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.
Cotton swab sticks – the surprising discovery of our brand audit
This was the second brand audit for Latvia. This year, we selected Daugavgriva, a beach that was identified as the second most contaminated beach in Latvia based on the number of waste units per square meter. After the cleanup, we collected the results and decided that this year, instead of focusing on cans and bottles, where results were similar to the ones from previous years (basically, local beer producers are the ones producing majority of bottles and cans found on the beach), another object deserved our attention–cotton swabs.
In a bit over an hour, we had collected more than 600 of these tiny pieces of plastic, and this result was surprising, as this was not a normal occurrence in other beaches. We discussed our results with the organization doing the beach waste statistics, and they confirmed that one of the reasons why the result of this beach was so high was exactly these swabs. So this was not a specific occasion, but, unfortunately, a normal result in this beach.
This beach is located next to the Daugava’s (the biggest river in Latvia) entrance to the sea, the local wastewater treatment center, and the passenger port. We contacted the local wastewater treatment plant, and they confirmed that cotton swabs are an issue. Many people throw them in the toilets and it is hard to filter them due to their size and weight–they pass through the filters and then flow above the water surface.
As always, cans and bottles are the easiest types of waste to spot on the beaches.
However, some years ago they improved their system, adding additional filters, partly precisely because of the swabs. Two of our biggest television stations asked our opinion on the topic and visited the water treatment center. The video material they provided showed a lot of cotton swabs in the residue produced during purification processes. We are organizing an excursion to this water treatment center in two weeks to learn about their improvements.
We do not know if these swabs come from the ferries, if the river brings them from places where a water treatment system has not solved this problem yet, or if they come from Riga as a result of cases of water treatment system overcharging due to heavy rains. One indication of the source of the sticks might be their color–even if most of them are white, some of them are blue, a color that has not been observed in local shops.
We have received messages from people stating that they did not know that cotton swabs are an issue, and will not throw them in toilets anymore, so this year’s brand audit definitely raised people’s awareness. On the other hand, we are glad to remind people that in 2021 it will not be possible to buy cotton swabs made from plastic in the EU. It will be interesting to see if this law manages to reduce the contamination in the beaches in Daugavgriva and in other EU beaches.
Mairita Luse is a Zero Waste Latvia board member and zero waste activist.
In Dongying city Shangdong Province, about 43 people took part in a brand audit by the lakeside.
In Wuxi city, 15 people took part in a brand audit on the hill.
In Zhongshan city, 79 people took part in a brand audit by the seaside.
In Shishi city Fujiang province, 102 people took part in a brand audit by the seaside.
In Shijiazhuang citiy, about 100 people (including 58 kids) took part in a brand audit on the hill.
In Zhuhai city Guangdong province, 30 people took part in a brand audit under the water.
In Hunan province Pingjiang county, 12 people took part in a brand audit on the hill.
We are PlastiCo. Project from Ecuador! To celebrate the World Cleanup Day this year we activated 15 cleanup sites in four different cities. We had the participation of nearly 600 volunteers that joined this beautiful activity.
This year we collected more than 1700 kg of trash in places that seemed clean at first sight. Volunteers couldn’t help but wonder about the impact of single-use plastic while they were sorting the trash.
For a few hours that we all turned into scientists, we observed in the trash we found how plastic works, how it never really goes away and how it only breaks up into little pieces of plastic that then turn into a huge problem called microplastics.
Also, this World Cleanup Day marks a year since we started doing brand audits in our cleanups. It has been a year of learning a lot about producer responsibility and their involvement in the plastic pollution issue. We feel so excited about doing this in every cleanup since this information is a powerful tool to initiate a conversation with big corporations about possible solutions.
Overall we celebrated this special day by learning, acting, questioning, and connecting with the green community committed to having a positive impact on the planet.
Andrea is an economist, environmentalist, and activist for the rights of nature. From a young age, she has felt passionate about nature, and 3 years ago she started to take action against plastic pollution by creating PlastiCo. Project. She lives a zero-waste lifestyle and started a zero-waste store in Quito for people to learn about new sustainable lifestyle alternatives.
Tanzania ranked 3rd in Africa in terms of mobilization of people during World Cleanup Day 2018, and 10th globally. Roughly 40,000 people came together in one day collecting over 500 tons of trash from public spaces in over 16 regions in the country and gathering data on the waste found in community areas and along the country’s coastline.
Despite the apparent success of the campaign, many people ask us why we continue to organize cleanups when most likely, waste will go back to where it was after a couple of weeks, sometimes even a couple of days. I confess that I used to ask myself the same question when I started working with Nipe Fagio and experiencing the amount of energy taken to organize cleanups when solid waste management in a country like Tanzania requires a much more systematic approach that includes community members, the government, and private sector.
Here are three reasons why World Cleanup Day can help us moving towards long-term sustainable solutions in Tanzania.
First, World Cleanup Day is a solid opportunity to engage and mobilize people. The simplicity of getting people to come together and clean areas that they transit through every day, with their neighbors and family, is powerful and exciting. While we frequently lose people’s attention when we talk about more complex solutions to solid waste management, the same people tend to enjoy spending a couple of hours feeling that they are doing something powerful for their communities.
Secondly, to ensure that the effort put on organizing World Cleanup Day is worth it, we perform waste and brand audits in every cleanup site. Through that we learned that about 75% of the waste found illegally dumped in Tanzania is locally produced, meaning that with enough community pressure, government engagement, and private sector will, we can, actually, solve a great part of our solid waste problem internally. So far, communities, the government, and the private sector have shown great interest in the data collected during our cleanups and we hope that these engagements can lead to concrete actions, especially regarding local packaging replacement.
Waste and brand audits give us a unique opportunity to get people to understand the waste that is commonly found in the country, its origin, and the impact of consumers’ choices. But most importantly, they help us realize the footprint that industries have on the waste management situation as well as their responsibility to be accountable to the communities and to give consumers less harmful choices when it comes to packaging. The culture of cheap single-use packaging under the marketing concept of giving people with low income access to small amounts of products that they can afford has been the one major source of plastic pollution in Tanzania. This has led to the replacement of traditional bulk shops with plastic packaging that can’t be recycled or composted and pollute our rivers and coastline, causing floods and spreading diseases.
Lastly, World Cleanup Day allows us to open people’s eyes to the need of their participation when it comes to ensuring that solid waste management works in their communities. It is an open door to conversations about community-based zero waste models, like the one Nipe Fagio is implementing in three communities in Dar es Salaam, as we prove to people and government that communities are ready to take responsibility over their own waste and therefore decentralized community-owned solutions are possible.
On a personal note, when I moved to Tanzania, nearly 10 years ago, I was surprised by the lack of confidence Tanzanian citizens had in their own capacity to solve the country’s problems. I frequently hear and see people and organizations questioning the power of Tanzanian communities. For me, after 10 years of community-based work in Tanzania, there is nothing that I believe in more than Tanzanians. World Cleanup Day allows me to make this belief visible and to spread the beauty of community mobilization in front of people’s eyes. As we say in Swahili, kwa pamoja tunaweza (together we can make a difference).
Ana Rocha is the Executive Director of Nipe Fagio. Photos by Chris Morgan.
#BrandAudit2019 to highlight the power of citizens in holding corporate plastic polluters accountable
(September 21, 2019) — On World Cleanup Day today, Break Free From Plastic, the global movement working to stop plastic pollution for good, is highlighting the power of citizen action to hold corporate polluters accountable for the plastic pollution crisis.
Through its #BrandAudit2019 initiative, members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement have collectively organized over 700 brand audits in 84 countries to identify the brands responsible for the plastic pollution found in worldwide cleanups and record data to hold those brands accountable. These global coordinated citizen actions started during the last week of August and conclude today in celebration of the World Cleanup Day.
“Every time we do clean ups, we are confronted with the pervasive problem of plastic pollution suffocating the planet. By doing brand audits, we are able to expose and challenge the real drivers of this crisis, especially the companies who keep marketing and selling their products in disposable, throwaway packaging. We can’t keep cleaning up after the mess created by these corporations. They need to be held accountable,” said Emma Priestland, #breakfreefromplastic Corporate Campaign Coordinator.
“Corporations must own up to the plastic pollution that they are causing. These corporations have been inundating the Global South market with single-use products and multilayer small size sachets or packets that, according to them, are pro-poor, but can hardly be recycled. However, these corporations are the ones making profits out of this throwaway packaging, while at the same time polluting developing countries and calling us the world’s biggest polluters,” Daru Rini of Indonesia-based Ecoton.
In the recently held Waste Assessment and Brand Audit in Surabaya River, Indonesia, Ecoton has identified plastic residual wastes such as soiled diapers, sachets or packets, and PET bottles as the biggest percentage of plastic waste. These single-use plastics that can neither be recycled nor composted are the biggest threat to achieving Zero Waste, and are to blame for releasing microplastics into the environment.
Indonesia, along with other Southeast Asian countries, are reeling from the impacts of plastic pollution brought about by the influx of products wrapped in sachets or smaller plastic packaging aimed at reaching lower income brackets in developing countries. However, communities and governments often bear the brunt of managing the disposal of these unrecyclable plastic packaging while multinational corporations’ continued production and use of single-use plastic packaging is escaping scrutiny and accountability.
“Communities around the world have carried the burden of cleaning up the plastic pollution created by corporations for too long. Brand audits transform beach cleanups into something truly powerful—a way to stop plastic pollution at the source by holding corporate polluters accountable. We will only see real change when companies like Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. end their reliance on fossil fuel-based plastic and throwaway packaging,” said Graham Forbes, Greenpeace USA Global Project Leader.
From North and South America to Europe to Africa and Asia, #breakfreefromplastic has mobilized groups and individuals with a common mission to expose branded trash so that corporations can no longer pass the burden to citizens and governments. This year’s brand audit initiative has mobilized a massive number of volunteers in countries like Taiwan (11,000), Colombia (10,000) China (7 coastal cleanups), Benin (1800), Tanzania (1500), Kenya (700), Ecuador (600 volunteers), Ivory Coast (600 volunteers), India (600), Ghana (500 volunteers), the Philippines (500), and over 200 in Malawi, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Brazil as well as many different groups in Nigeria and the Philippines. This year’s number of brand audit actions has tripled compared to last year.
The results of this year’s global brand audits will be revealed and showcased in a report scheduled for release in the coming weeks. Last year, the results were consolidated in a report entitled Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Polluters vol. 1 which revealed that among the world’s most polluting brands are multinational companies Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive.
The top three companies alone (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé) accounted for 14% of the branded plastic pollution found in the six regions where the audits were conducted. These worldwide coordinated brand audits have been putting much pressure on companies to be responsible and accountable for the “branded pollution” that they have been causing. It has also emboldened the Break Free From Plastic movement to issue a Corporate Leadership Challenge in October 2018 and to reinforce its corporate call on the 3Rs: reveal how much plastic goes into markets and environments each year; reduce the amount of plastic produced and packaged; and reinvent how goods are packaged and delivered.//ends
About BFFP – #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,500 non-governmental organizations and individuals 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. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
Notes to Editors:
To view the brand audit toolkit, click here.
To read last year’s Brand Audit report, click here.
Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer (Global+U.S.), Break Free From Plastic
firstname.lastname@example.org | +1 703 400 9986
Matt Franklin, Communications Officer for Europe, Break Free From Plastic
email@example.com | +44 7923 373831
Jed Alegado, Communications Officer for Asia Pacific, Break Free from Plastic
firstname.lastname@example.org | +63 917 607 0248