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Green groups to Nestlé: “Own up, pay up, clean up your act!”

Green groups to Nestlé: “Own up, pay up, clean up your act!”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MANILA, Philippines (April 10, 2019) A day before Nestlé’s Annual General Meeting, over a hundred activists belonging to the global #breakfreefromplastic movement trooped to Nestlé’s Philippine headquarters today to demand accountability for their role in abetting the country’s  plastic pollution crisis.

Accompanied by four higantes (giant mascots) carrying a serpent-like plastic monster, the groups delivered a demand letter and “invoice from the Filipino people” outlining the costs of Nestlé’s single-use plastic packaging to human health impacts, environmental pollution, death of wildlife, damage to livelihoods and businesses, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management costs.

“For the longest time, companies like Nestlé have been passing  on the costs and impacts of their plastic pollution to our people, communities, and environment. Their continuing reliance on single-use plastics for packaging their products has brought on terrible consequences  for nature, marked by polluted beaches and suffering wildlife, not to mention potentially serious effects on our health,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chair of Mother Earth Foundation.

The Philippines, 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 plastic packaging while multinational corporations’ continued production and use of single-use plastic packaging have been escaping scrutiny and accountability.

In brand audits conducted in coastal areas, as well as in cities and municipalities throughout the country, Nestlé’s throwaway plastic packaging outnumbered the amount of packaging from other manufacturers. In a five-year household waste assessment and brand audits conducted in seven cities and municipalities by MEF, Nestlé was found to be the top household plastic polluter, with Nestlé-branded packaging trash accounting  for almost 15% of the total branded residual waste audited.

Further, waste and brand audits conducted in six Philippine and Indonesian hospitals in 2018 also found Nestle (along with Monde Nissin and Danone) as one of the top three biggest single-use plastic waste producers. Finally, in September 2017, #breakfreefromplastic member organizations in the Philippines conducted an unprecedented  eight-day coastal cleanup, waste and brand audit on Freedom Island, a critical habitat for migratory birds off Manila Bay. The audit identified the top brands found to be polluting the island. Multinational corporations like Nestle led the top corporate plastic polluters ranking.

“It is totally unjust that Nestlé is passing the burden for managing what is essentially an unmanageable waste problem on our  local governments and citizens. Why should taxpayers assume the pollution legacy of a multi-billion dollar company? Our government should start charging Nestlé and similar companies for their share of our waste management costs. Our taxes should be used to support educational, health and other social services for Filipinos, and not to cover up the pollution footprint of multinational companies,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the Ecowaste Coalition.

In a briefing paper released today, the groups have estimated that  the cost for the management of residual wastes (which is mostly single-use plastics) is around PHP 5.8 to 7.2 million per day, or around PHP 2.1 to 2.6 billion per year.

“Corporations like Nestlé must redesign their production and start investing in alternative packaging materials and delivery systems that are ecologically sustainable for the people and the planet. We also want to see clear targets and timelines from the company on how they intend to reduce their plastic footprint. It is lamentable that instead of prioritizing reduction measures, the company is still fixated in promoting false and controversial solutions like chemical recycling and pyrolysis to respond to this crisis. The time for greenwashing is over, Nestlé, it’s time to clean up your act!” added Beau Baconguis, Regional Plastics Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Asia-Pacific coordinator of #breakfreefromplastic.

“We are here today because we have had enough. Nestlé claims to care about its plastic pollution, but has actually continued to increase its reliance on throwaway plastics. In 2018, the company produced 1.7 million metric tons of plastic packaging, which is a 13 percent increase from the 1.5 million metric tons they produced in 2017. While they claim to be taking this crisis seriously, their actions are not backing that up. As a major contributor to plastic pollution, Nestlé must take immediate action to reduce its production of throwaway packaging and invest in refill and reuse delivery systems for the sake of our planet,” added Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Campaigner.

Notes to the Editors:

Last year, brand audits led by Break Free From Plastic member organizations in 42 countries, found Nestlé as the third most frequent multinational brand collected in cleanups.

In the Philippines, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) estimated that waste generation in the country in 2016 is at 40,000 tons per day (tpd). If we assume that all this goes to landfill, the cost for managing this waste is around PHP 32 million to 40 million daily. The NSWMC data cites that residuals comprise 18% of waste generated.

Contact:

Jed Alegado, Communications Officer for Asia Pacific, Break Free from Plastic

jed@breakfreefromplastic.org | +63 917 607 0248

Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Asia Pacific

sonia@no-burn.org | +63 917 596 9286

About BFFP –  #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,400 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. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

 

Year’s worth of sachet use in the Philippines can cover entire Metro Manila 1 foot deep in plastic waste

Year’s worth of sachet use in the Philippines can cover entire Metro Manila 1 foot deep in plastic waste

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New quantitative evidence reveals the extent of plastic pollution in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines (March 7, 2019) —Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million sando bags and 45 million labo bags daily. These numbers were revealed in a new report released today by environmental organization Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). The group contends that single-use disposable plastic is the greatest obstacle to sound waste and resource management, and is calling on governments and manufacturers to regulate, and stop producing, single-use plastics.

The report, Plastics exposed: How waste assessments and brand audits are helping Philippine cities fight plastic pollution, uses data from household waste assessments and brand audits (WABA)[1] conducted by Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) in six cities and seven municipalities[2] across the country in the past five years. GAIA extrapolated the data to calculate daily and yearly plastic usage throughout the country in order to provide new quantitative evidence about plastic pollution in the Philippines. The report is being launched ahead of the UN Environment Assembly meeting next week, where plastic pollution will be discussed.

“Sa aming barangay, ginagawa namin ang lahat para sa maayos na pangangasiwa ng panapon, pero problema talaga ang plastic,” said Mercy Sumilang, a kagawad from Barangay Talayan in Quezon City. “Kung lahat ng pangunahing bilihin ay naka-sachet o plastic napipilitan kami maging bahagi ng pollution. Dapat masolusyonan ito.”

The findings in the report show how cities and municipalities around the Philippines are struggling against plastic residuals. Despite efforts on the part of many localities to institute Zero Waste programs, they still struggle with plastics which prevent them from achieving Zero Waste goals. With the projected increase in plastic production worldwide, including in the Philippines, national governments, as well as local government authorities need robust data and effective strategies to address the looming plastic pollution crisis.

“Cities and municipalities can fight back against plastic pollution using data from waste assessments and brand audits,” said Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation. “Cities can strengthen regulations, improve waste management services, and reduce waste volume and corresponding management costs. They can also use the data to pursue plastic bans or regulations, and to compel companies to acknowledge their liability for plastic pollution.”

According to GAIA, the figures show that the sheer volume of plastic waste generated daily is beyond the capacity of barangays, cities and municipalities to manage, and that the only way to manage single-use plastic is to make less of it. “The problem is the huge amount of single-use plastics being produced—not just the way waste is managed,” said Froilan Grate, executive director of GAIA Asia-Pacific. “Plastic is a pollution problem, and it starts as soon as the plastic is made. Clean-up is left to cities and municipalities who use taxpayers’ money to deal with the waste. Companies create the waste inthe form of plastic sachets, and profit from these, in the millions. They must be made accountable for the pollution.”

According to the report, cities and municipalities deal with a greater number of branded plastic waste (at least 54% of total residual waste) than unbranded waste. Ten companies are responsible for 60%, and four multinational companies are responsible for 36%, of all branded waste collected in the sample sites.

With the absence of a national policy on plastics, some local governments in the Philippines have instituted plastic bag regulations. However, branded plastics that include sachets and other primary packaging used by some of the world’s largest manufacturing companies are not covered by bans. GAIA states that if manufacturers were mandated at the national level to reduce production of throwaway plastic packaging, for example through innovations such as alternative delivery systems or reusable packaging, this would address a large part of the country’s plastic waste problem, including plastic waste leakage to rivers and seas.

“The Philippine case is merely a snapshot of what’s happening in other parts of the world,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement. “This is a global crisis that needs global interventions. We need policies and strong regulations that would ban single use plastics and hold corporations accountable for their role in perpetuating decades of plastic pollution”

The report lays out several recommendations for the Philippine government to effectively address plastic pollution, including: standardizing disaggregated data on plastic packaging in waste assessments, as well as including brand information; instituting comprehensive national plastic bag ban and the regulation of other single-use plastic products; mandating companies to redesign products, packaging and delivery systems; and strengthening the ban on waste incineration. GAIA is additionally calling on manufacturing corporations to be transparent about the plastic packaging they produce, assume accountability and liability for their packaging, and immediately stop producing throwaway plastic packaging. //ends

The report can be downloaded at: http://www.no-burn.org/waba2019

Contact: Sherma Benosa, 0917-815-7570, sherma@no-burn.org

Notes to editors:

[1] Developed by Mother Earth Foundation, WABA is a tool used to obtain detailed information about the types, volume, and number of plastic waste in an area, in order to support strategies to help cities and municipalities deal effectively with solid waste.

[2]  Quezon City, Navotas City, Malabon City, City of San Fernando (Pampanga), Batangas City, Tacloban City, and seven municipalities in the province of Nueva Vizcaya.

Headline explanation: Filipinos discard 163 million plastic sachet packets daily. If each packet were 5cm x 6cm in size and 1mm in thickness, they can be arranged side by side and stacked 312 times (around 1 foot high), covering an area equivalent to the land area of Metro Manila.

About GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives 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. www.no-burn.org

About MEFMother Earth Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit organization actively engaged in addressing waste and toxic pollution, climate change, and other health, and environmental justice issues in the Philippines. It is best known for its advocacy of Zero Waste through the systematic reduction and proper waste management. www.motherearthphil.org

About BFFP –  #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,400 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. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

 

Solving the plastic pollution crisis requires focus on another ‘R’ — responsibility

Solving the plastic pollution crisis requires focus on another ‘R’ — responsibility

By emphasizing recyclability and recycling over reduction and elimination of plastic waste, major companies are still ducking their responsibility to tackle plastic pollution.

The problem with plastic is not new. For decades the plastics and packaging industry has combined with food and beverages companies to frame it as a “litter” problem. Individuals littering are the problem, and it’s the responsibility of individuals to fix it. Public concern is effectively funneled to “clean-up” events, while industry lobbyists successfully weaken and postpone any policies that effectively would limit the growth of plastic. As a textbook example of how to effectively avoid responsibility for the ever-increasing amounts of single-use plastic, it has been a huge success. But it has been a disaster for the planet, resulting in a plastic pollution crisis.

What’s new is that this slow-burning crisis has leapt beyond environmental concerns to hit the headlines in many countries. Despite the flurry of negative stories, the playbook suggested by those really responsible remains the same: “more recyclable packaging,” “more recycling” and “voluntary targets.” Despite all the evidence that recycling is not the answer, it’s still pushed as the first priority. Only 9 percent of all the plastic ever made has been recycled. Most of that is downcycling to low-grade plastics. Even when effectively collected, a high portion of plastic packaging is impossible to recycle. Like the convenience of plastic packaging, pushing recycling first is convenient for avoiding responsibility.

Who is responsible?

In order to find out where the plastic packaging actually comes from, I started by looking at the contents of my own plastic recycling bin for two weeks. I live in the Netherlands, which has a long established bottle deposit scheme, plastic bag tax and plastics recycling scheme for most homes, partially funded by a producer responsibility levy.

Despite these measures, I still had 147 items of single-use plastic in my recycling bin. Forty came from supermarkets and 52 from named companies; the rest were unbranded plastics. That means of the roughly 3,800 pieces of plastic entering my home each year, over 60 percent comes from consumer goods companies and supermarkets.

The #breakfreefromplastic campaign has done this on a global scale with global audits of plastic pollution. For the last two years, volunteers have organized hundreds of plastic pollution cleanup events and audited what they collect, to create a unique insight into exactly which companies are most responsible. Of 147,000 pieces of plastic collected in 2018, the biggest polluters are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, P&G, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars and Colgate-Palmolive, according to the organization.

 

Prioritize reduction and reuse over recycling

Tackling plastic pollution requires dramatic reductions in quantities of single-use packaging and focusing product design and changing business models to increase reuse. Any company skipping straight to recycling as the solution is ignoring proven waste reduction strategies in favor of failed non-solutions. Fixing the broken take-make-waste consumption model will require much more than incremental increases in recycling.

Major multinationals have played a major role in creating this crisis. Chasing market expansion and maximizing profits with single-use plastics as the go-to solution. In developing countries, Nestle, P&G and Unilever created the sachet economy using packaging they knew was impossible to recycle, inevitably creating a new type of waste. Small sachets of soap, coffee and instant noodles are the biggest type of plastic pollution in many developing countries.

Unilever is at least belatedly starting to address the problem of sachets, but again the focus is on recycling only, not on expanding proven existing business models such as dispensers and reusable containers. This pattern of aggressively expanding new markets without having solutions for waste is repeating itself with Tetra Paks in Vietnam. Over 8 billion Tetra Paks are sold annually in Vietnam, but only a tiny portion are recycled as the recycling infrastructure has been overwhelmed by growth.

Avoiding regulation

In developed countries, food and drinks companies and the plastic industry have funded industry associations to continually lobby against regulation that requires full producer responsibility for packaging and to prevent solutions such as deposit bottle schemes being implemented or expanded.

Here in the Netherlands, a successful and popular bottle deposit scheme for large PET bottles has been consistently attacked for decades by industry lobby groups. These groups always push for voluntary waste reduction targets that are subsequently never met. The scheme has survived, but reusable hard PET bottles have been replaced by companies in favor of single-use PET deposit bottles, which are mostly destined for downcycling.

In 2018 a Dutch proposal for expanding deposit-return schemes to small plastic bottles and cans was defeated by intensive lobbying from the corporate sector and supermarkets on cost grounds. This is the standard industry lobby playbook in many countries: Delays and promises of voluntary improvement bury the inevitable failure. Rinse and repeat for the next political cycle.

The problem and who is responsible is clear. Here are the new 4 Rs of how companies and the plastics industry can take responsibility to really be part of the solution:

  1. Radical transparency: Exactly how much plastic packaging is your organization responsible for?
  2. Reduce single-use plastic: State clear absolute reduction goals combined with regular progress reports.
  3. Redesign business models to promote reuse: How exactly are you promoting reuse and driving fast progress towards circular economy packaging?
  4. Responsible policy support: Show clear support for regulation to reduce plastic packaging and withdraw from industry groups that continue to delay, weaken or undermine required regulation.

Start with transparency

The first part of being a solution to a problem is taking responsibility for your part of the problem. For huge companies that sell billions of single-use plastic packaging that means being transparent about how much plastic they use, how much they sell and what happens to their plastic waste.

Unfortunately, none has fully disclosed in detail what plastics they consume, how much and where. Only Unilever publishes a partial plastics footprint. Nestlé, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo don’t even disclose how many plastic bottles they sell each year. Without dramatically improved transparency, it’s impossible to assess how seriously companies are taking the problem.

Reduction as top priority

Any credible waste strategy has to start with reducing the amount of waste.

Currently, the global plastics industry is building hundreds of new plants to increase global plastic production by 40 percent, all based on fossil fuels. Only if major customers get serious about reducing demand will these expansion plans be stopped.

Any company serious about tackling climate change also has to get serious about reducing its own use of fossil fuel-based plastics. Despite the plethora of corporate announcements in response to increased media scrutiny, hardly any even mention actual reductions, let alone put reduction first.

reuse recycle bottles

Shouldn’t ‘Please reuse’ come first?

New business models

The recently announced New Plastics Economy Global Commitment finally marks the start of a response that’s actually addressing the core of the problem.

Getting producers, packagers and big consumer goods companies to commit to hard reduction goals and introduce reusable packaging is a good start. However, the pace and scale of change needs to be faster and solutions that already exist need to be implemented at scale.

 Why are problematic multi-colored PET bottles still being used? Supermarkets right now can encourage reusable packaging by offering discounts to customers bringing reusable containers. That fast change only happens when companies are shamed into action by focused campaigns; it does not exactly inspire confidence that the biggest corporate producers of plastic waste are actually prioritizing real solutions.

U.K. supermarket chain Iceland’s move to ban all single-use plastic from its own branded products by 2023 shows that big change is possible, and it represents the level of ambition that other retailers and consumer goods companies need to follow.

Support responsible policy and regulation

There are almost too many examples to count of industry pledges, voluntary reduction promises and alike being used successfully to prevent effective waste reduction regulation, only for these promises and pledges to be broken.

As well as supporting initiatives such as the voluntary New Plastics Economy, major companies must show clear and unconditional support for ambitious regulation to reduce plastic pollution. That also requires cutting funding or membership ties to industry lobby groups aiming to weaken regulation.

Unfortunately, this does not appear to be happening. A recent leaked lobby letter reveals that even a simple measure to require drinks bottle caps to be attached to bottles in the European Union was opposed by Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone. Ironically, the lobby letter proposes bottle deposit schemes as a better solution, which these companies  also have lobbied to prevent being implemented in Belgium, France and Spain.

Coke, Nestle and Pepsi are all core partners of the New Plastics Economy. Unless these companies lead by example and stop opposing mandatory regulation to reduce plastic pollution, they remain part of the problem.

Tackling the plastic pollution crisis will require a complete switch away from the last 50 years of framing, funding and lobbying that created this crisis. Only companies clearly accepting their responsibility to radically reduce consumption of single-use plastic can be considered real leaders.

Article originally appeared in Greenbiz.

 

Corporate Leadership Badly Needed to Reverse Plastic Pollution Crisis

Corporate Leadership Badly Needed to Reverse Plastic Pollution Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

             jed@breakfreefromplastic.org

             +63917-607-0248

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.

Sacks-of-branded-plastic-brand-audit

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.

 

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.

Brand-Audit-in-Manila-Bay

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.