“This was an opportunity to be a part of change in the world. Fighting against the plastic monster has been my main focus for over ten years. Plastics are one of the biggest threats to the planet.” – Camy Mathlouthi, founder of Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte movement
According to this 2018 WWF report, the global cost of ocean plastic pollution is approximately $13 billion USD per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems. This includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism, two sectors which provide many jobs in my country of Tunisia on the southern Meditteranean coast.
Today, the Meditteranean is one of the seas with the highest concentrations of plastic pollution in the world, with plastic accounting for 95% of the waste in its open sea, on its seabed and on its beaches (WWF 2018). Much of this waste washes up on our beaches in Tunisia, but this plastic comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France (WWF 2018).
Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte – “For a Clean and Green Tunisia” – is a movement trying to spread the word by engaging students and youth to be environmental stewards. We accomplished many beach cleanups, workshops and continue to work as hard as we can to reach people in all areas of Tunisia.
Break Free From Plastic provides a real vehicle to attack this huge problem. The 2019 Brand Audit helps to accurately identify the big corporate polluters through citizen science. As environmental activists and citizens of the world, we are committed to influence these big corporate polluters to change the packaging of their products. This is the most efficient way to reduce plastic pollution all over the world. It is our duty to our environment, for our children, and for our grandchildren.
On World Cleanup Day 2019, we conducted our own brand audit for the first time. We explained the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit initiative to our volunteers, and all of our crew was motivated and committed to following the BFFP brand audit methodology. At the end of the clean up, people told me that they “feel so good helping our nature.” The neighborhood locals in the neighborhood of Ezzahra (where we conducted our cleanup and brand audit) were very grateful as well, telling us “Thanks folks! Nice mission for the country and the planet!”
As a teacher, it is my personal mission to make the new generation aware of the dangers that threaten our planet. Plastics cause major damage to the Mediterranean. As a mother and grandmother, it is my responsibility to participate, protect and care about the next generation. Our Mediterranean is worth it.
Young people are integral in catalyzing positive change in grassroots movements. In the effort to push for a #BreakFreeFromPlastic, college students are making big moves – and winning! Hear from one of the student organizers who recently succeeded in pushing Eckerd College in Florida to ditch single-use plastics, and learn how you can follow their lead. (Hint: brand audits help!)
In September 2018, the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) together with Student PIRGs released a detailed #BreakFreeFromPlastic Campus Pledge and accompanying toolkit to support colleges and universities in transitioning toward a long-term elimination of all unnecessary single-use plastics. In just over one year, student organizers successfully pushed two U.S. campuses to sign the pledge to go plastic-free. In July 2019, College of the Atlantic in Maine became the first U.S. college to sign the pledge, committing to eliminate all single-use plastics from their campus by 2025. They were soon followed by Eckerd College, which will be the first U.S. college to enact the pledge. Starting January 2020, this Florida liberal arts college will no longer purchase most non-essential single-use plastics using college funds.
Originally inspired by PLAN’s #BFFP campaign and seeded by Will and Alexandria, two students affiliated with Florida’s Student PIRG network, the initiative was quickly brought to Eckerd College’s Reduce Single-Use program to join forces. Over the course of many months, organizers from PLAN, Student PIRGs, and the Reduce Single-Use Project worked together to get this pledge signed.
“This was a huge time commitment,” said Alexandria, “especially on top of school and everything that comes with being a student, but this is something I am completely dedicated to so it was absolutely worth it.”
Her hard work paid off! Thanks to this collaboration with Florida Student PIRGs and PLAN’s #BFFP campaign, Eckerd College’s students have led the way to a comprehensive elimination of single-use plastics through academic courses, infrastructure changes, and campus-wide purchasing guidelines.
Alexandria Gordon is Eckerd College’s BFFP Campaign Coordinator, working with FLOPIRG and PLAN to push Eckerd College towards these institutional changes on campus. One of the ways she has been working on this is through brand audits! For #BreakFreeFromPlastic’s 2019 global brand audit, Eckerd students picked up and audited just under 400 pounds of waste.
“It is always so interesting and rewarding to see the biggest polluters on campus. The two biggest brands that were shocking to me were Coca-Cola and Mars… I truly believe that brand audits are a powerful way to begin making change and love being a part of that process,” Alexandria said.
Originally from Houston, Texas, this sophomore is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Political Science. After graduation, she hopes to continue doing environmental organizing/environmental justice work – look out world!
Inspired by Alexandria to push your college campus to go plastic-free? Great news, there are so many resources to help you get started! Break Free From Plastic just launched a brand new Plastic-Free Campuses website. Start there by signing up to join the network! You can also check out the Plastic-Free Campus Manual, developed by PLAN with support from the Plastic Pollution Coalition. PLAN’s website has a series of resources for colleges and universities such as campus toolkits, zero waste assessment frameworks, student summits, leadership trainings, and more.
And finally, some words of advice from Alexandria for other college students getting started.
“At the beginning of this process, I definitely wish I would have known to work with, use, and trust my surroundings. This is my biggest piece of advice to other college students! There was no way I could’ve gotten this pledge signed this quickly and efficiently if I was only working by myself. Instead, I used the resources from PIRG, PLAN, and our Reduce Single Use Project (funded out of the NOAA Marine Debris Program) to push this initiative further. It helped monumentally to be involved with an organization like PIRG from the get-go, so if you have the opportunity to learn from other professionals in this area, take it! It is also so important for other college students and anyone doing this work to always remember and remind ourselves of our why. At times work like this can seem endless and maybe even impossible. For me, when times got really difficult and I was extremely stressed out and just not sure where this would go, I reminded myself of why I am doing this in the first place. That always without fail encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, and push for the outcome I wanted. Good luck to anyone else looking to working on a similar project!”
Dear Coca Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever,
On World Clean Up Day 2019, over 70,000 people went out into their communities to clean up plastic pollution and collect data on the brands they found. After analysing the results of 484 brand audit events in over 50 countries, you have been found to be the top 5 global plastic polluters, most of you for the second year.
Once again, the efforts of thousands of people around the world have shown that your products are those found in the environment in the greatest quantities, in most countries. Despite the urgent need for action, the focus from your companies is currently on false solutions such as shifting to other disposable materials, claiming your products are 100% recyclable, or by
embracing chemical recycling, none of which will solve the crisis we currently face.
The signatories to this letter are calling on you to change how you design and deliver your products, away from your reliance on single-use plastic. We believe that as the top global plastic polluters, it is your responsibility to lead the way in redesigning packaging to be refillable and reusable. It is time to take responsibility for the harm caused by the single-use plastic you are
pushing on society. We ask that you urgently address plastic pollution by working to change your products along the
– Reveal: Publicly declare how many units of single-use plastic you produce per year per country.
– Reduce: commit to dramatically reducing the number of single-use plastic products and packaging you make and use with a clearly defined, publicly available action plan working towards measurable results.
– Reinvent: radically rethink how you deliver products to your customers so that you no longer rely on single-use plastic, with a focus on reusable and refillable packaging systems.
The signatories to this letter wish to stress that any commitments that do not meet the above criteria will not be adequate to address the plastic pollution crisis. Only a wholesale shift away from single-use packaging will change your status as the world’s top plastic polluters.
7th Generation Advisors
Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance
Association 3 Hérissons
Bio Vision Africa (BIVA)
Break Free from Plastic
Bundesverband Meeresmüll e.V./German Marine Litter Association
bye bye plastic bags
Californians Against Waste
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Coalfield Justice
Center for Environmental Solutions
Center for International Environmental Law
Centre for Environmental Justice
Centre for Zero Waste & Development
CESTA Friends of the Earth El Salvador
CIRCULAR THINKING PROJECT
Citizen consumer and civic Action Group
Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO)
European Environmental Bureau
GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives)
Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation
Green Africa Youth Organization
Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement
Inland Ocean Coalition
Judith Enck, Founder, Beyond Plastics
Korea Federation for Environmental Movement(KFEM/FoE Korea)
Marine Conservation Society
War on Waste Negros Oriental
Mind the Store campaign
Mother Earth Foundation
New Zealand Product Stewardship Council
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Pipeline Safety Coalition
Plastic Free Seas
Plastic Pollution Coalition
Plastic Soup Foundation
Polish Zero Waste Association
Post-Landfill Action Network
Rio Grande International Study Center
San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper
Society for Earth
Student Public Interest Research Groups
Taiwan Zero Waste Alliance
Texas Campaign for the Environment
The 5 Gyres Institute
The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE)
The Green Earth
The Last Plastic Straw
The Story of Stuff Project
Turtle Island Restoration Network
VšĮ Žiedinė ekonomika
War on Waste Negros Oriental
Wen (Women’s Environmental Network)
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan
Youzhu Lin from FON
Zelena akcija / FoE Croatia
ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System
Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine
Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste France
Zero waste Tunisia
Zero Waste Villages
-See Branded Vol ii: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters for background, methodology, data analysis and locations of brand audits https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2019/
-See Branded Vol i: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters for the 2018 results https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2018/
-See report by Greenpeace for more information https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/24580/greenpeace-plastics-false-solutioreport-exposes-how-multinationals-are-pretending-to-solve-the-plastic-crisis/
October 23, 2019
Manila, Philippines – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the top 3 most identified companies in global brand audits for the second year in a row, according to a new report “BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.”
Four hundred and eighty-four cleanups in over 50 countries and 6 continents, organised by the Break Free From Plastic movement in September, identified the top polluting companies. The rest of the companies rounding out the top 10 polluters are Mondelēz International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle.
“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created. Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment. Recycling is not going to solve this problem. Break Free From Plastic’s nearly 1,800 member organizations are calling on corporations to urgently reduce their production of single-use plastic and find innovative solutions focused on alternative delivery systems that do not create pollution,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement.
This year’s most frequently identified companies in the brand audits – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo – have offered mostly false solutions to the plastics crisis, underscoring how important it is for voices from beyond the consumer goods sector to demand accountability and call for an end to single-use plastics. The list of top polluters is again filled with some of the world’s most commonly known brands.
“Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis unfortunately continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system. These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future,” said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia plastic campaign coordinator.
“The products and packaging that brands like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are churning out is turning our recycling system into garbage. China has effectively banned the import of the US and other exporting countries’ ‘recycling,’ and other countries are following suit. Plastic is being burned in incinerators across the world, exposing communities to toxic pollution. We must continue to expose these real culprits of our plastic and recycling crisis,” said Denise Patel, US Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
- This report is published under the responsibility of Greenpeace Philippines
- BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters. (2019)
- 2018 Brand audit report: Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters, volume 1 (2018)
- A Greenpeace USA report titled Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have It Wrong on Plastic Pollution “Solutions,” recently called out companies for opting for false solutions.
Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic Senior Communications Officer [Global/US]: firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 703 400 9986
Jed Alegado, Break Free From Plastic Asia Pacific Communications Officer: email@example.com, +63 917 607 0248
Matt Franklin, Break Free From Plastic European Communications Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 792 337 3831
The brand audits were the collective effort of a coalition of 1101st Army Reserved Group, Sarangani Divers, Brgy. Almendras and SMSP Batch 80’s Advocacy for Environmental and Cultural Preservation, Inc. from Davao del Sur, Philippines
I coordinated with a dive buddy in General Santos City, Philippines for an underwater clean-up and introduced him and his team to #breakfreefromplastic and #BrandAudit2019.
After two meetings and few calls, we were able to get the management of London Beach Resort on board, who provided us with a space for brand auditing and even treated the volunteers to a sumptuous lunch. Sarangani Divers led the underwater clean-up with volunteer divers from the Philippine National Police, Mindanao State University, and Sox Divers. The local news station, ABS-CBN covered the event.
We conducted two dives on that day in poor visibility conditions, as silt was stirred up while picking up the trash. In spite of these conditions, we were able to collect around 40 bags of trash and audited 73 brands. The biggest percentage of trash collected was unnamed plastic cups, followed by Coke products and fishing lines.
Simultaneously, Barangay Almendras in Padada, Davao del Sur, mobilized by their active Chairman, also organized a clean-up on land. Volunteers went out and picked up trash along the streets and deposited the collection at the Barangay Hall for brand auditing.
23 September 2019
We started the brand audit of the trash collected by Barangay Almendras residents at 8:00am and finished around 3:30pm. The top three audited polluters using single-use plastics are Maxx Candy, Wings Detergent, and Hansel Biscuit respectively.
A view of the shoreline at Cherry Beach. A volunteer from a past cleanup bends down to pick up litter on the beach. Photo by Chelsea Brash.
On September 21st, 20 million people across 180 countries celebrated World Cleanup Day. Litter cleanups are nothing new to our non-profit, A Greener Future. Each year, we do 100 cleanups along the shores of Lake Ontario. We collect data on everything we find. This way, we get a clearer idea of what the “problem” items are, and can come up with informed solutions to reduce waste. To date, we have picked up more than 1.4 million pieces of litter.
For World Cleanup Day, we took our data collection a step further and conducted a Brand Audit, on behalf of Break Free From Plastic. This way, we could see exactly which companies were responsible for producing some of the litter that is ending up on our shoreline.
A litter picker rests on top of a bucket used to collect litter. In the bucket, a branded Starbucks coffee sleeve is visible. Photo by Chelsea Brash.
With a small but mighty group of nine volunteers, we cleaned up Cherry Beach in Toronto, Ontario. Cherry Beach is a popular area, where people go to swim, have summer barbeques, walk along the lakefront, and bring their dogs to the off-leash park. The beach also hosts weekly parties in the summer. It’s a fun place for anyone to enjoy, but as you might imagine, it also attracts a lot of litter.
We split our group into two and went in different directions. Some of us went and checked closer to where the waves were coming in, to see if any small pieces of plastic or styrofoam had washed up. Others went to the picnic areas, to see if any garbage had been left behind.
Two volunteers found a large pile of takeout containers, plastic bottles, and grocery bags that had likely been left behind from a picnic.
A volunteer grabs a plastic bottle from a pile of litter using a litter picker. Photo by Chelsea Brash.
In total, we picked up 1,794 pieces of litter in an hour. It’s pretty astonishing because at first glance, one of our volunteers mentioned how clean the beach looked. She was right – it did look clean, until we started looking closer.
When we collected the data, we counted the totals for each item found, and took note of every branded item. We categorized our data to show the top ten brands we found, as well as the top 10 items we found (with foam pieces and hygiene items tied for 10th place).
The most commonly found item at this cleanup was cigarette butts. Belmont was the most commonly found brand, followed by Pall Mall, another cigarette company. We also found several branded beer bottle caps, as well as coffee cups and straws from fast food giants like McDonald’s and Tim Hortons.
Litter picked up at Cherry Beach by two volunteers. Photo by Chelsea Brash.
In our experience, we’ve found that when people see recognizable brands littering the natural spaces they love, it forces them to think about their own consumption habits. At the end of each cleanup, we regroup with volunteers and discuss ways the litter we found could have been properly disposed of, or how it could have been avoided in the first place.
For example, now that we know that cigarette butts are a big problem at Cherry Beach, we could suggest implementing more ashtrays, or that people carry around pocket ashtrays with them instead of throwing their butts on the ground. We also noticed litter from fast food restaurants. Customers could bring their own reusable coffee mug to their favourite takeout place, or could bring food from home to the beach in reusable containers to avoid using any disposable items in the first place.
Overall, data is an important tool we use when we teach people about waste in Lake Ontario. By being able to show exactly what items are ending up in the lake, and which companies are responsible for producing it, we will be better able to come up with solutions to keep litter out of the natural environment.
Chelsea Brash is the Communications Coordinator for A Greener Future, and is a Toronto-based Creative who specializes in creating visual content for environmental initiatives.