The audit was part of a global initiative comprising 239 plastic cleanups in 42 countries, with Greenpeace teaming up with various local organizations to assess how large corporations and brands contribute to plastic pollution.
In Canada, 2,231 pieces of identifiable branded plastic trash were collected in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax, with the aforementioned five corporations accounting for 46 per cent of the materials.
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Greenpeace Canada assessed corporations and brands separately, since some corporations own several brands — the top five polluting brands were found to be Nestle Pure Life (Nestle’s bottled water line), Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola.
Cups and lids made up the vast majority of Tim Hortons and McDonald’s trash, while bottles and bottle caps unsurprisingly made up the bulk of Coca-Cola’s contributions.
Coca-Cola was assessed to be the worst plastic polluter worldwide as well as within North America, where it was followed by PepsiCo and Nestle in that order.
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Recycling isn’t going to solve the problem of plastic pollution, Greenpeace Canada said, with the audit showing that recyclability of a product doesn’t necessarily reduce the likelihood of it being thrown out as garbage.
“It’s clear that cleanups and recycling cannot contend with the never-ending flow of single-use plastic waste being produced by corporations,” said Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics division.
“The only way to curb plastic pollution is by stopping corporations from producing throwaway plastics in the first place.”
The organization called on the Canadian government to hold corporations accountable, and implored with plastic-producing corporations to phase out single-use plastics.