klondike
Lever 2000
Marmite
Noxzema
Ponds
Popsicle
Qtips
St. Ives
Sunkist
Suave
V05
Vaseline
Sunlight

Danone

Danone’s sustainability plan.
Contact Danone Customer Service at +33 1 44 35 20 20.

Silk milk products
Activia
Evian
Aqua
Dannon
Oikos

Mondelez International

See Mondelez International’s sustainability plan.
Contact Modelez International Customer Service at 1-855-535-5648 or here.

Halls cough drops
Belvita
Cadbury
Chips Ahoy
Honey Maid
Nabisco
Newtons
Nilla
Mikado
Nutter Butters
Oreos – this one hurts
Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Premium Crackers
Ritz
Sour Patch
Tang
Tate’s Bake Shop
Toblerone
Trident
Triscuit
Wheat Thins

Perfetti van Melle

See Perfetti van Melle’s sustainability plan.
Contact Perfetti van Melle Customer Service at + 55 19 3876 7800
Mentos
Air Heads

Mars

See Mars’ sustainability plan.
Contact Mars Customer Service at 1-800-551-0702 or here.
Banfield Pet Hospitals
Cesar Dog Food
Dreamies
M&Ms
Twix
Extra gum
Snickers
Royal Canin
Pedigree
Skittles
Bounty
Whiskas
Uncle Bens
Mars
Orbit
Milky Way

“Waste not, want not. The less we waste, the less we lack in the future.”

The proverb has been traced back to 1772, and is first cited in the United States in the 1932 ‘Topper Takes a Trip’ by T. Smith…” From the “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).




#zerowaste, #plasticfree, #disposable plastic, #ecofriendly
<img src="a-list-of-plastic-producers-pinterest.jpg" alt="biggest plastic polluters in world">
<img src="biggest-plastic-polluters.jpg" alt="biggest plastic polluters in world">