Q&A with Alkis Kaftetzis
Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Greece
Charakas beach, Southeastern Evoia
1. What excites you most about the #breakfreefromplastic brand audit?
The narrative of everything being the consumer’s fault is very much ingrained in the mind of a lot of people. Big brands are very rarely included in the picture of who is responsible. The brand audit manages exactly to address this very important issue, putting the blame back to the ones who are truly addicted to single-use plastic.
Plastic pollution has an identity and it is branded by the global brands that have flooded our lives and the environment with their plastic packaging. The results of this mind blowing global effort will help the movement change the way plastic pollution is approached. ‘Cleaning up beaches’ is not enough and is tackling the problem superficially. We need more radical solutions and we need the companies to acknowledge this fact.
2. Give us a snapshot of the brand audit you coordinated.
We picked a secluded beach in central Greece, far away from any human activities and open to the Aegean. It is called Charakas, that in Greek means ruler, so jokingly the team said it will provide a good measurement of our wasteful lifestyle and unfortunately the amount of plastic waste we found there was devastating. In two days and with the help of around 100 volunteers, we managed to collect more than 20.000 litters of waste, enough quantity to fill 4 trucks.
While cleaning we also realized that the damage was irreversible. A huge amount of plastic had already broken into tiny pieces that we couldn’t pick up, covering entirely big parts of the sand and becoming part of the ecosystem there. The locals that participated in the clean up effort invited us to visit this beach in a few months, to see that it will be again filled with plastic.
In order to make the problem as visible as possible we carried a truckload of the plastic we collected back to Athens. With it we staged a public brand audit at the central square of the city, exposing the biggest polluters and providing with people a clear image that the oceans need our help.
3. Tell us about your data!
We audited 3000 pieces of plastic, the majority of which were bottles and bottle lids for bottled water and soda drinks. Our champion polluter was Coca Cola, owning a little bit more than 10% of the branded plastic waste. We found a lot of waste from Turkey (around 20%) but also some plastic travellers from India, Ghana and South Africa. Who knows how they ended up in Greece.