The Dirty Dozen Packaging Polluters Exposed 

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

The Dirty Dozen Packaging

Surfers Against Sewage Dirty Dozen 2023 Report 

Every year, Surfers Against Sewage organise an army of volunteers to collect and log litter from hundreds of locations across the UK for their Dirty Dozen Report. Their ambition is to end plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030. 

Surfers Against Sewage’s 2023 Dirty Dozen Report collected over 30,000 polluting items from over 300 different companies. A whopping 70% of all branded pollution could be traced back to just 12 brands. And over half of this packaging waste was the doing of just three companies. Any guesses as to who these might be?

Who are Surfers Against Sewage? 

In 1990, a small group of surfers from Cornwall set up a grassroots movement to keep our beaches and wildlife clean, safe and protected.  

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are now one of the UK’s most active environmental charities. And they’re putting pressure on the Government to introduce an all-in deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles. So, we salute you, dudes! 

Head to their website to get involved in this and their many more environmental campaigns. Or, head to our blog to find out what makes us a Surfers Against Sewage Gold Plastic Free Business Champion!

The Dirty Dozen Report 

The Dirty Dozen annual citizen science audit: 

  1. 1. Collects data on litter 
  1. 2. Records the effect it has on our beaches and green spaces, and… 
  1. 3. Names and shames the worst offenders.  

Unfortunately, year after year, the same companies make an appearance, despite many previous promises to clean up their act. They’re naughty like that! But the SAS have the evidence to bring them to account.  

Who are the Dirty Dozen packaging polluters? 

A shocking 70% of branded packaging pollution came from just twelve companies. We’re sure you’ll recognise most, if not all, of them.

  • – Coca-Cola 
  • – McDonalds 
  • – PepsiCo 
  • – Mondelēz International, Inc
  • – ABInBev
  • – Tesco
  • – Haribo
  • – Nestlé 
  • – Mars
  • – Heineken Holding 
  • – Carlsberg Group 
  • – Red Bull

Head to Surfers Against Sewage website to read the full Dirty Dozen report.

Infographic showing how much plastic pollution is caused by the dirty dozen


For the fourth year running, Coca-Cola has taken the top spot as the worst offender for plastic packaging litter.  

The company is much more than just the famous red bottle, and Surfers Against Sewage’s report digs into all the brands in the Coca-Cola family, which collectively accounted for 17% of branded packaging pollution.  

Many big food and drink brands use confusing language in their marketing to appear environmentally friendly. For example, Coca-Cola claims its bottles are 100% recyclable, but what does that actually mean?  

If these baffling environmental claims are beginning to sound like Klingon, check out our guide on eco-friendly packaging to learn how to avoid greenwashing

Looking for plastic free alternatives to the big-polluting fizzy drink brands? Explore our return and reuse, glass-bottled soft drinks, fruit juices and milkshakes!  

What is a deposit and return scheme? 

A deposit and return scheme (DRS) would mean customers pay upfront for their bottle (deposit), and the money is redeemed when they return it. 

Recycling rates of over 90% are common in the well-designed, all-in DRS schemes already in existence worldwide.  

Modern Milkman is a big advocate for return and reuse – our customers can already return and reuse all our glass bottles without a deposit. Plus, our milkies collect your empties whilst whistling a tune! 

When will we get a deposit and return scheme in the UK? 

The Scottish Government is planning to launch their DRS in 2023. But it’s already behind schedule, and the rest of the UK is lagging with plans to launch a DRS in 2024. 

This could lead to a further 56 billion containers, plastic bottles, metal cans and drinks cans choking the planet.  

Surfers Against Sewage are putting pressure on the Government to introduce an all-in deposit and return scheme as soon as possible. 

It’s not all doom and gloom 

There are lots of ways you can get involved and help to reduce plastic waste

  1. 1. Surfers Against Sewage are calling on the public to contact their local MP and pressure the Government to introduce an all-in deposit and return scheme. Visit the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) website to contact your local MP.  
  1. 2. Return and reuse (deposit-free) with our wide range of fresh and fizzy drinks
  1. 3. Organise your own litter picks to prevent plastic waste from entering our green spaces, waterways and oceans. 

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