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Envi groups call for the beginning of the end of plastic clean ups

Through the start of massive plastic reduction by companies

Greenpeace Philippines
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Greenpeace Philippines

Plastic-Free Pilipinas (PFP) 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.

Volunteers tally and audit the collected plastic wastes to determine the top brands that are driving plastic pollution in the Philippines. © Basilio H Sepe / Greenpeace
SAN JUAN CITY, Philippines — Today, on International Coastal Cleanup Day, environmental groups under the Plastic-Free Pilipinas (PFP) network [1] called for the beginning of the end of plastic waste clean ups through the start of massive plastic reduction by companies.

The call coincided with the 5th year since the world’s first global Brand Audit [2]. This year’s Brand Audit also happens 36 years after the first International Coastal Clean Up Day. Ironically, while yearly clean ups have contributed in raising awareness among people about plastic pollution, corporations have remained insensitive. Data shows that in the last 3 decades, plastic consumption has quadrupled, following the sharp rise in plastic production since the 1990s [3], and that more than half of all plastics ever produced have been made since 2000 [4]. Grassroots and environmental groups have been using Brand Audits as a way to expose the corporate litterbugs responsible for the world’s massive plastic crisis.
“It’s time to 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.”
“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.”  
PFP groups say that in the five years that groups have been doing Brand Audits around the world, there has been significant progress on how people understand plastic pollution as a problem brought on by corporations, and how policies are now looking at corporate responsibility. Much work, however, still needs to be done in the Philippines to ensure corporations do not escape their responsibility to reduce the amount of plastics they produce, and to remediate the pollution they’ve caused. While corporations have taken notice of Brand Audits, the reaction has been limited to misdirected pledges. Worse, they’ve also hoodwinked policy makers about fraudulent plastic neutrality schemes that involve burning their plastic waste to erase the evidence of their pollution. All this is done to avoid their primary responsibility to reduce, while in the process transforming their plastic waste to toxic air pollution that harms communities. 
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. Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation said, “These biggest polluters also fail to see that real community-level solutions in the form of zero waste systems are already being implemented and that they enjoy support from their locality, like Siquijor. Corporations should heed the call of these communities to initiate genuine change.”
This year’s Brand Audit comes at the heels of Ocean Conservancy’s (OC) historic retraction of their 2015 “Stemming the Tide” report [5], which painted Global South countries like the Philippines as the worst culprits of marine plastic waste. The organization, which has popularized coastal clean-ups globally, also acknowledged in their retraction 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.
PFP’s 2022 Brand Audit was held at the grounds of San Juan City Hall. Part of the waste audited came from their materials recovery facility and from their weekly clean up of the city’s creeks where the currents also carry waste from other parts of Metro Manila towards the Pasig River and, eventually, Manila Bay. Gabriel Gerard Katigbak from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, who spoke on behalf of the City of San Juan Local Government, added, “While local government units are improving their waste management systems and coming up with ordinances that regulate plastic usage, companies must also do their part by investing in more sustainable solutions. Not only would this protect the environment, but it would also safeguard the future of the Filipinos.”
Other organizations nationwide have organized brand audits in their localities. Concurrent with the activities in San Juan City, brand audits were also conducted in Tacloban and Davao by Tacloban Youth Volunteers’ Movement and Dive ta Bai – Davao respectively.
Notes to editors
[1] Plastic Free Pilipinas network is composed of EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Philippines, Health Care Without Harm and Mother Earth Foundation, all of which are also members of the global Break Free From Plastic Movement.
[2] Brand Audits are citizen science initiatives that serve to go beyond clean-up activities. The purpose is to unmask the companies behind the proliferation of single-use plastic in the environment. Since its inception in 2016 in Tagaytay City, Philippines, Brand Audits have mobilized citizens 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. Past brand audits saw the top corporations being the worst plastic polluters globally, with the likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Mondelez, and Unilever among many others consistently leading the list. Locally, Universal Robina Corporation and Nutriasia figure in the top 10 regularly as well.
[3] According to the OECD, the world has seen plastic consumption increase by 400%, with plastic production and plastic waste generation doubling from 2000 to 2019 to reach 460 million tonnes. (OECD Global Plastics Outlook 2022)
[4] Plastic Atlas (2019), Heinrich Boell Foundation.
[5] Stemming the Tide statement of accountability (2022), Ocean Conservancy.

PRESS CONTACT

Karl Santos, Communications Campaigner
Greenpeace Philippines | kisantos@greenpeace.org | +63 9999932058

Eunille Santos, Digital Campaigner
Greenpeace Philippines | eunille.santos@greenpeace.org | +63 9175411248

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