BIG corporations are accused, often justifiably, of transgressions such as unethical labour practices, conflicts of interest, etc.

Now, a report by the 'breakfreefromplastic' global movement illustrates their appalling contribution to the problem of environmental pollution.

On Sept 21, WORLD CLEAN UP DAY, BFFP mobilised over 72,000 volunteers to conduct a 'global audit' by collecting discarded single-use plastic waste to determine which international brands were the worst offenders.

Of the almost half a million pieces of plastic collected in 37 countries, 43 percent was marked with a clear consumer brand.

The top three offenders were Coca Cola, Nestle and Pepsico, with single-use plastic waste belonging to Coca Cola adding up to 11,732 pieces, more than the rest three global polluters combined.

Among the top ten are also Unilever, Mars, P&G, Philip Morris and Colgate-Palmolive.

In a world where 'disposable' had become a keyword for convenience, there has been a seismic shift during the past decade or so as awareness about environmental pollution and climate change has increased.

However, for giant multinationals such as the ones that emerged at the top of the global audit, the bottom line trumps social responsibility.

Using cheap, non-recyclable packaging material, the disposal of which they do not pay for, has been a hugely successful model.
The consequences are disastrous, choking rivers, and waterways, poisoning the air when the plastic waste is burned; the toxic components then leach into the soil and enter the food chain.

While Pakistan was not on the list of countries where the global audit was carried out, most of the multinationals that scored among the top polluters in the report have a major presence in this country, with a commensurate footprint in terms of plastic waste.

In the developing world, there appears to be a new resolve in officialdom's efforts to address the issue. But there is clearly more to the problem than the ubiquitous plastic 'shopper' .

What are the developing world governments going to do about the multinationals major contribution to the scourge of plastic waste in their respective countries.

The World Students Society thanks the editorial staff at Dawn.


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