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Plastics: Polluters exposed

Polluted beach where the Cuckmere river meets the English Channel, Sussex. Photo sixpixx/shutterstock.com

Surfers Against Sewage, a citizen science initiative, has named Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Pepsico as Britain’s biggest plastic polluters.

The campaign’s volunteers take responsibility for collecting, recording and reporting the pollution uncovered during their Million Mile Clean throughout the year. 

Over 4,000 people cleaned up tens of thousands of items of plastic pollution from beaches, rivers and woodlands, and kept plastic out of the ocean. 

Coca-Cola produces 3.2 million tonnes of plastic every year. SAS’s audits have crowned them the worst plastic polluter for the fourth year. McDonald’s packaging was present in one out of five cleans-ups that took place this year. Pepsi-Co produces  2.5 million tonnes of plastic each year.


SAS’s findings highlight the systemic problem Britain faces with plastic and packaging pollution. The root cause is the overproduction and over-consumption of non-essential, single-use, throw-away items, including virgin plastics made from crude oil.

Scientists estimate that the carbon footprint of plastic production is a significant factor in climate change. In 2015, plastics accounted for 4.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – if plastics were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.