Plastic waste at a Swiss recycling company. (Symbol image)

Image: Keystone

The big food giants are fueling the plastic crisis with their packaging, reports Greenpeace. The corporations would work systematically with large petrochemical companies.

Greenpeace has uncovered the direct and indirect business relationships of nine consumer goods producers such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo with oil companies. The corporations are therefore systemically linked to one another.

All of the nine companies examined have at least one relationship with a petroleum or petrochemical company, as can be seen in the report on the “Unpackaged climate crisis: How consumer goods companies are fueling the plastic expansion of the petroleum companies”.

For example, Nestlé has worked with packaging manufacturer Amcor to develop recyclable bags for pet food and packaging for sweets. Amcor generates around five percent of sales with the Swiss group. Nestlé is also one of the customers of the packaging manufacturer Berry and the Thailand-based company Indorama, a manufacturer of petrochemical products and plastic granules. These manufacturers are supplied by, among others, ExxonMobil, Shell, Dow and Total.

Contradiction to the 1.5 degree target

“The same food giants that fuel the plastic crisis also contribute to the climate crisis,” was Matthias Wüthrich, Swiss Greenpeace expert for zero waste, quoted in a statement on Tuesday. “Despite their efforts to appear climate-friendly, multinational companies like Nestlé are working with oil companies to expand plastic production.” This expansion contradicts the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.

Plastic in a waste bin: Disposable packaging accounts for around 40 percent of the global end use of new plastic, as stated in a Greenpeace report. (Archive image)


According to this, Nestlé is responsible for the third largest plastic consumption in the world with 1,524,000 tons behind Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. According to Greenpeace, this corresponds to an equivalent of 7,620,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Over 99 percent of the world’s plastic is made from crude oil and natural gas.

“Greenwashing of the petroleum companies”

Furthermore, the food companies have been working with the oil industry for decades “to promote the myth of plastic recycling,” said Greenpeace.

The environmental organization cites the direct collaboration between Nestlé and Mars with the oil company Total and Recycling Technologies as an example. Together they want to promote technologies with which waste plastic can be converted back into petroleum-like substances. Wüthrich describes this project as “greenwashing of the oil companies” to the Keystone-SDA news agency. Because it is not about recycling, but about a “plastic-to-petroleum” technology, which also works badly, is energy-intensive and, in addition to climate-damaging emissions, also releases toxic chemicals.

Lobbying against reusable packaging

Nestlé is also a member of the recycling partnership. The alliance called for investments in recycling in the USA, but showed no interest in introducing bottle deposits. Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Danone and L’Oréal, along with a number of plastics and packaging companies, were also involved in an Austrian organization called “Packaging with a Future”. This advocates the spread of plastic packaging and combats reusable quotas for packaging in retail.

However, according to Greenpeace, the reuse of packaging would be far less carbon-intensive than disposable packaging. The environmental organization demands that companies invest in reusable and unpackaged systems, eliminate single-use plastic, cut their links with the oil industry and make their plastic footprint more transparent.

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