Nestlé, Tim Hortons top list of plastic polluters — while McDonald’s moves down to fourth place
|Toronto Star 10 Oct 2019 at 06:23|
Nestlé and Tim Hortons have topped Greenpeace Canada’s plastic polluter list for a second consecutive year after an audit of shorelines and green spaces found that most of the single-use plastic garbage found originated from short list of recognizable brands.
And while consumer goods giants are taking steps toward more sustainable packaging, Greenpeace says they’re failing to move aggressively enough to replace single-use packaging with reusable and refillable alternatives.
“We are at the point where these companies have recognized that this is a problem and we are definitely seeing more momentum,” said Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign, who suggested brands are facing a public backlash over single use plastics waste. “But so far we haven’t seen enough of the kind of action that’s needed.”
Greenpeace on Wednesday released its 2019 leading plastic polluter list, which ranked Nestlé and Tim Hortons in the top two positions of the 240 companies identified. Starbucks came in third, followed by previous top polluters McDonald’s (4th) and The Coca-Cola Company (5th). Plastic waste clean up and audits have been carried out by Greenpeace and affiliate groups in hundreds of global locations and began in Canada last year.
A team of about 400 volunteers recovered branded plastic at nine sites across Canada from April through September. They found 39 per cent of the waste originated with the top five polluters. Of 13,822 pieces of plastic collected in total, Nestlé accounted for about 12 per cent of items with visible branding and Tim Hortons accounted for roughly 11 per cent. Starbucks was at 8 per cent, McDonald’s 4.2 per cent and Coca-Cola Company at 4.1 per cent.
The most commonly collected single-use plastic item categories were cigarette butts (which contain plastics), bottles and caps, wrappers, cups and lids, straws and stir sticks. Bags, cutlery and other forms of packaging also placed in the top 10 while house brand-labelled products by retailers such as Sobeys, Costco, Walmart and Loblaw were among the polluting items.
“We’ve collected everything from bioplastics to paper straws and recyclable lids and bottles, but it’s all still trashing our planet,” King told the Star, adding that Greenpeace Canada is calling for a nation-wide ban on the single-use plastics.
King said the companies that make the products should be responsible, not the consumer, who often has few options for buying food and household products in plastic-free packaging.
Toronto-headquartered Tim Hortons responded in an email to the Greenpeace ranking, saying it has been encouraging consumers to bring reusable mugs or cups for many years, by offering a discount on their beverage when they do.
The company recently announced a commitment towards using reusable cups and mugs, introduced a new lid that is 100 per cent recyclable and a reusable cup that is available for $1.99.
“We continue to work with our restaurant owners to test new sustainability initiatives across the country and to increase access to programs that divert materials from landfill,” a spokesperson said in an email. “These include recycling programs for cardboard, beverage containers (bottles and cans) and paper packaging, including our hot beverage cup. Nationally, we are rolling out a strawless lid that will remove 120 million straws from the system every year, wooden stir sticks and paper bags made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content.”
Catherine O’Brien, senior vice president, corporate affairs at Toronto-based Nestlé Canada, said tackling plastic pollution is an “urgent priority for us.” She added by email that they are “accelerating our action to eliminate unnecessary plastics and ensuring that all our packaging is recyclable or reusable by 2025.”
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“We continue to work with our partners and industry associations to explore different packaging solutions to reduce plastic usage and our newly launched Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences is developing new approaches to eliminating plastic waste. In Canada, we are taking an active role in developing a well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling system so that all of our packaging gets recycled. Currently, the majority of our packaging is recyclable, including our water bottles, and where we have packaging that is not recyclable or reusable, we have a timeline to phase out their use,” she said.
Starbucks in a statement said it offers discounts to customers who bring in reusable mugs, providing and promoting reusable cups and mugs in-store, and “we were an early pioneer in the offer of a cup sleeve to reduce waste caused by double-cupping. We provide and fund in-store recycling in most stores and have items processed at a separate facility to ensure items that can be recycled are recycled, even in municipalities that currently do not support the processing of our cups,” the statement says.