As many of us are still cleaning up and filling our recycling bins in the aftermath of the latest holiday, while preparing for yet another, Greenpeace offers a reminder that pollution from single-use plastic containers still poses a huge challenge – and in fact, the environmental group says three of the world’s largest beverage companies are the worst contributors to this ongoing problem.

Earlier this month, Greenpeace announced it had conducted audits of waste across 31 U.S. cities. As part of the global #breakfreefromplastic movement, citizen scientists analyzed over 7,000 pieces of single-use plastic trash to determine which companies were most responsible for it.

And the three key offenders, concluded Greenpeace, are PepsiCo, Nestlé and Coca-Cola. According to the group’s activists, the results were remarkably consistent, no matter where the plastics were evaluated, from Miami to Long Island to Southern California.

“Companies like Pepsi, Nestlé, and Coca-Cola continue to pollute our communities, waterways, and oceans with single-use plastic that will never disappear,” said Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Kate Melges in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. “For far too long, these companies have put the onus on consumers to deal with the plastic waste epidemic, but people across the country are starting to take a closer look at the plastic pollution in their local communities to put the responsibility back where it belongs -- on the corporations producing it.”

All three companies insist they are doing more to tackle both the surge in single-use plastic consumption and the corresponding lack of recycling to manage this stream of waste. Coca-Cola, for example, has confirmed that single-use plastic containers are taking up a larger portion of its global packaging; Greenpeace has claimed the results include the company being responsible for the manufacture of up to 110 billion bottles a year.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo announced earlier this year that it has joined the New Plastics Economy initiative, which is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Nestlé says it seeks to reduce its overall packaging consumption by 140,000 tons before the end of 2020.

Greenpeace, however, has concluded that those waste diversion efforts are not enough to stem the flow of plastic trash into the world’s oceans. The organization’s researchers say 90 percent of plastics produced worldwide are not recycled, and the amount of garbage that winds its way into the seas is the equivalent of one truckload a minute.

The environmental group has taken its argument against excessive plastic consumption a huge step further by claiming that plastics have become a human rights issue. Greenpeace's researchers have alleged that bottling companies are selling products in single-use plastic containers in countries that lack effective waste management systems. Furthermore, the plastic that ends up in landfills or incinerators that are often located close to low-income communities or those where the majority of residents are people of color.

Image credit: Plastic Polluting Coalition/Flickr

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.