Green Groups Reveal Top Plastic Polluters Following Massive Beach Cleanup on Freedom Island

Green Groups Reveal Top Plastic Polluters Following Massive Beach Cleanup on Freedom Island

International brands are among the worst oceans polluters—and  green groups under the global #breakfreefromplastic movement are holding them to account. The results from the groups’ eight-day beach cleanup, waste and brand audit on Freedom Island revealed that six international brands are responsible for 53.8% of plastic packaging pollution found in the designated ecotourism area,  which has been  declared  as a critical habitat for migratory birds.

EVIDENCE. Representatives from the organizations that took part in the coastal cleanup and waste and brand audit show some of the products collected from Freedom Island.

The recent audits conducted by Philippine member organizations of the #breakfreefromplastic movement further revealed that zero value plastic packaging used  by Nestlé, Unilever, and Indonesian company PT Torabika Mayora in their various products are the top polluters in the area. Other global companies in the top ten are  Procter and Gamble,  Monde-Nissin, and Colgate-Palmolive. Out of the total waste collected  during the eight-day cleanup, 49.33% are plastic waste. Other types of waste found are diapers and sanitary products, glass, textile, etc.

“The enormous amounts and kinds of plastic trash that we found on Freedom Island dramatically  shows how the planet is drowning in single-use and throwaway plastic packaging—pushed upon us by corporations to maximize their profits,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic Movement. The evidence speaks for itself—it is time for  these companies to own up to their responsibility in spawning the plastic pollution crisis, which is proving to be a pernicious and pervasive global problem” he added.

The #breakfreefromplastic global movement which counts 900 member organizations globally, has launched various coastal cleanup activities in different parts of the world—Europe, North America and the Arctic. In the Philippines, its member organizations started an 8-day coastal cleanup and waste and brand audit in Freedom Island (Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat Ecosystem Area or LPPCHEA) off Manila Bay which culminated on September 20.

“When we throw something away, there is no ‘away’. These global corporations are locking us into cheap, disposable plastics, rather than innovating and finding real solutions,” said Abigail Aguilar, Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines. “For decades, these companies have managed to evade their responsibility for this worsening problem,  leaving  governments and taxpayers with the burden of dealing with the polluting legacy of their product packaging.” Aguilar added.

For his part, Froilan Grate, the Executive Director of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Philippines pointed out that the results are consistent with the results of the waste and brand audits that they have been conducting  in many other cities in the Philippines and other countries. “The companies that pollute our seas are the very same companies that have burdened communities with waste that  can neither be composted nor recycled,” he said.

“Worse,  some of these companies and their partners in government have been focusing on promoting wrong solutions to the waste crisis, particularly the so-called  “waste-to-energy” incineration technologies. Incineration is not the solution. You can’t solve this problem by transforming it into another  toxic  pollution  problem,” Grate explained.

GAIA and Mother Earth Foundation have been conducting waste and brand audit as part of their Zero Waste work in various cities and communities.

“To solve the problem of waste, we must turn to ecological solutions such as Zero Waste,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation.

“In Asia, for example, cities and communities from the Philippines, China, South Korea, and India to name a few, have demonstrated that Zero Waste is a practical and viable solution to our waste problem. But in order for Zero Waste to work at a national scale, we need the government’s political will and support  to have it mainstreamed and  institutionalized,” Mendoza added.

Zero Waste is an ecological resource management and reduction model that involves waste segregation at source, product redesign, and systematic waste collection and management.

For Ecowaste Coalition, a critical part of the solution to stem the tide of plastic pollution in the country is the enactment of a national policy that would discourage if not eliminate the use and proliferation of single use plastics and disposables. “We must address the problem at source. Clean-ups alone will never solve the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. The Philippine government should learn from the recent strong actions taken by the  governments of  Rwanda, Kenya, and France to seriously address the problem by curbing and prohibiting the use of single-use plastics and disposables,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the Ecowaste Coalition.

Member organizations of the #breakfreefromplastic movement involved in the Freedom island  cleanup include EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, Samahan ng mga Nananambakan sa Dumpsite Area,  Samahan ng Muling Pagkabuhay Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and other groups. //ends

#breakfreefromplastic Movement Launches Coastal Cleanup Activities Worldwide, Pushes for Corporate Accountability

#breakfreefromplastic Movement Launches Coastal Cleanup Activities Worldwide, Pushes for Corporate Accountability

Various organizations under the #breakfreefromplastic global movement are launching a series of coastal cleanup activities in Asia, Europe, and North America.


Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and Ecowaste Coalition staff conducting the waste audit. MEF and Ecowaste are #breakfreefromplastic member organizations taking part in the cleanup and waste and brand audit.

Philippines-based member organizations under the #breakfreefromplastic movement begin a 2 week-long coastal cleanup in Manila Bay this week particularly in the Freedom Island (Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat Ecosystem Area or LPPCHEA). An estimated two-hundred participants will work for 10 days to conduct a massive cleanup of this stretch with the aim of pushing for greater accountability for corporations who are mainly responsible for single-use plastics ending up in oceans, roads, and waterways.

“Through the series of beach cleanup activities on Freedom Island and in other parts of the world, we hope to highlight the role of corporations responsible for the manufacture, distribution and proliferation  of  low-value, non-recyclable packaging and the single-use, disposable plastic products that often end up on the beaches and in the oceans. Whether they like it or not, the companies and brands associated with these products are already being associated with plastic pollution,” said  Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.

Fishing communities who live near and around Freedom Island also report that their fishing livelihoods have been dramatically impacted by plastic pollution. Sonny Malubag, once a fisherman and now a director of a local cooperative in the area, decries how plastic pollution has hurt their fishing livelihoods. “I have been a fisherman since 1992. Back then, the garbage problem in our seas was not yet rampant. Now, whenever fishermen cast their nets in Manila Bay, more than half  of what they  catch are plastic cutleries and wrappers,” he said.

In North America, three #breakfreefromplastic member organizations are collaborating to raise awareness about the problem of beach pollution on Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California on September 16. McDonald’s has been reported to be continuously using polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam, a highly polluting form of plastic. To shine a spotlight on styrofoam, collected polystyrene will be sent to California state legislators with a call to ban polystyrene and expanded polystyrene for good!

In Europe, groups in France, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, and Macedonia are also preparing for a series of cleanup activities in the region also with the aim  of influencing the outcome of the Our Oceans conference slated in Malta on October 5-6.

And #breakfreefromplastic makes its debut In the Russian Arctic with a Cleanup event organized by the Slava Foundation on September 27 in the Murmansk Sea.

Jed Alegado
Communications Officer – Asia Pacific
#breakfreefromplastic movement
Sherma Benosa
Communications Officer – Asia Pacific
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)

ABOUT #breakfreefromplastic GLOBAL MOVEMENT

#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 900 non-governmental organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision.

 Members of #breakfreefromplastic in the Philippines


Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace’s goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.


GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration.


EcoWaste Coalition is a Philippine-based public interest network of community, church, school, environmental and health groups pursuing sustainable solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues facing the Philippines and the world.


Health Care Without Harm is an international coalition that works to transform the healthcare sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice.


Mother Earth Foundation is a Philippine organization actively engaged in addressing waste and toxic pollution, climate change, and other health and environmental justice issues. It is best known for its advocacy of Zero Waste through the systematic reduction and proper management of waste.

Other Participating Philippine Organizations



From Bali to Manila Bay to Malta — How The Movement Turned the Tide on Plastic Pollution

From Bali to Manila Bay to Malta — How The Movement Turned the Tide on Plastic Pollution

Waste-to-energy. Zero waste. Incinerators. Words that I have encountered in my almost a month of working for the #breakfreefromplastic (BFFP) movement. These are also concepts which the communications team have been trying to explain to the public through stories, photos, press releases, and blogs.

My baptism of fire for this new position was during the Global Meeting held of the BFFP in Bali last July. A few days after I arrived from Europe, my first order of business was to jump into the plane and attend the meeting with almost a hundred activists from all over the world.

The four days was intense such that I got to know a lot of organizations and people working toward a plastic-free future. Despite the jet lag that I was experiencing that time and being new to the plastic pollution issue, I finished the meeting in Bali in high spirits and inspired and looking forward to working within a movement composed of dedicated people who aspire a more sustainable and equitable future.

Fast forward to the second day of August, together with my colleagues from GAIA, we visited sites of Mother Earth Foundation, a GAIA member in the Philippines wherein community mobilisers showed us around the villages of Potrero and Catmon in Malabon. The city has been known as one of the flood-prone areas in Metro Manila. Further, plastic pollution is a serious problem in rivers along the city.

ZERO WASTE. A Materials Recovery Facility in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

We visited villages in Malabon and saw communities which have relatively been advancing in practicing zero waste at the household level by segregating waste. Trained by Mother Earth Foundation’s community mobilizers, waste pickers are then incorporated into the zero waste program as they routinely check each households’ waste segregation.

It was not that easy at first as residents are not used to segregating waste. However, little by little, I saw how the families living in these villages in Malabon change their practice. The success can also be attributed to the ground work that community organizers of Mother Earth Foundation are doing in coordination with the local village officials.

After visiting Malabon, I got to visit Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City and the city of San Fernando in Pampanga the following week. The city is adjudged as one of the Zero Waste Cities by Mother Earth and GAIA.

For these two sites, it took them only six months to achieve waste diversion – 92% for Fort Bonifacio and 78% for San Fernando. Fort Bonifacio has already been doing it for six years while San Fernando has been doing it for four years.

PLASTIC POLLUTION. The beach in Freedom Island is literally swamped with single use-plastics.

Their success stories are a combination of non-governmental organizations like GAIA and Mother Earth Foundation empowering communities to show that there is a way out of our waste problem particularly plastic pollution and working with local government units (LGUs) in implementing programs. It also takes political will for local leaders particularly city and town mayors to implement policies that are already in place.

My last field visit for BFFP for the month of August was in the Freedom Island in Las Pinas – where a big massive clean up will be held in the middle of the month in celebration of the International Coastal Cleanup Day on September 16.

AFFECTED COMMUNITIES. Fisherfolk like Sonny Malubag decries the decreasing catch because of plastics dumped in our oceans and seas.

As part of our ocular visit, I met Sonny Malubag, a fisherman from Bulungan in Paranaque. Having been a fisherman for more than two decades, he has seen the massive impact of plastic pollution to our marine resources. “I have been a fisherman since 1992. Back then, the garbage problem in our seas is not yet rampant. Now, whenever we go fishing and cast our nets, 60% of what we get are plastic cutleries, and wrappers. People blame us (informal communities) for this problem. But these plastics come from fast food chains. We don’t have the means to eat in these restaurants.”

Fisherfolks like Sonny bear the brunt of improper waste disposal and plastic consumption. BFFP hopes to bring ordinary people’s voices – fisherfolk and waste pickers to international conferences like the upcoming Oceans Conference in Malta in October. These events serve as platform where decisions and policies are being crafted by the world leaders and the voices of ordinary people are heard.

I left Bulungan that day disturbed. I was disturbed because of the realization that plastic pollution is a massive issue and it affects everyone. I used to campaign on food and climate justice issues in another organization. Hence, plastic pollution is something new to me. Looking at the bigger picture, these social problems are in fact interconnected. Going back to the story of Sonny, if fisherfolk like him won’t have enough catch for the day because of plastic pollution, it will directly affect their livelihoods and food security of the community.

Despite the feeling of being disturbed, I also felt inspired. I know that I am in a better place to change the status quo. It’s reassuring to know that I am part of a larger community composed of dedicated activists, enablers and thinkers, who are turning the tide on plastic pollution no matter what the cost is.

Jed Alegado is Regional Communications Officer for Asia Pacific of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.

Zero Waste Revolutionaries

Zero Waste Revolutionaries

Meet the changemakers behind #breakfreefromplastic who are pushing for real solutions

When you think of zero waste, who comes to your mind? Here in the United States, people like Lauren Singer are often front and center. If you aren’t familiar with Lauren, she’s the Brooklynite twenty-something who fit five years worth of trash in a mason jar and recently launched an upscale “package-free” shop. Her efforts may very well be striking a chord with mainstream media, but there’s a massive integral piece of the zero waste movement being overlooked – and it’s happening on the other side of the world.

Meet Tiza Mafira for instance, a super savvy environmental lawyer leading Indonesia’s national plastic bag policy. In collaboration with local organizations and changemakers, she founded Plastic Bag Diet (Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik [GIDKP]) in 2013. In a pilot project, they pushed retailers to reduce single use bags by 55%, which in turn pressured the government to enact a mandatory bag charge going into effect in January 2018. This is no small feat for a country with zero regulation on plastic bags. Once implemented, it will be the most important plastic bag policy to date, given that Indonesia has a population of 220 million people (it’s the fourth most populous country in the world).

And meet Prigi Arisandi and Daru Setyorini from East Java, two zero waste heroes working tirelessly to stop industrial pollution from flowing into Surabaya’s river that provides drinking water to 3 million people. In a recent interview, Daru reported that 3-5 tonnes of waste largely from the US and China are dumped daily, leaching toxins into the river that cause major health implications for locals. Prigi, who grew up in the area decided to take matters into his own hands. In 2011, he founded the Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (Ecoton) and inspired thousands of people to become Surabaya river advocates to prevent illegal dumping. Their River Detection program teaches children in 50 different schools how to monitor river quality and report their findings to the government. Prigi is also a well-deserved recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the highest prizes for environmentalists in the world.

These are just a couple examples of the game-changing faces behind the #breakfreefromplastic movement. Only a few weeks ago, community leaders from over 20 countries, including members from Ecoton and the Plastic Bag Diet joined forces in Bali, Indonesia to strategize ways to cut plastic pollution from our lives. It was incredibly humbling to hear the stories straight from the heroes fighting plastic waste on the front lines of this very serious and prolific global crisis.

Just last week, a new study released data on all the plastics ever made, and the findings are bleak. More than 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since 1950 and over half the plastic ever produced was made over the last 13 years. The growth of single-use plastic in particular, is making a larger and larger impact in places like Southeast Asia with the introduction of sachets. These are low-grade plastic packaging created for consumers who buy small amounts of products that would otherwise be unaffordable. Sachets have no economic value so there is no monetary incentive for waste pickers to clean them up. And because they are incredibly lightweight, they travel far and wide from where they are sold, often circumventing the landfills and ending up in our ocean.

What corporate behemoths like Dow, Exxon, Johnson and Johnson, and Unilever conveniently leave out of their narrative is how burning plastic leads to detrimental health problems for the communities living nearby, frequently low-income people of color. In order to guarantee reducing the amount of plastic entering our lives, they must stop producing it in the first place.

And that’s where the #breakfreefromplastic movement comes in. Given the nature of a global community, our hope is that plastic producers who ban certain items in the US and Europe will no longer continue to quietly manufacture and sell overseas, which is currently “business as usual.”

This movement is rooted in values of human rights and equity, and in this movement, members from the global north are following the leadership, knowledge, and solutions being set forth by leaders from Indonesia, India, Philippines, Malaysia, and China who are pioneering a new zero waste paradigm.

With citizen muscle action on a widespread scale, corporations will no longer be able to operate by the status quo. The #breakfreefromplastic movement is taking a monumental, global stand with a simple yet powerful message: We believe in an abundance of life, not an abundance of plastic. Will you join us?

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