Coke and Pepsi Are The World’s Top Consumer Plastic Polluters. Again
Coca-Cola was found to be the most polluted brand in the world for the second year in a row, according to a global audit of collected plastic trash conducted by the Break Free From Plastic global movement, as The Intercept reported.
While Nestle, Pepsi and snack-maker Mondelez followed Coca-Cola, the Atlanta-based beverage giant was responsible for more plastic litter than the other three combined, according to the report called BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World's Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.
The plastic was counted during "brand audits" where Break Free From Plastic counted plastic litter collected in 484 cleanups in more than 50 countries on six continents in September, as Vice reported.
To undertake such a large project, Break Free From Plastic enlisted more than 72,000 volunteers who scoured beaches, waterways and streets. The volunteers collected bottles, cups, wrappers, bags and scraps during World Clean Up Day on Sept. 21. After sorting through the collected debris, the researchers identified 50 different types of waste traced back to nearly 8,000 different brands. Coke was the most counted product at 11,372 identifiable pieces of plastic litter in 37 countries, according to the report, as The Intercept reported.
The numbers for Coke, PepsiCo, Mondelez International and Unilever were probably low, since more than half of the plastic had eroded to the point where it was impossible to identify which brand it belonged to. The volunteers collected 476,423 pieces of plastic waste, but only 43 percent were marked with a clear consumer brand, according to the report.
Coke was the top source of branded plastic collected in Africa and Europe. It was the second largest in Asia and South America, but fifth in North America. In North America, the most collected plastic litter was produced by Nestle, followed by the Solo Cup Company, and Starbucks, according to the The Intercept.
"This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they've created," said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. "Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment. Recycling is not going to solve this problem."
Recent investigations have found that only 9 percent of all plastic is recycled. Most ends up in landfills, burned in incinerators or it is dumped in the ocean. The collected litter has spurred Break Free From Plastic to urge companies to eliminate their production of single-use plastic packaging and to instead find innovative solutions, according to Vice.
The report suggested that cities adapt a zero-waste lifestyle. It also suggested brands set up a delivery system for refills, that people use traditional packaging like banana leaves, and that consumers to use their own reusable materials, as Vice reported.
Coca-Cola has recently introduced Dasani water in aluminum cans and a plastic bottle made of marine waste. Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have pledged to package their products in fully recyclable, reusable or compostable containers by 2025. However, Break Free From Plastic and Greenpeace balk at the beverage manufacturers actions.
"Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis unfortunately continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system," said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia plastic campaign coordinator, in a statement. "These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future."
Coca-Cola responded to questions from The Intercept with an emailed statement: "Any time our packaging ends up in our oceans — or anywhere that it doesn't belong — is unacceptable to us. In partnership with others, we are working to address this critical global issue, both to help turn off the tap in terms of plastic waste entering our oceans and to help clean up the existing pollution."
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.