Here's How to Hold Brands Accountable for the Plastic Waste They Create

Take your beach cleanup to the next level on #WorldCleanupDay - conduct a brand audit.

As the momentum builds around the movement to rid our planet and our waterways of the endless stream of plastic generated by our throwaway society, community beach cleanups have gained in popularity in recent years. An opportunity for people to come together and clean the trash - big and small - from their beloved beaches, there’s nothing more satisfying than restoring a litter strewn environment back to its pristine state.

Except maybe preventing that litter from arriving there in the first place. For the truth is, it really doesn’t matter how diligent we are in our cleanup efforts if the steady stream of trash coming from our coffee shops, our super markets and our big box stores continues. As long as corporations are free to distribute their products in harmful single-use packaging and have no responsibility to properly dispose of them, the trash will keep coming back and will continue to choke our waterways.

This is why we need to incorporate brand audits into our beach cleanups - to hold corporations responsible for the waste they create and advocate for government policies that make them accountable for it.

What is a brand audit and how does it work? A brand audit is a beach cleanup that investigates the type and manufacturers of the branded plastic trash collected in order to expose who the real litterbugs are. And on #WorldCleanupDay (September 15), The Story of Stuff’s #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement is asking those participating in cleanup efforts worldwide to incorporate such brand audits into their cleanups. If you’re in Toronto, Greenpeace Canada is partnering with several organizations to do just that along the Don River.

Our waste and brand audits are a fun and easy way to get involved to help protect waterways and green spaces in your community.  - Greenpeace Canada

If in the future you want to organize your own cleanup and brand audit, this is how it works (if you are joining one tomorrow, the organizers will have already done steps 1 through 3 and you’ll be helping with steps 4 and 5!):

1) Make a waste disposal plan. Decide ahead of time what you will do with all the trash you collect. Divide it into recyclables, compostables, and waste. It's the waste category that you’ll be mostly working with in the brand audit.

2) Get protective gear. Use tongs, bins, bags, and buckets for collection, and printed Brand Audit forms on a clipboard (available via Break Free From Plastic’s Brand Audit Toolkit).

3) Choose your location. The size should be relative to the number of volunteers and the boundaries laid out clearly ahead of time. Take before and after photos.

4) Record your data. You can choose between two methods for this part. The first method is to gather all collected waste and separate the plastics. Divide the plastics into piles by type, then divide those piles into groups by brand. The second method involves categorizing the items as you collect them. Have a group of people picking up trash, while another group records what the pickers are finding on the Brand Audit form.

5) Hold brands accountable! Here comes the important (and fun!) part - after you've cleaned up the area and disposed of collected waste, share pictures on social media of brand-specific trash and tag the manufacturers. Use the hashtag #breakfreefromplastic in your posts. We would advise taking this a step further by also tagging your local politicians so they become aware that holding corporations accountable is something voters want (learn more about why this is important). Then Enter all the data you collected into the online data form to help paint a bigger picture of the situation.

We hope to see everyone out with Greenpeace Canada, Don’t Mess with the Don, Stop Plastics, Strawless Toronto and Zero Waste Hub Toronto for the cleanup and brand audit event this Saturday, September 15 #WorldCleanupDay in Toronto!

Celebrate the last day of summer at our FREE outdoor film screening of Beyond Crisis (2017)

On Friday, September 21, 6:00pm-9:30pm join us for a FREE outdoor screening of Beyond Crisis, a film that explores what it means to live in this new era of climate change and celebrates the stories of people around the world who are moving humanity forward. The film will start at dusk, with a chance to hear from local community groups beforehand. There will be a post-screening discussion with filmmaker Kai Reimer-Watts about what communities can do at the local level to advocate for a #SafeClimateFuture.