Plastic Clean Up on Kaho'olawe. © Tim Aubry / Greenpeace
Plastics and trash piled up on the beach after washing up onshore on Kaho’olawe Island, Hawaii. In 2018 Greenpeace US partnered with the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana (PKO) and Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to do a beach cleanup and brand audit on the island. © Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Plastic pollution is a crisis: it fills our waterways, streets, and homes, harming wildlife and human health. Microplastics and toxins from making plastic are often in the air we breathe and the water we drink. Our understanding of the devastating effects of plastic on communities and the environment is growing—and so is the understanding that the only way to stop this is to make less plastic. Yet the global plastic production and packaging industries are planning to expand production of new plastic by nearly 40% in the next few years.

The good news is we can fight back! Much of plastic polluting our communities comes clearly branded with a company name, which means we can hold these companies accountable. Members of the Break Free From Plastic movement from around the world have come together to expose these brands for their reckless packaging habits. On World Cleanup Day in 2018, thousands of volunteers in hundreds of cities reported the brands found in their local parks, streets, and shorelines. We used the data to highlight exactly how some of the world’s biggest and best known companies are wrecking the planet. Based on the audit results, we identified the 2018 top polluters: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle.

Companies like Nestle are starting to respond. They see that their packaging practices are quickly becoming outdated and unpopular. They have started to make promises to reduce their plastic pollution impact, but the short-sighted options big companies are putting forward are a long way from the complete change in packaging methods that we urgently need. And we need to keep the pressure on.

So this year we plan to go even bigger—that’s where you come in. 

Clean-up and Brand Audit in Cebu City. © Greenpeace / Grace Duran-Cabus
Plastic waste was sorted according to its type and brand during a brand audit in Lahug River, Cebu City, Philippines, earlier this year.

Have you ever picked up a piece of trash off the ground and noticed the brand on its label before putting it in the bin? The brand audit is just doing that, but with a few more people and a good plan. By adding a brand audit to your community cleanup, you can help us hold corporate polluters accountable for their plastic pollution. After all, we can clean forever—or reduce once.

Everything you need to know about how to plan and do a brand audit can be found in the Break Free From Plastic brand audit toolkit. In the weeks leading up to World Cleanup Day on September 21, we invite you to consider planning a cleanup and brand audit in a nearby beach, river shore, or stream; the streets around your neighborhood; a local park; or even in your own home, school, or office! So if you’re not able to get your gloves on and pick up waste outside, you can still show corporations that you expect them to be doing more to stop plastic pollution.

Join thousands of people from around the world by adding a brand audit to your cleanup this September. Please be sure to register your event, and join the growing global movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic!

Plastics Brand Audit at Wonnapa Beach in Chonburi © Chanklang Kanthong / Greenpeace
Greenpeace Southeast Asia conducted a plastic brand audit at Wonnapa beach, Chonburi province, Thailand, on World Cleanup Day in 2018. © Chanklang Kanthong / Greenpeace

Emma Priestland is the corporate campaign coordinator for Break Free From Plastic.