Japan’s plastic waste exports – and how to slow them down

Japan has long been Asia’s biggest plastic packaging waste producer. Often lauding Japan for its comprehensive waste management system and clean environment, the international media has turned a blind eye to its continued waste exports to neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Globally, the enforcement of the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments has been unclear, as members of Break Free From Plastic have highlighted in a panel presentation at the last Basel Convention meeting. Similar questions surround Japan’s plastic waste exports, including whether the country has transposed the Basel Convention rules into local laws, and how it differentiates Basel categories of plastic waste – Y48, A3210, B3011 – versus the World Customs Organization's Harmonised System codes for plastic scrap – HS Code 3915. The disturbing plastic waste export data for Japan and lack of transparency prompted Greenpeace Japan to send a questionnaire to their government, requesting important information about Japanese waste exports and data collection practices (read more about it in our Waste Trade Bites, March 2022). They also released a press statement urging the Japanese government to be more transparent about the type and quantity of exports, to adopt essential measures to curb plastic usage by introducing a wide range of reuse policies in Japan with clear targets and contents, and to move proactively towards the enactment of a global plastics treaty.* “To date, Japan’s Ministry of Environment has not disclosed any new information regarding our questionnaire, despite our attempts to reach them both directly and indirectly through a Diet member. They insist that all the information that can be disclosed, is already public. The government must raise its transparency and drastically step up its action against plastic pollution promptly,” urged Hiroaki Odachi, the Plastic Campaign Project Lead at Greenpeace Japan. As a signatory of the Plastic Waste Amendments, it is imperative that the Japanese government stops plastic waste exports to countries without sufficient waste management infrastructures, where it has resulted in severe environmental, social and health problems. The production and export of plastics also leads to other impacts like marine pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. As one of Asia’s richest nations, Japan could take the lead in defining and adopting better solutions for plastic waste. Interestingly, Japan ranks high in the plastic management index - a benchmark that measures how 25 countries are coping with plastics from cradle to grave, as per three criteria: governance, existing systemic capacity, and stakeholder engagement. In the past decade, Japan has filed for numerous patents for plastic recycling technologies, accounting for 18% of the global share in this category. (Source: European Patent Office). The country seems committed to finding solutions and moving towards a circular plastic economy, yet it needs to do so much more. Japan needs to prioritise upstream solutions and drastically reduce plastic production and consumption. It is especially important to reduce plastic packaging at source by transitioning to a non-throwaway society that is reuse-based. Examples like Kamikatsu - a poster child for zero waste solutions - also hold hope for Japan. In 2022, the Japan Special Edition of the Plastic Atlas, co-authored by Break Free from Plastic and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), drew attention to the problems caused by Japan’s waste in importing countries, including negative health impacts (especially on vulnerable grassroot communities), polluted rivers, widening gender inequality, and the plight of wastepickers. It also provided updated waste management trends, potential solutions - which, if adopted, will enable Japan to change her course towards a less plastic-intensive and truly sustainable society. *Please find the translated versions (in English) of Greenpeace Japan’s questionnaire and press statement here, if you would like to take similar action in your country and call for more transparency over plastic waste exports.  


Ahead of a Winter Energy Crisis, the EU Needs to Cut Plastic Production

New report reveals the urgency to cut plastic production to reduce the European Union's dependence on fossil fuels and Russian oil and gas

BRUSSELS – As the EU faces a looming gas shortage, EU countries are looking to consumers to shoulder the brunt of reductions and are pursuing deals to secure new fossil fuel supplies. At the same time, policymakers are leaving the plastics and petrochemicals sector — the single largest driver of the increase in global oil and gas demand — untouched. A new report from Break Free From Plastic and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) explores the European market for plastics and petrochemicals, arguing that the EU, which sources nearly 40% of its gas and over 20% of its oil from Russia, can advance energy security by making cuts to these energy intensive industries. “Plastics and petrochemicals are the largest industrial oil, gas, and electricity users in the EU, with nearly 40% of that energy going towards producing plastic packaging alone. Not including this sector in the “Save Gas for a Safer Winter” plan is a serious oversight. While families and small businesses are facing skyrocketing energy bills, the petrochemicals industry is wasting scarce resources to produce unnecessary single-use plastic, fueling the EU energy crisis.” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. The report’s main findings include:

• Plastic production was responsible for nearly 9% and 8% of the EU’s final fossil gas and oil consumption in 2020. This is about as much as the final gas consumption in the Netherlands and almost as much as the final oil consumption of Italy in 2020.

• Plastic production is the most energy- and feedstock-intensive of the petrochemicals industry’s processes. Plastic packaging alone accounts for 40% of the end market for plastic products in the EU, about as much as Hungary’s final gas and Sweden and Denmark’s combined oil consumption in 2020.

• Nearly 15% of the final gas and 14% of the final oil consumption in 2020 in the EU 27 were used to manufacture petrochemicals.

• In the EU in 2020, 38% of the gas and 22% of the oil came from Russia, making the energyintensive petrochemical industry significantly reliant on Russian fossil fuels.

• Together, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland are responsible for 75% of oil and 81% of final gas consumption, and 77% of all plastic packaging waste in the EU.

As the plastics industry plans to double its gas and oil-based production over the next 20 years, the report finds that this growth is incompatible with achieving the EU’s goals, including those laid out in the Green Deal, binding climate targets to keep global warming under 1.5°C, and efforts to tackle plastic pollution. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lays bare the danger of our global dependence on fossil fuels. Expecting individual consumer action is an inadequate and disproportionate response to the scale and intensity of the crisis at hand,“ said Lili Fuhr, Deputy Director of CIEL’s Climate & Energy Program. “EU leaders must stop their neocolonialist hunt for new sources of fossil fuels and instead confront the problem head-on by immediately reducing the production of plastic, starting with unnecessary single-use plastic packaging to save gas.” The report details concrete policy recommendations for the EU to reduce fossil fuel use for petrochemical and plastic production through ambitious prevention and reuse policies. These include regional action and efforts to step up ambition on upstream measures during upcoming negotiations on a legally-binding global plastic treaty. With a 50% reduction of plastic packaging and a 90% rate of recycling, we could save the equivalent of the Czech Republic’s annual oil and gas consumption. This is a huge opportunity for the EU to address the energy, climate and plastic pollution crises at once.'' said Lévi Alvarès. “It’s time for the EU to demonstrate real leadership. For a safer winter, plastic has to go.”  ###  CONTACT: Michael Luzé, luzemichael@yahoo.fr  Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,900 non-governmental organisations 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 organisations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. In Europe, Break Free From Plastic has more than 100 core member organisations covering all European subregions and with expertise all along the plastics value chain.  Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is a not-for-profit legal organisation that uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL pursues its mission through legal research and advocacy, education and training, with a focus on connecting global challenges to the experiences of communities on the ground. In the process, we build and maintain lasting partnerships with communities and non-profit organisations around the world.  


CMA CGM Group Urged to Abandon Plastic Bricks, Support Plastic Bans and Zero Waste Systems Instead

Manila - The Break Free From Plastic movement calls out the shipping company CMA CGM Group for taking one step forward, two steps back in their latest decision to invest in downcycling projects to address plastic pollution. On 15 September 2022, CMA CGM renewed their three-year partnership with the Plastic Flamingo (PLAF) to continue production of construction materials made from plastic sachet waste and riverine plastics. This partnership pledges to tackle river and land-based plastic pollution, yet investing in plastic bricks, planks, and boards is a step in the wrong direction. Downcycling, whether this involves transforming plastic waste into alternate materials, is simply a distraction from pursuing real solutions, such as significantly reducing plastic production, particularly of sachets and other single-use plastics. Once transformed into plastic bricks or roads or even school chairs, the products cannot be further recycled and will likely end up in landfills or burned in incinerators at the end of their life cycle.  Coleen Salamat, Ecowaste, Philippines: “Plastic bricks or roads, in addition, can lead to leaching of microplastics and hazardous chemicals, especially when exposed to heat and ultraviolet light. Recent studies have shown evidence of micro and nano plastics at the bottom part of lungs and even in blood. Microplastics and chemicals like cadmium can make their way into the soil and affect agricultural productivity, and also reach waterways where they threaten aquatic plant and animal life." In the Philippines, downcycled plastic materials are also touted as solutions to two very real problems: a shortage of shelters for its burgeoning population; and landfills of low-quality, non-recyclable plastic waste exported by the West. However, downcycled material is unsuitable for load-bearing structures, and any contamination from food waste or organic materials can result in methane, which eventually breaks down the material. In some cases, eco-bricks also pose a fire hazard. Downcycled materials cannot address the cause of plastic pollution - indiscriminate production, consumption and disposal. In April 2022, the CMA CGM Group wrote a letter to its customers, announcing that it will no longer carry plastic waste on its ships, effective June 1. The landmark decision was in response to a call from the Basel Action Network (BAN), The Last Beach Cleanup, and 50 other organisations for major shipping lines to stop transporting plastic waste to countries that do not have adequate capacity to handle such discards safely. In importing countries, local recyclers often have limited capacity in terms of handling both domestic and imported plastic waste. Moreover, these countries increasingly rely on co-incinerating plastic waste, regardless of origin, in cement kilns. Marian Ledesma, Greenpeace Philippines: "CMA CGM took one step forward but regressed two steps back. Earlier this year, they made a laudable commitment to stop shipping plastic waste to support the fight against plastic waste trade. But now they're helping justify the continued proliferation of plastic waste with their partnership with Plastic Flamingo. Converting plastic waste into construction materials justifies continued production and dependence on single-use plastics and does not prevent systemic harms caused by the plastic industry during production, including health risks from potential exposure to microplastics and toxic chemicals. CMA CGM should stop supporting such schemes and instead promote upstream solutions that will allow communities to shift away from plastics to reuse. In an earlier statement, the CMA CGM group also committed to “prevent(ing) this type of waste from being exported to destinations where sorting, recycling or recovery cannot be assured." This demonstrates the company’s commitment to continue CSR initiatives to protect the environment, conserve biodiversity, and develop trade that is more responsible and fair for everyone and for the planet. To this end, we urge the CMA CGM Group to abandon downcycling projects and instead support single-use plastic regulations in countries where they are operating. For CSR projects, they can also consider investing in Zero Waste programs, which aim to minimise municipal waste streams, and help local governments save money, reduce waste generation and create jobs. There are BETTER WAYS to address plastic pollution, we urge you to choose wisely. Press Contact: 

  • Asia & the Pacific: Eah Antonio, Eah@breakfreefromplastic.org 
  About Break Free From Plastic –  #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,500 organizations representing millions of supporters  around the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the shared values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org  


To Stop Plastic Pollution, Single-use Plastics Production Must Stop

Environment activists in Asia call for real solutions to plastic pollution in a demonstration during the 7th International Marine Debris Conference

Busan, South Korea— As governments, industry, academe, civil society and other stakeholders gather for the 7th International Marine Debris Conference (7IMDC, September 18-23, 2022), the global #breakfreefromplastic movement highlights the need to significantly reduce plastic production in order to stop plastic pollution of every kind. Over 99% of plastics are made of fossil fuels, a large contributor to climate change. The climate crisis will only bring about more unprecedented severe weather conditions as in the case of strong typhoons that recently hit South Korea. Plastics emit greenhouse gasses throughout its life cycle—from extraction, to manufacturing, transport, use, landfilling, recycling, and incineration. Any presented solution to plastic pollution that does not address the source of the crisis stalls us from moving closer to a world free of plastic pollution.  In a demonstration following a plenary session, #breakfreefromplastic members held banners and placards calling for plastic reduction and genuine solutions in addressing plastic pollution. “To stop plastic pollution, the global plastics treaty must address how to stop plastic production including its harmful toxic additives," said Griffins Ochieng of the Centre for Environmental Justice And Development (CEJAD) Kenya. "This addresses the problem at the root cause, not the symptoms." “Fast moving consumer goods companies, such as Unilever, Nestle, Coca Cola and Pepsi, are prioritizing investments in false solutions that allow them to rely on single use plastics,” said Satyarupa Shekhar, Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic. “They engage third-party services to collect and dispose of plastic waste in cement kilns and incinerators, all the while making public statements that frame plastic pollution as a marine debris problem. These businesses must switch to delivering their products without using single-use plastics (SUPs) and hiding behind false solutions and false narratives.” Members also invited 7IMDC participants to sign the #StopShippingPlasticWaste petition. Plastic waste from the US, UK, EU, Japan, and Australia, under the guise of ‘recycling’, is often exported to countries across Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America. Destination countries lack the infrastructure to deal with this waste, which adversely affects the health of their citizens, and their environment. Waste trade allows plastic production to continue with impunity, and is linked to marine plastic pollution. The petition calls on the world’s top shipping companies to follow the example of CMA-CGM, and stop shipping plastic waste. Recently, the United States-based organization Ocean Conservancy’s (OC) has publicly apologized for the harm caused by the publication of their 2015 report “Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean,” which blamed Asian countries (China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) for marine plastic pollution. Environment groups together with OC have started a repair and transformative justice process to mitigate the harm caused by the report and debunk false solutions including “waste-to-energy” incinerators and international waste trade that continue to pollute many communities in Asia. "When countries are allowed to ship off plastic waste, there is no incentive to reduce plastic consumption and waste," said Mageswari Sangaralimgam, Research Officer and Honorary Secretary of Sahabat Alam Malaysia. "Even worse, export destinations, often less wealthy economies with weaker environmental regulations, become saddled with problems of imported plastic waste pollution and trafficking crimes. If we continue these practices, there will be no end to the leakage of plastics into the ocean. Countries should stop exporting plastic waste. When we are forced to deal with our own waste, this will catalyze innovative and real solutions to end plastic pollution." Meanwhile, an International Negotiating Committee (INC) is set to work on drafting a legally binding global plastics treaty to end plastic pollution, as mandated by the resolution adopted in the last United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2).  As countries begin the negotiations towards a  comprehensive plastics treaty that shall cover measures along the entire life cycle of plastics, #breakfreefromplastic calls for significant plastic reduction measures and leave no room for any false solutions to continue. Miko Aliño, Break Free From Plastic Project Coordinator for Sachets, said, “With governments calling for a legally-binding plastics treaty and more organizations like Ocean Conservancy shifting away from false solutions, it is a high time for businesses—from petrochemical companies to fast-moving consumer goods corporations—to join this revolution by reducing their plastic footprint. And reduction means putting a cap on plastic production and not misleading everyone with plastic offsets and silver-bullet fixes.” About Break Free From Plastic—  #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,000 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the shared values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions.www.breakfreefromplastic.org  


More Than 200 Organizations Urge Congress to Reject Federal Plastic Burning Legislation

For Immediate Release – September 19, 2022

More Than 200 Organizations Urge Congress to Reject Federal Plastic Burning Legislation

Advocates warn Congress that industry-sponsored “advanced recycling” legislation will imperil public health and perpetuate the global plastic pollution crisis

WASHINGTON – A coalition of more than 200 organizations from around the United States submitted letters to Congress today urging the rejection of any forthcoming industry-sponsored federal bill that would deregulate pyrolysis and gasification incinerators as a means to set the stage for a nationwide buildout of plastic burning infrastructure under the guise of so-called “advanced recycling”. For decades, the plastics and chemical industries have failed to prove the technical feasibility, economic prudence, or the benefit to public and environmental health in using pyrolysis and gasification incinerators to treat mixed plastic waste. While they wait for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a ruling on a Trump-era proposal to exempt pyrolysis and gasification incinerators from air emissions regulations under the Clean Air Act, the industry is now working with members of Congress to introduce a bill that would reclassify these old incineration technologies as manufacturing rather than solid waste disposal, effectively stripping pyrolysis and gasification incinerators of public health protections that have been in place for over 30 years. The vast majority of what the industry refers to as “advanced recycling” are actually plastic-to-fuel operations where plastic feedstocks are partially burned to create diesel fuels or synthetic gas (syngas). These fuels are typically burned onsite or blended with cleaner commercial fuels and burned elsewhere. There is ample evidence to suggest that uncontrolled emissions from these processes pose significant health and safety risks for local populations, placing a heavy toxic burden on workers and surrounding communities, the majority of which are low-income communities and communities of color. The letter states: “If chemical manufacturers can operate pyrolysis and gasification facilities in compliance with Clean Air Act protections, as they claim, then why are they fighting to remove these federal health protections? If they cannot meet these basic protections, the last thing Congress should do is exempt them from pollution control laws. It would be unconscionable for any member of Congress to endorse and enable the chemical manufacturers’ plans to evade federal health protections for incinerating plastic, particularly in the face of a global plastic pollution crisis and the projected tripling of plastic waste.” Calling pyrolysis and gasification “advanced recycling” does not change what they are: heavily polluting, inefficient, and energy-intensive means of burning fossil fuel plastics. To the extent they create anything other than air pollution, their product is a form of chemical waste that is burned again later as hazardous waste or dirty industrial fuel – causing yet more air pollution. This is incompatible with a climate-safe future, and arguably even more destructive for the planet than burning fossil fuels directly. So-called “advanced recycling” moves the plastics from the landfills to the atmosphere, and into our lungs.  With global plastic production expected to triple by 2050, the plastics industry is looking for ways to counter the growing movement to address plastic pollution at its source by dramatically reducing plastic production. If Congress enables these deceptive industry schemes and chooses to exempt pyrolysis and gasification units from Section 129 of the Clean Air Act, it will only incentivize unnecessary petrochemical expansion and the buildout of plastic incineration infrastructure, while deepening environmental injustice and locking us into a future plagued by rampant plastic production, waste and pollution. Read the full letter here. Press Contact Brett Nadrich, US Communications Officer Break Free From Plastic – brett@breakfreefromplastic.org 1-929-269-4480 Graham Hamilton, US Policy Officer Break Free From Plastic – graham@breakfreefromplastic.org 1-323-490-0985 Quote Sheet:  “Congress has a legal and moral obligation to uphold the regulatory standards that serve to protect vulnerable communities from toxic exposure by minimizing hazardous pollutants emitted during industrial processes. Burning plastic in order to create and combust low-quality fuels harms workers, communities and our environment. Burning plastic is a false solution led by Exxon, Dow, DuPont and others that created this problem and refuse to turn-off-the-tap to new plastic production. Will Congress side with fossil fuels or truly commit to centering the needs of environmental justice communities across the country?” Yvette Arellano, Executive Director, Fenceline Watch “The incineration of plastic emits some of the most toxic compounds known: dioxins, PCBs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and toxic metals. Relying on incineration to support Big Plastic’s need for a solution to the plastic waste crisis instead of finding ways to reduce the production of plastic will only ensure that humanity continues to choke on plastic. Producing, transporting, and ultimately incinerating plastic will produce massive amounts of climate gases, release toxic emissions into environmental justice communities, and delay necessary actions to reduce the manufacturing of plastic.” Jane Williams, Executive Director, California Communities Against Toxics “The last thing Congress should be doing is weakening regulations for toxic technologies. As a nation, we should be focusing on real solutions to the plastic crisis like bending the curve down on the use of plastic and solutions like nontoxic reuse and refill systems.” – Sarah Doll, National Director, Safer States  “The US plastic recycling rate is an abysmal 5-6%. And now the plastics industry is promoting plastic burning as their preferred solution to the very plastic pollution crisis that they created. Congress should not be part of this charade and instead consider bills that actually reduce the production of plastics.” – Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator "Supporting technologies that improve the recycling rate and recovery of plastic at the end-of-life can play an important role in advancing the circular economy. However, technologies like pyrolysis and gasification that lock us further into fossil fuel infrastructure, create toxic emissions and byproducts, and do not recover plastic at its highest value and purity at scale should not be considered a strategic investment for any investor, including the public sector. From the American Sustainable Business Network's perspective, end-of-life solutions will not stem the rising tide of plastic production and pollution like upstream solutions and investments will." – Stephanie Erwin, Director of Circular Economy Policy, American Sustainable Business Network “‘Advanced recycling’ is advanced pollution: a toxic transfer of pollution to pollutants. ‘Advanced recycling’ does not turn off the tap of plastic production; it perpetuates the problem of pollution and injustice.” Jackie Nuñez, Advocacy & Engagement Manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition and Founder of The Last Plastic Straw "In a society that urgently needs to transition away from an extractive, fossil fuel economy, ‘chemical recycling’ is a distraction from real solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. Even worse, it's a dangerous source of toxic emissions that threatens the health of our planet and the people living in communities near these facilities. Congress can’t waste time falling for the industry’s latest bluff. Ending our plastic problem will require reducing the production of unnecessary single-use plastic, ensuring refill and reuse systems are prioritized, and moving away from toxic processes.” —Christy Leavitt, Plastics Campaign Director, Oceana “Protecting the public from toxic air pollution is incompatible with supporting the chemical industry’s efforts to allow uncontrolled burning of plastic waste. Congress and EPA must choose whether to defend people and communities, or side with the industry that has contaminated our planet with PFAS and covered it with plastic waste.” – Daniel Rosenberg, Director of Federal Toxics Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council “The plastics industry is asking Congress and the Biden Administration to exempt it from health and environmental safeguards so that it can burn plastics and other wastes in already-overburdened communities without doing anything to control the toxic pollution that results. If environmental justice means anything to them, our elected officials must stand up now and say ‘NO!’” Jim Pew, Director Federal Clean Air Practice, Earthjustice   “The plastics industry knows they have a waste problem so they're working overtime to rebrand old incineration technologies as ‘recycling.’ For decades they've tried to force these facilities in low-income communities, and for decades they've failed to prove the economic, public health, and environmental benefits of these false solutions. We don't want any plastic burning operations in our community, full stop.” Lana Gulden, Chair of North Central Pennsylvania Group, Sierra Club “The fossil fuel and plastics corporations that gaslight us about their blame in the climate crisis are repackaging incineration. Calling it ‘advanced recycling’ doesn’t make toxic, polluting  plastics magically disappear. It spreads the problems into the air, water, and land, usually in Black, brown, indigenous, and low-wealth communities. Congress must be smarter than this, protect frontline and fence-line communities, support real solutions like zero waste plans, and stop these polluters now.”  Jessica Roff, US / Canada Regional Campaigner & Policy Advocate, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) “Advanced recycling’ is a phrase dreamed up by the plastics industry to sidestep the global plastic crisis. Let's be clear: Advanced recycling isn't recycling at all. The unregulated burning of plastic – as proposed by industry lobbyists – would simply move the problem from our oceans and landfills to the air we breathe. We need to call this greenwashing what it is: an effort by the plastics industry to profit at the expense of our health. Unsurprisingly, many of these toxic plastic-burning facilities are located in low-income neighborhoods or communities of color, which are already overburdened by pollution. These facilities must not be exempted from clean air protections. Moms Clean Air Force strongly opposes the rumored ‘advanced recycling’ legislation, and urges Congress to reject this disingenuous campaign by the plastics industry.”  – Melody Reis, Senior Legislative Manager, Moms Clean Air Force ###  About Break Free From Plastic#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 11,000 non-governmental organizations and individuals from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the shared values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions.  


See how school programmes in India are inspiring children to go plastic free

Teachers are in the position to support the critical thinking of students, especially when it comes to taking action related to the plastic problems and its impacts. Even if plastic is blatantly problematic, educators are also concerned with the extra work needed to implement the plastic discussion on the school curriculum. And that’s why Wasteless, a Break Free From Plastic core member, created Garbology 101, an interactive activity-based educational toolkit.  Garbology 101 consists of an innovative teacher’s guidebook which introduces elements of climate change, pollution and health impacts to the school programme. With 101 multi-intelligence activities, these toolkits aim to empower students to collectively act for a better future.” That was really our inspiration to educate children because they can change their behavior the fastest and they can inspire change at home. So as teachers, you have access to this incredible target audience that has the potential to change the world. And so that inspired us.” explains Ribhu Vohra, one of the developers of Garbology 101. This toolkit was launched in 2012, and now is being used by 50,000 students in 50 schools across India. “We also find that kind of trying to make it project-based so if you are learning as a teacher, you're going to be teaching students about the environment, about the planet Earth, about the ocean, water or animals.”, Ribhu says. “And of course, the goal” Ribhu explains, “is not that this subject becomes something stand alone and becomes extra work for teachers and another class with more kind of pressure on the young minds, but that we integrate this important science, fulfill this need with the current education”. As an example, Ribhu says that this material could complement the English, Math, Arts, and Science curriculum. In 2017, Wasteless launched the Garbology Lite, a free to download and revisited version of the toolkit. The content of this is divided into 13 activities, and it is available in English and Tamil. “And this is how education should be, where we are introducing these themes, we are bridging that gap, adding this education into the curriculum that you're teaching”, says Ribhu. “Of course this does amount to the most work because you need to read the content and then map those gaps and see how you can fill them. But it's one that I think has the most potential to bring large-scale change.” Are you a teacher and want to learn more about how to integrate Plastic-free Education Curriculum into your own lesson plans? Break Free From Plastic is launching their first ever training program for educators. Sign up for the launch on September 30th, 2022, 4pm Manila. Open to educators globally Sign up for the training program   Sources: Franco Brasileiro School blog. Available here: https://blog.liceufranco.com.br/pesquisa-desenvolvida-com-os-alunos-do-em-recebe-financiamento-internacional/ Author's bio: Rafael Eudes is a Chemical Engineering student of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, member of the Circula CT and ReUni organizations, and a BFFP youth ambassador. Break Free From Plastic Youth and BFFP Plastic-free Campuses is supported by:        


Member story: China Zero Waste Alliance

As a customer, you're probably aware that most of the products you use daily — from high-end smartphones to low-cost holiday decorations — are manufactured in China. Yes, everything is manufactured in China. However, you may be unaware that China is also a significant contributor to global plastic pollution. In fact, China is the world's largest producer of plastic. In 2019, there was approximately 63000 kt of plastic waste, including more than 20000 kt of single-use plastic products such as plastic bags, agricultural film, packaging materials, bottles, and launch boxes¹. Simultaneously, with the rapid growth of express delivery services since the 2010s, China's waste of express delivery packaging materials has increased significantly. According to a state-run media outlet, the packaging tape used in China can wrap around the earth 1077 times per year²! The Chinese government has been attempting to solve the rapidly increasing plastic pollution problem and the environmental damage it causes in China and other countries through legislation. The Chinese State Council issued the Notice of the General Office of State Council on Restricting the Production, Sale and Use of Plastic Shopping Bags in 2007, asking supermarkets and shopping malls not to provide free plastic shopping bags³. In 2017, China announced an unprecedented ban on the import of most plastic waste, resulting in a sharp decline in global plastic waste trade flow⁴. Environmental NGOs in China have played an invaluable role in promoting government legislation during this process. China Zero Waste Alliance is one of China's most critical environmental networks⁵. The China Zero Waste Alliance was founded in 2011 as one of the first Chinese networks focused on the issue of plastic pollution. As a leading alliance, it has a diverse and dynamic body of Chinese environmental NGOs, activists, scholars, and legal experts. It is entering the next decade after ten years of successful advocacy work in China. China Zero Waste Alliance focuses on NGO partner capacity building and policy change to increase political will to combat plastic pollution and participate in China's legislative process. Since 2013, the China Zero Waste Alliance has hosted nine national-level conferences on the issue of waste pollution, providing a regular forum for legislators, activists, and research institutions. In 2017, it began providing grants and consultations to deserving organisations. So far, it has assisted over 100 nonprofits and grassroots organisations in launching multi-level actions⁶. Since 2018, the China Zero Waste Alliance has promoted a new "Zero Waste Day" campaign⁷, encouraging people to rethink the hyper-commercial lifestyle in post-modern Chinese society. This campaign has received millions of comments and likes on Chinese social media. Furthermore, the China Zero Waste Alliance has made significant policy advocacy gains. It submitted more than 60 proposals and policy recommendations to various legislative bodies ranging from the national to the local levels and was heavily involved in legislative work. China's legislative development has improved as a result of its efforts as well as those of other environmental organisations, legislators, activists, and academics. By the end of 2020, all cities had already banned single-use plastic cutlery due to domestic legal requirements⁸; on December 31, 2022, this ban will be extended to all areas. According to a study published in Nature, the changes in trade flow have reduced global environmental costs by a total of 2.35 billion euros since China's waste trade ban⁹.

China Zero Waste Alliance 2018 annual meeting in Shenzhen

China Zero Waste Alliance partners’ capacity training, 2017

Plastic pollution is worsening in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19 through reusable items, single-use plastic packaging is widely used. Within the nationwide quarantine, the unrestricted use of disposable plastic bags, takeaway boxes, and masks generates millions of kilos of plastic waste daily. Many environmental NGOs are concerned about the potential environmental pollution caused by using disposable plastic products during the pandemic. The China Zero Waste Alliance and its working partners have launched numerous campaigns and research projects to reduce and control plastic pollution throughout the pandemic¹⁰. In 2021, the China Zero Waste Alliance collaborated with 129 community-based organisations and 685 residential compounds to organise various activities for local residents. The series of activities drew approximately 40,000 residents and reduced 99,903 kilos of plastic waste at the community level. During the pandemic, the building movement was also a priority for China Zero Waste Alliance. The "Zero Waste Day" campaign in 2021 invited 173 organisations and activists to participate¹¹. By the end of the year, the hashtag # ZeroWasteDay had received 23.602 million likes and comments on social media. Meanwhile, the China Zero Waste Alliance proposed 11 policy recommendations on plastic waste regulation at the national level and eventually submitted six of them. It also submitted 8 reports to various governing bodies, including the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Hainan Province Department of Ecology and Environment. During the pandemic, China Zero Waste Alliance prioritised movement strengthening by providing grants and consultations to nine grassroots organisations to assist them in implementing new projects. As one of the co-publishers, it released the Guidelines for National Waste Management Strategies on December 10, 2021, the 10th anniversary of the founding of the China Zero Waste Alliance (Chinese Version)¹². During the 2021 pandemic, the China Zero Waste Alliance is also reconsidering the value of its work. In the face of numerous successes and setbacks, they became more aware of the significance of the China Zero Waste Alliance: the network has been working for ten years to address China's plastic pollution and has never given up.

China Zero Waste Alliance partners’ community waste segregation activities

The cooperation between the China Zero Waste Alliance and BFFP could go back to 2016. #breakfreefromplastic (BFFP) held its first global meeting in the Philippines in the summer of 2015, inviting nearly 50 environmental organisations worldwide to develop the BFFP's vision, goals, principles, and strategies. The China Zero Waste Alliance was invited as well. As one of the early members who witnessed the early development of BFFP, China Zero Waste Alliance learned a lot from interacting with BFFP, including strategy learning and international advocacy information sharing. BFFP's work on Narrative Shifting, Zero Waste Cities, and Cooperation has influenced China's early plastic pollution advocacy efforts. In the context of Chinese society, this enables Chinese organisations to initiate actions at a relatively fast pace. The China Zero Waste Alliance and its working partner, Eco-Canton's current initiative to combat plastic microparticle pollution is a good example. The BFFP's international advocacy has inspired regional organisations to engage in relevant advocacy.

CWZA’s Call for ban on microbead

However, because of China's particular political environment, many successful international advocacy experiences cannot be directly translated into China. This presents a new challenge for Chinese environmental organisations like the China Zero Waste Alliance: how to be successful at home while contributing to global advocacy. Resources: [1] Liu, J., Yang, Y., An, L., Liu, Q. and Ding, J. (2021). The Value of China’s Legislation on Plastic Pollution Prevention in 2020. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. doi:10.1007/s00128-021-03366-6. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00128-021-03366-6 [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [2] People's Daily (2020). New Measures to See Gradual Phasing out of Production and Use of Plastic - People’s Daily Online. [online] People’s Daily Online. Available at: http://en.people.cn/n3/2020/0303/c90000-9664293.html  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [3] General Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (2007). Notice of the General Office of State Council on Restricting the Production, Sale and Use of Plastic Shopping Bags(国务院办公厅关于限制生产销售使用塑料购物袋的通知). [online] www.gov.cn. Available at: http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2008-01/08/content_852879.htm  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [4] General Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (2017). Notice of the General Office of the State Council on Issuing the Implementation Plan for Prohibiting the Entry of Foreign Garbage and Advancing the Reform of the Solid Waste Import Administration System(国务院办公厅关于印发禁止洋垃圾入境推进固体废物进口管理制度改革实施方案的通知). [online] www.gov.cn. Available at: http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2017-07/27/content_5213738.htm  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [5] Please see its website. Available at https://www.lingfeiqi.org  [6] China Zero Waste Alliance (2022). Annul Review|The 2021 of China Zero Waste Alliance(年度总结丨回顾零废弃联盟的2021). [online] WeChat Official Accounts Platform. Available at: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/yLAFobb27s9u2XFkYuA-Sw  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [7] Sina Gongyi (2018). The First Zero Waste Carnival Was over, but the Zero Waste Lifestyle Is Just Beginning首届万科零废弃嘉年华圆满结束,但零废弃生活才刚刚开始. [online] gongyi.sina.com.cn. Available at: https://gongyi.sina.com.cn/gyzx/2018-09-03/doc-ihiixzkm3994322.shtml  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [8] BBC (2020). Single-use plastic: China to Ban Bags and Other Items. BBC News. [online] 20 Jan. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51171491  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [9] Wen, Z., Xie, Y., Chen, M. and Dinga, C.D. (2021). China’s Plastic Import Ban Increases Prospects of Environmental Impact Mitigation of Plastic Waste Trade Flow Worldwide. [10] China Zero Waste Alliance (2020). The pandemic will pass, but ‘YI QI FEN’ is still on going (疫情终将过去 壹起分总在行动. [online] Weixin Official Accounts Platform. Available at: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/asNOU6qUnGaajU2rNG0TWw  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [11] Yan, P. (2021). The Fourth Zero Waste Day Was Successfully Held in 70 Cities across China 第四届零废弃日公众倡导活动成功举办 覆盖全国70个城市. [online] www.sohu.com. Available at: https://www.sohu.com/a/485163643_161795  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022]. [12] Chen, Y. (2021). The Chinese Version of the United Nations National Waste Management Strategy Guide Has Been Released for the First time(联合国《国家废弃物管理战略指南》中文版首次发布. [online] finance.sina.com.cn. Available at: https://finance.sina.com.cn/jjxw/2021-12-15/doc-ikyakumx4208337.shtml  [Accessed 28 Aug. 2022].


For the Fifth Year in a row, Break Free From Plastic marks World Cleanup Day by holding companies accountable for plastic pollution

2022 brand audits in Indonesia with Greenpeace Ocean Defender, 2022 ||  photo credit: Jibriel Firman, Annisa Dian Ndari 2022

Manila, Philippines (17 September 2022) - Today, on World Cleanup Day, Break Free From Plastic members are harnessing the power of citizen science and community action to hold corporate polluters accountable for the plastic pollution crisis they have created. The global #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement unites thousands of environmental groups around the world to end plastic pollution for good.

Through its global brand audit initiative, members of the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement are collectively organizing brand audits in over 40 countries to record data in order to identify the brands responsible for the plastic pollution found in worldwide cleanups and hold those companies accountable. These audits have taken place yearly since 2018, making 2022 the fifth annual global effort.

Spanning every continent except Antarctica, thousands of volunteers are leading creative and impactful brand audits in their communities. This year, brand audits are being held everywhere from the volcanic caldera of Lake Ilopango in El Salvador (CESTA Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador), to a city zoo in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia (The Greens Movement of Georgia), to underwater with scuba divers along the Australian coastlines (Sea Shepherd’s Marine Debris Campaign), to the busiest shopping mall in Nigeria (SRADev Nigeria), to national parks all across the United States (5 Gyres).

In the Philippines, through the Plastic-Free Pilipinas (PFP) network¹, BFFP member groups  have organized brand audits in San Juan City to call on top corporate polluters to urgently address the impacts of their plastic production, by shunning false solutions and investing heavily in sustainable reduction strategies and reuse systems.  PFP also highlighted that there are existing alternative sustainable solutions spearheaded by communities locally and globally. These are zero waste systems like reuse and refill which corporations can take inspiration from and scale up on a national level.

“We can end  plastic clean ups by doubling down on corporate accountability,” said Break Free from Plastic global coordinator Von Hernandez. For five years in a row, our movement has mobilized thousands of volunteers all over the world to conduct brand audits and hold the companies responsible for driving the plastic pollution crisis to account. While the number of events and locations change each year, the culprits in this story remain the same, and unless these top corporate polluters invest in real solutions that move us away from dependence on single-use plastics, we will continue to see the same brands and companies wreaking havoc on the climate and our environment.”

This year’s brand audits come at the heels of Ocean Conservancy’s (OC) historic retraction of their 2015 “Stemming the Tide” report, which painted Global South countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam as the main sources  of ocean-bound plastic waste². The organization, which has popularized coastal clean-ups globally, also acknowledged the outsized role developed countries have in the ongoing plastic crisis and apologized for the concrete harms done to developing countries, particularly the promotion of waste incineration as a viable solution. Their retraction also acknowledges that waste management must be paired with greater upstream reduction efforts on virgin plastic production.

Froilan Grate, Regional Director of GAIA Asia Pacific comments, “With the report retraction and the ongoing restorative justice process between Ocean Conservancy and the impacted communities, we hope to encourage Global North-led organizations to take a look and see how they do business with the Global South. We ask that they revisit their practices and operations, listen and talk to people working on the ground and see the reality with their own eyes. The ICC is done every year, but we envision that this year’s Brand Audit would be the starting point where OC’s partners also include brand audits in their programs and help us unmask the real polluters.”

Brand audits are citizen science initiatives that take clean-up activities to the next level by pinpointing the real drivers of pollution. Since its inception in 2018 brand audits have mobilized citizens and activists from different countries in calling for greater corporate accountability and the wholesale cooperation of all sectors of society in dealing with the plastic crisis. Plastics are collected from their respective waste streams and are audited based on brand and plastic type.

"Cleaning up plastic waste has become an impossible task--for every second someone picks up a piece of plastic, thousands more are being churned out by factories around the world," said Greenpeace Campaigner Jefferson Chua. "Coastal Clean Up Day should be renamed Corporate Plastic Reduction Day. The point of doing cleanups is to stop doing clean ups--and this can only happen when companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle and Unilever start massively reducing their plastic production. Until manufacturers start taking reduction seriously, and governments actively mandate bans and reduction measures, we will never see an end to plastic pollution.”

Past brand audits revealed the top corporations as the worst plastic polluters globally, with the likes of The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Mondelez, and Unilever among those consistently leading the list.  The Coca-Cola Company has emerged as #1 Top Plastic Polluter every year since 2018.

“The top plastic polluters appear to be doing everything they can to avoid changing their exorbitant use of single-use plastic. False solutions, broken promises and token pilot projects is all we’ve seen. That is why thousands of ordinary people from around the world go out into their neighborhoods to collect and count plastic - to document corporate pollution and demand change,” said Emma Priestland, Corporate Campaigns Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic. “The very consumers these companies are reliant on are giving their own time and energy to try to get these companies to change. It’s  time that these corporate polluters listened to the people and started investing in an end to single-use plastic packaging.”

This year’s global brand audits have been made possible through the contributions of more than 3 million participants of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, and support from the Plastic Solutions Fund.

Special thanks to Greenpeace Philippines, a founding core member of the Break Free From Plastic movement, for their leading contribution to this press release.


About Break Free From Plastic –  #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 11,000 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, and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.


Note to Editors:
To view the brand audit website and previous years’ reports, click here.

[1] Greenpeace Philippines, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Mother Earth Foundation, Ecowaste Coalition, and Health Care Without Harm

[2] Stemming the Tide statement of accountability (2022), Ocean Conservancy.

Press Contacts:

• Global: Caro Gonzalez | caro@breakfreefromplastic.org+1 (646) 991-1013
• Asia Pacific: Eah Antonio | eah@breakfreefromplastic.org, (+63) 927-827-7960
• Europe: Bethany Keeley | bethany@breakfreefromplastic.org, (+44) 7903-569-531
• United States: Brett Nadrich | brett@breakfreefromplastic.org, +1 (929) 269-4480

Break Free From Plastic’s brand audit initiative is supported by: