Washington, DC - A report released today by Greenpeace USA shows how consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé are driving the expansion of plastic production, threatening both the global climate and communities around the world. The report, The climate emergency unpacked: How consumer goods companies are fueling the plastic expansion of Big Oil, Reveals the business links between the world's largest fossil fuel brands and companies and the general lack of transparency regarding emissions from plastic packaging.
"The same well-known brands that are driving the plastic pollution crisis are helping fuel the climate crisis," said Graham Forbes, Greenpeace Global Plastics Project Leader. "Despite their best efforts to be climate-friendly, companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé are working with the fossil fuel industry to expand plastic production, which could bring the world into catastrophic emissions and a planet that is warming unbearably."
Although the plastics supply chain is largely opaque, the report identified relationships between the nine large consumer goods companies surveyed and at least one large fossil fuel and / or petrochemical company. According to the report, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Mondelēz, Danone, Unilever, Colgate Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Mars buy packaging from manufacturers supplied with plastic resin or petrochemicals from well-known companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron Phillips, Ineos and Dow. Without transparency in these relationships, consumer goods companies can largely avoid responsibility for environmental or human rights violations by the companies that supply plastic for their packaging.
The report says consumer goods companies have also partnered with fossil fuel companies for decades to promote plastics recycling despite its flaws. It explains how these industries have worked together to defend themselves against laws that would restrict single-use packaging and advocated so-called "chemical or advanced recycling" projects. The report also notes that the fossil fuel and consumer goods industries often work with front groups advocating these wrong solutions, including the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, the Recycling Partnership, and the American Chemistry Council.
"It's clear that many consumer products companies want to hide their cozy relationships with fossil fuel and petrochemical companies, but this report shows how they are working towards common goals that pollute the planet and harm communities worldwide," said Forbes. "If these companies really cared about the environment, they would end these alliances and immediately move away from single-use plastics."
Without urgent measures, plastics production could triple by 2050, according to industry estimates. Corresponding Estimates by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), this projected growth would increase global plastic lifecycle emissions by over 2030% by 50 compared to 2019 levels, equivalent to nearly 300 coal-fired power plants. This is the same period during which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned Human-made emissions need to decrease by nearly 50% to limit warming to 1,5. Greenpeace urges consumer goods companies to urgently switch to reuse systems and packaging-free products. Companies need to phase out all single-use plastics and make their plastic footprint, including the climate footprint of their packaging, more transparent. Companies are urged to support an ambitious global plastics deal that addresses the entire life cycle of plastics and emphasizes reduction.
In a recent story broadcast by Channel 4 News in the UK, an Exxon lobbyist is recorded stating that "every aspect of plastics is a huge business" and realizing that it "will grow". The lobbyist also calls plastics “the future” at a time when communities around the world are fighting against pollution from single-use plastic and calling for their consumption to be reduced. He goes on to say that the strategy is to say "plastic can't be banned because here's why" and compares that to tactics used to undermine action against climate change.