Changing Markets Foundation releases new report exposing the corporate playbook of false solutions to the plastic crisis

17 September 2020 - In the face of the ever-pressing plastic pollution crisis, the plastics industry has continuously pledged their commitment to address this probing problem through voluntary efforts.

However, a new report by the Changing Markets Foundation reveals that these nice sounding promises to address this crisis are a form of distraction to delay and derail legislative solutions to the plastic catastrophe, creating a tidal wave of plastic pollution around the world. Based on research and investigations in over 15 countries across five continents, Talking Trash: The Corporate Playbook of False Solutions exposes how tactics to undermine legislation in individual countries are in fact part of a global approach by Big Plastic to ensure that the corporations most responsible for the plastic crisis evade true accountability for their pollution.

Nusa Urbancic, Campaigns Director at the Changing Markets Foundation said, “This report exposes the two-faced hypocrisy of plastic polluters, which claim to be committed to solutions, but at the same time use a host of dirty tricks to ensure that they can continue pumping out cheap, disposable plastic, polluting the planet at a devastating rate.”

The report critically analyses the voluntary commitments from ten of the biggest plastic polluters which include Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Perfetti Van Melle, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. These companies who have a joint plastic footprint of almost 10 million tonnes a year, have published a number of individual  voluntary commitments and have signed up to many group initiatives claiming to contain the plastic crisis. The Changing Markets Foundation research shows that this is a tactic being used to distract consumers and governments with empty promises and false solutions, while corporations work behind the scenes to delay and derail progressive legislation.

“The responsibility for the plastic crisis lies with Big Plastic, including major household brands, which have lobbied against progressive legislation for decades, greenwashed their environmental credentials and blamed the public for littering, rather than assuming responsibility for their own actions,” said Urbancic.

Niven Reddy, Campaigns Researcher at groundWork and Africa Coordinator of the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA) and the #breakfreefromplastic Movement (BFFP) said,“Locally in South Africa we see the plastic industry hide behind the facade of promoting clean ups and raising awareness to the public. Quite simply put, this is not enough. The plastic industry consciously uses these delay tactics to shift the narrative that this is a problem that the public is generating and we can make this go away if we just throw our trash in the bin.”

“We need plastic producers to start thinking about alternative delivery systems for their products and to reduce the amount of plastic that is being produced rather than continuing to oversupply the global south with non-recyclable material and expect our governments to invest in false solutions like incineration to make the problem less visible,” said Reddy.

The report also finds that brand companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and P&G have either failed to meet their voluntary commitments or shifted the goalposts. Furthermore, even if these commitments were to be realised it would still not be ambitious enough to make a dent in the plastic crisis.

Key Findings:

  1. The Coca-Cola Company has broken, delayed or shifted the goalposts on most of their impressive sounding commitments over the last 30 years. Like their commitment to having 25% of recycled content in their bottles (first publicised in 1990 for the US market), however thirty years later they are only at 10%.
  2. Big Plastic is revealed in the report as a well-organised and interconnected network of organisations that lobby around the world at every level to fight against proven solutions, which would require them to fully step up their responsibility and take on the true costs of plastic pollution.
  3. Capitalising on the COVID-19 crisis, has been another tactic used by industry whereby they have co-opted the public health crisis and capitalised on people’s fear to call for regulatory rollbacks on environmental legislation and argue the case for single-use plastic.
  4. Drastic legislative action is needed to bring the plastic crisis under control, which includes the introduction of legislation mandating at least 90% separate collection of plastic waste, and the acknowledgement that mandatory deposit return systems are the only proven and effective way to achieve high levels of collection and litter reduction.


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For more information, please contact:
Carissa Marnce, GAIA Africa Communications Officer

About Changing Markets Foundation
The Changing Markets Foundation partners with NGOs on market-focused campaigns. Its mission is to expose irresponsible corporate practices and drive change towards a more sustainable economy.