It's hard to buy anything these days that isn't made of plastic or packaged in it. Global production of plastic has topped 320 million metric tons per year. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic that have been produced since the 1950s, only 9% has been recycled, according to a report by Break Free from Plastic. The rest of it ends up in landfills, rivers, oceans or other parts of the environment. We increasingly see images of wildlife suffering the consequences.
Break Free From Plastic is a global movement calling on corporations to reduce their use of single-use plastic, redesign delivery systems to minimize or eliminate packaging, and be accountable for the plastic pollution the organization says is straining waste management systems and the environment.
To find out which companies produce much of the plastic that ends up in the environment, Break Free conducted an audit of plastic pollution in 42 countries, collecting more than 187,000 pieces of plastic trash and identifying thousands of brands whose packaging relies on the single-use plastics.
Participants in the cleanups were trained to define their cleanup area, collect all waste found in that area, count and record the brand, parent manufacturer, product type (food, personal care, or household product), and packaging type for each piece of waste collected. The most common types of trash they found were plastic food wrappers, bottle caps, bottles, plastic bags, straws, lids, utensils and other plastics.
Above, participants cleaned a stretch of beach on Freedom Island along Manila Bay in the Philippines over eight days in 2017. They collected a total of 54,260 pieces of plastic waste.
Based on the October 2018 report by Break Free from Plastic, these are the brands that appeared the most in all 42 countries.
Photo: Break Free From Plastic