Most Plastic Waste Produced By Just 56 Companies

May 6, 2024

Fast Fact about Single Use Plastics

It’s not hard to spot plastic waste: Bottles and other plastic items are scattered on roadsides, beaches, ocean waters, and parks. It seems to be anywhere humans set foot. 

But what specific companies are responsible for all of that plastic that turns into so much litter? After all, more than 400 metric tons of plastic is produced every year. A study published in the journal Science Advances found that just 56 companies produced more than half of the plastic waste tossed out around the globe.   

The top polluters: Coca-Cola (which accounts for 11%), PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Danone. Coca-Cola makes soft drinks. It also makes Dasani water. PepsiCo makes Aquafina.  

To calculate the top plastic polluters, more than 100,000 people fanned out across six of the seven continents (not Antarctica). They gathered more than 18 million pieces of plastic waste. Any brands or trademarks were noted. The group Break Free From Plastic ran 1,576 collections between 2018 and 2022. It found that about half the pieces picked up had visible brands.    

The sheer number of pieces gathered by those volunteers shows the size of the plastics pollution problem, researchers said. Some plastic breaks down and enters our waste and water systems. Some floats in the air. In either case, these microplastics make their way into human bodies. They can affect our lungs, blood, and other organs.   

Those trying to reduce plastic waste say their job is beyond huge. “This is a herculean effort we have to do,” the study’s lead author, Win Cowger, told The Washington Post. Cowger studies plastic pollution. “There are no easy fixes.”  

Reflect: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges to reducing plastic pollution?

How does the information in the article contribute to the reader’s understanding of the infographic? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. It provides perspective on the scale of the plastic pollution problem in oceans.
b. It proposes the most effective solutions for reducing plastic pollution.
c. It identifies which companies contribute most to plastic pollution.
d. It highlights some of the most popular plastic products used by Americans.
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

News brought to you by The Juice

Start a free trial today