Corporate Leadership Badly Needed to Reverse Plastic Pollution Crisis

Corporate Leadership Badly Needed to Reverse Plastic Pollution Crisis


Bali, Indonesia (October 28, 2018) — On the eve of Our Ocean Conference 2018, the global #breakfreefromplastic movement challenged corporations to  demonstrate real leadership to reverse the plastic pollution crisis instead of making more hollow commitments and empty gestures, which only tend to perpetuate the problem.

“To put an end to the plastic pollution crisis, corporations need to step up with meaningful, game-changing and  authentic measures that would significantly reduce their plastic footprint and move our societies away from the scourge of  single-use, throwaway and problematic plastic packaging,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of #breakfreefromplastic.

Movement leaders asserted that corporations have the ability and resources to solve the problem if they want to, but lamented that no large company has yet had the courage to implement serious plastics reduction policies and institute new delivery systems that do not rely on disposable, throwaway plastic.

A recently published Greenpeace report highlights that plans by 11 of  the world’s biggest fast-moving consumer goods corporations (FMCGs)  actually allow for an indefinite increase in their use of single-use plastics,  with no company planning to put the brakes on the growing production and marketing of single-use plastics.  

The four companies that reported the highest sales of single-use plastic products (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Danone) were also the top four brands identified in a recent global Break Free From Plastic brand audit report following 239 plastic pollution cleanups in 42 countries.

“If we allow these corporations to carry on with business as usual, global plastic production will continue to rise, further aggravating the plastic pollution crisis. We need them to commit to  ambitious plastics use reduction targets. The planet needs real solutions. The time for greenwashing is over,” said Graham Forbes of Greenpeace.

“It is ironic that the  companies whom our brand audits have identified as topnotch polluters are the same companies who typically relish sponsoring beach cleanups. The planet would be better served if they would clean up their acts instead.” said Jane Patton, who coordinated #breakfreefromplastic’s most recent brand audits.

For her part, Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of the Rethink Plastic alliance said, “this week, the European Parliament has shown that it is possible to take strong legislative action on plastic pollution. As governments start taking responsibility for resolving this crisis, so too must corporations! Given the scale of the problem, we can no longer rely on voluntary and arbitrary  targets coming from corporations.”

Warning of false solutions promoted by companies to greenwash their image and wash their hands of responsibility for the crisis, the global movement issued a Leadership Challenge to fast-moving consumer companies, which includes demands to:

  • Reduce (their) single-use plastic production and usage with a clear action plan and timeline and transparently reporting  on their plastic footprint ;
  • Invest in alternative product delivery systems, while disincentivising single-use, throwaway packaging;
  • Reject false and unproven solutions like thermal waste-to-energy incineration, plastic to fuel schemes, chemical recycling and other regrettable replacements;
  • Collaborate with retailers, governments and NGOs to create scalable solutions to plastic pollution – including support for ambitious legislation that rewards plastics reduction and penalizes plastics overuse.

According to the World Economic Forum, up to 12 million tonnes of plastic, often single-use items including packaging,  enter the sea from land every year. With plastic production expected to increase by 40% in the next decade, making it almost impossible for waste management and recycling schemes to keep up.

Multinational consumer brands have been flooding Asian countries with single-use plastic packaging, despite knowing that the resulting waste will inevitably  pollute these terrestrial and marine environments in the region,

“Despite the best efforts of our kelurahan (villages) to compost and recycle as much as they can, we are still left with waste that are beyond our capacity to manage. We call on companies to eliminate or redesign these problematic products and packaging and for the Indonesian government to ban straws, plastic bags, styrofoam, sachet, and microbeads,” Yuyun Ismawati from Alliance Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) emphasized.

Groups belonging to AZWI have been demonstrating zero waste solutions for  communities across Indonesia, with a focus on waste prevention, segregation and composting.

The annual Our Ocean Conference brings together representatives of governments, civil society, science, finance and businesses from around the world to discuss ocean protection and pledge commitments. //ends


Break Free From Plastic is a global movement of more than 1,400 member groups and thousands of individuals united around a common goal: to bring systemic change through a holistic approach that tackles plastic pollution across the entire plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure and on providing effective solutions.

Contact: Jed Alegado

             #breakfreefromplastic Asia Pacific Communications Officer



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Brand Audit Q+A with Alkis Kaftetzis, Greenpeace Greece

Brand Audit Q+A with Alkis Kaftetzis, Greenpeace Greece

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.

Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit Greece

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.


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Branded Pollution

Branded Pollution

Plastic is pollution the minute it is made! At first, such a provocative statement may seem too outrageous, given the various applications of plastic that we have been used to in our daily lives. The record, however, shows that of  all the plastic ever produced and widely deployed in commerce by companies especially as packaging for their products, only 9% has actually been recycled, with the rest getting burned, disposed of in landfills or dumpsites, or otherwise ending up in nature or polluting our oceans. It is simply insane to be producing all this pollution that nature cannot absorb. Worse, a report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) published last year states that plastic production is slated to increase by nearly 40% over the next 10 years.

Should we therefore be  surprised that our oceans are now brimming  with plastic pollution? That we are finding evidence of  plastic contamination everywherein our drinking water, in our sugar, in sea salt, in beer and honey, and in our bodies?

Beach Clean Up Activity in Bali

Greenpeace volunteers collect and audit plastic garbage during the International Coastal Cleanup Day in Mertasari beach, Sanur, Bali. Greenpeace Indonesia is holding the same activity in other two locations in Indonesia: Tangerang and Yogyakarta, as part of the #BreakFreeFromPlastic global movement to reduce single use plastic products usage.

Unless companies move away from their  reliance on fossil-fuel based plastic for their products, we are looking at a climate-challenged  future awashed in plastic pollution with untold repercussions on human health and life on the planet as we know it.

#breakfreefromplastic, our movement composed of more than 1300 organizations worldwide working to turn the tide on plastic pollution, has been calling on companies to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the problematic and unnecessary  plastic packaging that often comes with their products.

From August to September this year, various #breakfreefromplastic member organizations mobilized and organized cleanups and audits to identify the top companies whose products rely on single-use plastic packaging that pollute our oceans and waterways worldwide.


Teachers and students from Tinajeros National High School, Malabon conduct a Brand Audit in the International Coastal Cleanup Day, Manila Bay, Philippines.

This massive citizen action against big corporate plastic polluters have yielded the following numbers: 187,851 pieces of plastic trash collected in 239 cleanups and audits in 42 countries across 6 continents.

While our  brand audits do not provide a complete or definitive  picture of the plastic pollution footprints of companies, they provide an evidence-based  snapshot or indication of the most visible plastic polluters that people are finding in the beaches, parks, and in their own localities.

The results of this latest set of brand audits are featured in our consolidated report  Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Polluters vol. 1 and they reveal that among the  world’s most prolific and polluting brands are multinational companies namely Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive.

In fact, 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 same companies whose products are often packaged in throwaway, non-recyclable plastic are the same companies that have been exposed in our earlier brand audits in Southeast Asia and India. Their marketing and packaging decisions  have burdened communities and local governments with waste materials that can neither be composted or recycled. These companies are aware that most developing countries lack the resources and wherewithal to handle problematic types of plastic waste in their systems. Yet they continue to churn out the stuff along with their products, flooding markets in the global South, hoping that millennials will continue to be mesmerized by the promise of convenience that throw-away plastic represents.

Instead of investing in alternative delivery systems, product redesign, or materials that avoid the problems associated with plastics to begin with, the same companies continue to push for quick fixes or controversial methods of recycling (mostly downcycling) and/or  waste recovery (aka incineration) to promote business as usual and justify the continuing production of plastics.

These are neither viable nor sustainable solutions, inasmuch as they only deepen our dependence on fossil fuels and reinforce the throw-away mentality. The real solutions lie in measures  and policies that will reduce, if not eliminate, the use of problematic and throw-away plastic packaging for products. This is the real innovation challenge that companies urgently need to take on.

Our brand audits offer undeniable proof of the role that corporations play in perpetuating the global plastic pollution crisis. By continuing to churn out problematic plastic packaging for their products, these companies are guilty of trashing the planet on a massive scale. It’s time they own up to their major role in plastic pollution and stop shifting the blame to citizens and cities for their wasteful and polluting products.


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Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé found to be worst plastic polluters worldwide in global cleanups and brand audits

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé found to be worst plastic polluters worldwide in global cleanups and brand audits

For Immediate Release

Manila, Philippines (October 9, 2018) — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé were the most frequent companies identified in 239 cleanups and brand audits spanning 42 countries and six continents, the Break Free From Plastic movement announced today. Over 187,000 pieces of plastic trash were audited, identifying thousands of brands whose packaging relies on the single-use plastics that pollute our oceans and waterways globally. Coca-Cola was the top polluter in the global audit, with Coke-branded plastic pollution found in 40 of the 42 participating countries. This brand audit effort is the most comprehensive snapshot of the worst plastic polluting companies around the world.

“These brand audits offer undeniable proof of the role that corporations play in perpetuating the global plastic pollution crisis,” said Global Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic Von Hernandez. “By continuing to churn out problematic and unrecyclable throwaway plastic packaging for their products, these companies are guilty of trashing the planet on a massive scale. It’s time they own up and stop shifting the blame to citizens for their wasteful and polluting products.”

The audits, led by Break Free From Plastic member organizations[1], found that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive were the most frequent multinational brands collected in cleanups, in that order. This ranking of multinational companies included only brands that were found in at least ten of the 42 participating countries. Overall, polystyrene, which is not recyclable in most locations, was the most common type of plastic found, followed closely by PET, a material used in bottles, containers, and other packaging.

The top polluters in Asia, according to the analysis, were Coca-Cola, Perfetti van Melle, and Mondelez International brands. These brands accounted for 30 percent of all branded plastic pollution counted by volunteers across Asia. This year’s brand audits throughout Asia build upon a week-long cleanup and audit at the Philippines’ Freedom Island in 2017, which found Nestlé and Unilever to be the top polluters.

“We pay the price for multinational companies’ reliance on cheap throwaway plastic,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines Campaigner Abigail Aguilar. “We are the ones forced to clean up their plastic pollution in our streets and waterways. In the Philippines, we can clean entire beaches and the next day they are just as polluted with plastics. Through brand audits, we can name some of the worst polluters and demand that they stop producing plastic to begin with.”

In North and South America, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé brands were the top polluters identified, accounting for 64 and 70 percent of all the branded plastic pollution, respectively.

“In Latin America, brand audits put responsibility on the companies that produce useless plastics and the governments that allow corporations to place the burden, from extraction to disposal, in mostly vulnerable and poor communities,” said GAIA Coordinator for Latin America Magdalena Donoso. “BFFP members in Latin America are exposing this crisis  and promoting zero waste strategies in connection with our communities.”

In Europe, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé brands were again the top identified polluters, accounting for 45 percent of the plastic pollution found in the audits there. In Australia, 7-Eleven, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s brands were the top polluters identified, accounting for 82 percent of the plastic pollution found. And finally, in Africa, ASAS Group, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble brands were the top brands collected, accounting for 74 percent of the plastic pollution there.

“These brand audits are putting responsibility back where it belongs, with the corporations producing endless amounts of plastics that end up in the Indian Ocean,” said Griffins Ochieng, Programmes Coordinator for the Centre for Environment Justice and Development in Kenya. “We held cleanups and brand audits in two locations in Kenya to identify the worst corporate polluters in the region and hold them accountable. It is more urgent than ever, for the sake of communities that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, health and well-being, to break free from plastic.

Break Free From Plastic is calling on corporations reduce their use of single-use plastic, redesign delivery systems to minimize or eliminate packaging, and take responsibility for the plastic pollution they are pumping into already strained waste management systems and the environment.

While the brand audits do not provide a complete picture of companies’ plastic pollution footprints, they are the best indication to date of the worst plastic polluters globally. The Break Free From Plastic movement is urging companies to end their reliance on single-use plastics, prioritizing innovation and alternative delivery systems for products. ENDS


For the entire set of results, please find Break Free From Plastic’s brand audit report here:

[1] Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,300 groups 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.

Photo and video:

For photo and video from brand audits around the world, click here:


Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, P: +1 301 675 8766,

Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic Senior Communications Officer, P: +1 703 400 9986,

Claire Arkin, GAIA Campaign and Communications Associate, P: +1 510-883-9490,

Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours),


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UMD students join #breakfreefromplastic

UMD students join #breakfreefromplastic

by The Standard-Times

DARTMOUTH — UMass Dartmouth PIRG students joined Break Free From Plastic, the global movement working to stop plastic pollution, in taking coastal and neighborhood cleanups a step further by naming the brands most responsible for the plastic pollution, according to a news release.

From Sept. 9-15, groups under the #breakfreefromplastic banner have collectively organized more than 150 cleanups in 46 countries to incorporate data on corporate plastic pollution found in communities across the world.

“Small cleanups around campus are important to spark even bigger change beyond. Spreading awareness about environmental issues is always crucial no matter how you do it or when,” said Caroline Quirk, a freshmen sustainability major and first-time volunteer with UMD’s MASSPIRG chapter, in a statement.

UMD students found over 35 bottles of water, a third of which were from Néstlé, a dozen beer cans from corporations like Coors and Twisted Tea, and hundreds of articles of trash with common brands like polystyrene containers from Dunkin’ Donuts and plastic bags littering campus, according to the release.

“Brand audits are about creating corporate accountability for the plastic pollution that litters our oceans, waterways, and communities,” said Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Project Leader at Greenpeace, in a statement.

To view the brand audit toolkit, click here.


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Clean up the beach… and improve brand image!

Clean up the beach… and improve brand image!

This article was written by Zero Waste France Director, Flore Berlingen and was kindly translated by a Zero Waste France volunteer.

A large-scale operation of abandoned waste collection is set to take place next Saturday, September 15 on World CleanUp Day. On this special occasion, Zero Waste France prepared a series of four articles to gain perspective and understand the various dangers associated with what is sometimes designated as “wild waste”.

Waste collection on beaches and other natural areas is a practice that emerged a long time ago. It is at the heart of the charter of numerous national and European foundations – such as Surfrider Foundation established in 1990 – and regional and local organizations as well – like Mer-Terre established in 2000 in the French PACA region – notably because it associates awareness-raising with information and action on the field.

Personal initiatives – oftentimes spreading with the help of social media (see Run Eco Team) – have recently been able to revive the momentum and attract a new audience, beyond environmental activists. “Salutary action or fake activism?” the media asks, in the face of the enthusiasm triggered by these initiatives. Zero Waste France is particularly sceptical regarding the role played by sponsors and supporters of some of these projects.

Let’s take TIRU group – a subsidiary of Dalkia and EDF group – who decided to provide support to the Run Eco Team project through the creation of a mobile application designed to motivate the “ploggers” (i.e. joggers who collect abandoned waste as they run) by measuring the energy that could be generated by burning the collected items. Now it is easy to understand TIRU’s motives in advertising waste incineration here, since it is their main activity. However the message sent is in absolute contradiction with every awareness-raising campaign relating to waste reduction, sorting and recycling! Similarly, Plastic Odyssey has been delivering a quite discouraging and inaccurate discourse on alternatives: “Change our consumption patterns, stop the use of packaged products, and choose sustainable alternatives (bioplastics, edible packaging). All these transformations are necessary but require a lot of time.” These comments instantly weigh less if we pay attention to the main partners of the project (among which we find Veolia) and its purpose: “to demonstrate the value of plastic waste as a resource” notably through the development of a plastic pyrolysis technology.

The interest of companies in volunteer pickups is not new either – “clean up nature!” operations of Leclerc Centres started in 1997 – but it lately grew with the media coverage of the crisis of ocean plastic pollution. Some brands do not hesitate to make it a cornerstone of their CSR strategy and show it to the world: Procter & Gamble welcomed in 2017 the participation of “thousands of volunteers” in the collection of waste on beaches for the manufacture of a limited series of partially recycled (25% only) plastic shampoo bottles. A short-lived operation, limited to France, accompanied by additional costs for consumers… yet rewarded by the United Nations.

The giant Henkel also recently spoke about its commitment to the work of volunteers on the Danube river, while Coca-Cola called for “Litter heroes” with Keep Britain Tidy, alongside MacDonalds, KFC and many other food and distribution brands.

Of course large retailers responsible for the placing on the market of disposable products and packaging should participate in the financing of waste management resulting therefrom. However, their influence on public awareness campaigns can lead to a huge pitfall: that of suggesting that the ubiquitousness of plastics in our environment is only the result of mismanagement and incivility and can therefore be solved without ever questioning the reign of disposable items.

This featured image for this article is by Øyvind Holmstad and is licensed as (CC BY-SA 4.0).

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