Most plastic waste in Canada leads back to these 5 companies

For World Clean-up Day, Greenpeace alongside community allies, volunteers, and a Greenpeace local group, coordinate a clean-up activity and plastic polluter brand audit. The audit seeks to identify the major corporate contributors to plastic waste polluting shorelines, green spaces and communities. Photo credited to Amy Scaife / Greenpeace

From wrinkled, old Tim Hortons coffee cups to crumpled candy wrappers, mangled Pepsi bottles and empty, waterworn cigarette packs — we’ve all noticed the glint of iconic logos mixed among the grass, half-buried in the sand and rocks at the beach, or tangled in trees along your favourite trail.

But how often do we ask ourselves which companies produce the plastic waste we encounter each day?

This fall,  volunteers all around Canada joined with Greenpeace Canada and other environmental advocacy groups to find out. As part of the international Break Free from Plastic campaign, volunteers tracked every single piece of litter collected along Canadian shorelines during the latest World Cleanup Day on Sept. 15 to conduct the first plastic polluters brand audit in Canada.

What they discovered wasn’t so much surprising as it was eye opening — five companies were responsible for nearly half of the 2,231 pieces of the identifiable plastic waste that was collected: Nestlé, Tim Hortons, PepsiCo., The Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s Corporation.

Of the 10,000 litres of trash collected, more than 75 percent was made of plastic.

“You do a cleanup one day, and the next day the beach is filling up with plastic again,” Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign, told CBC News. “We really wanted to look at the companies that were responsible for the bulk of this trash that we were finding on the beaches.”

Food wrappers were the most common form of plastic waste found, followed by plastic bottles, cups, bottle caps and shopping bags.

Cigarette butts – which contain plastic – also made the list with 7,228 butts recovered in the Vancouver Kitsilano Beach audit alone.

Click here to sign Greenpeace Canada's petition and demand plastic polluting corporations do their part to reduce plastic waste!
The top ten polluting companies :
  1. The Coca-Cola Company
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Nestlé
  4. Danone
  5. Mondelez International
  6. Procter & Gamble
  7. Unilever
  8. Perfetti van Melle
  9. Mars Inc.
  10.  Colgate-Palmolive
Other well-known polluting companies mentioned in the report:
  1. The Hershey Company
  2. Starbucks
  3. Loblaw Companies Ltd.
  4. Danone
  5. Costco Wholesale Corporation
  6. Metro Inc.
  7. General Mills Inc.
  8. Mars Inc.
  9. Mondelez International Inc.
  10. Alimentation Couche-Tard

Over the past year, New Brunswickers have shown tremendous support for progressive change to kick our province’s bad plastic habits.

Concern about waste in our waters spiked last november when Grand Manan lobster fisher Karissa Landstrand pulled in a lobster with part of a Pepsi can imprinted on its claw, as if it was a tattoo.

The story was quickly picked up media outlets across Canada and beyond, with our Fundy Baykeeper, Matt Abbott, talking about marine pollution to reporters as far away as the BBC in London.

“We think of garbage floating around on top of the water and landing on beaches, but this shows that its all through the water column and there’s really no parts of the ocean that are free from the risk of damage from rubbish,” Abbott told BBC.

“We got on just fine before we had such reliance on plastic packaging and I think we can find alternatives to it again.”


A recent independent poll found that more than 70 percent of respondents in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John are fully in support of a ban on single-use plastic bags.

Moncton is moving toward a ban on single-use plastic bags, meanwhile, in January Montreal became the first major Canadian city to ban plastic bags and Victoria, B.C. was not far behind, implementing its plastic bag ban on Canada Day 2018.

Inspired by other countries that have already made the move away from plastic, an ambitious group of students launched a petition to ban plastic bags in New Brunswick earlier this year and have been going door to door collecting signatures.

The petition will be presented to the Legislative Assembly, and therefore is only available in hard copy. You can add your name to the list here at Conserver House (180 St. John St., Fredericton), or at locations across Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. (see the full list below).


Fredericton: Fredericton Barracks – Unplugged – Gallery on Queen – Andrei – Coffee and Friends – Cafe Loka – Tony’s Music Box – Backstreet Records – Dynamic Yoga – Hashey’s Barbershop – The Urban Almanac General Store – Scandimodern – The Abbey – Fusion Studios – Conservation Council of New Brunswick

Saint John: Handworks Gallery – Fundy Bay Organics – The Corn Crib – Saint John City Market (Butchers Daughter, Celestial Soul Connection, Slocum and Ferris, and The Baking Stone) – Saint John Public Library – Cricket Cove Yarn

Moncton: The Corn Crib

Stanley: Mac Shack – Stanley Convenience Store

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