'Monster' stalks big businesses using throwaway plastic wrappers

A short while ago, staff at Nestlé headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, were surprised to find a huge “plastic monster” outside their offices. Tagged with the name Ngori, it had horns and sported a big “return to sender” label.

The monster had been delivered by Greenpeace Africa volunteers with the aim of returning throwaway plastic “right back to its source” – the Nestlé factory in Nairobi’s industrial area. The activists entreated the multinational corporation to stop relying on single-use plastic.

Ngori (local slang for trouble, used during protests in Kenya) was covered with Nestlé-branded plastic packaging and made out of piles of single-use plastic bottles and packaging collected by volunteers from a nearby river.

Protests by Greenpeace and other organisations in the Break Free From Plastic movement also took place at Nestlé offices in Manila, capital of the Philippines, Rotterdam in the Netherlands and at its head office in Vevey, Switzerland.

Greenpeace has been raising awareness about the plastic production crisis in towns and villages across the globe.

Earlier this year, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia) revealed that Nestlé and Unilever are jointly responsible for a quarter of the “branded throwaway” plastic that is causing the plastic pollution crisis in the Philippines. Their report, produced in collaboration with the University of Santo Tomas’s Research Centre for Social Sciences and Education, followed a series of brand and waste audits conducted in six cities and one province in the Philippines.

It brought to light new evidence of Nestlé and Unilever’s over-production of single-use sachets (small packets which contain single-use quantities of materials).

The report found that while Southeast Asian countries are persistently blamed for the crisis of plastic pollution, “the responsibility lies with multinational corporations like Nestlé and Unilever that continue to expand their production of unnecessary throwaway plastic at the expense of our communities, waterways and health.”

Said Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Abigail Aguilar: “The only solution is for them to significantly reduce the production of throwaway plastics and move toward refill and reuse systems for their customers throughout the world.

Plastic monster left outside Nestlé's factory in Kenya

Last year, Nestlé, along with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, were found to be the worst plastic polluters in a worldwide brand audit and cleanup conducted by the Break Free From Plastic movement providing “undeniable proof of the role that corporations play in perpetuating the global plastic pollution crisis”.

Nestlé last year used 1,7 million tonnes of plastic packaging – an increase on the year before.
Renee Olende, who was the project leader in the recent Nairobi action said their plastic monster took 14 activists a week to build. “The most traumatising part of the process was the journey to the Nestlé head office, driving very carefully so as to not cause any turbulence that might damage Ngori.”

The people at Nestlé were “surprised, but very professional” said Olende.

Nestlé has since responded through generic letters from their headquarters and the country CEOs.

Here’s Nestlé’s edited response with Greenpeace’s retorts:

Nestlé: “Tackling plastic pollution, especially in our oceans, is an urgent priority for us. We take this responsibility seriously. We support all efforts to raise awareness and find solutions to the plastic waste problem.”

Greenpeace: Great to hear that you support our efforts to find real solutions to the plastic pollution problem! And as we all know, the only real solution is reducing the overall production of throwaway plastic packaging.

Nestlé: “In April last year, we pledged to make 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.”

Greenpeace: Just because plastic is “recyclable” does NOT mean it will actually be recycled. In fact, only 9% of the plastic ever produced has been recycled.

Nestlé: “We are committed to making a significant difference everywhere we operate.”

Greenpeace: As Jane Goodall once said, ‘What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.’ Unfortunately, you’ve already made a difference, and not in a good way: waterways around the world are now choked with plastic.

Nestlé: “That is why we have been working with governments, NGOs, suppliers, waste managers, retailers as well as other companies to take meaningful actions. [But] The safety and quality of our foods and beverages are non-negotiable.”

Greenpeace: Thanks for saying you will never compromise the health of your consumers – but it’s not healthy for people to live among piles of plastic waste, or for marine creatures. Microplastics have been found in our bodies, in our water and in our food, and scientists are only just beginning to research the implications.

Nestlé: “We are determined to reduce our use of single-use plastics.”

Greenpeace: Okay, well then do it. You could start by being transparent about exactly how much plastic you are producing overall and setting up annual reduction goals.

Nestlé: “We are currently testing reusable ice-cream containers for our Häagen-Dazs brand in the U.S. Dispensers for Nescafé and Milo are already available in many. In early 2020, we will launch new water dispensers, allowing consumers to fill their own reusable bottles.”

Greenpeace: We are happy to hear you are investing in reusable and refillable systems. Now you need to do so on a scale that will actually make a dent in the amount of plastic you are producing.

Nestlé: “You can find out more about what we are doing to tackle the plastic waste problem by visiting: https://www.nestle.com/csv/global-initiatives/zero-environmental-impact/packaging-plastic-pollution”

Greenpeace: We’re disappointed that there’s really nothing new or innovative here. Your current investment in reduction initiatives are really small scale, and there’s nothing in any of your plans so far to keep you from continuing to increase your overall production of products wrapped in single-use packaging. Let’s be honest, shall we?”

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