As Trash Heroes, we know a community cleanup is one of the most effective ways to help people understand the impact of plastic pollution and create the positive energy needed for change. But we also know cleanups on their own are not a long term solution to the problem of plastic waste. For that, we need to go to the source.
That’s why Trash Hero has joined forces with Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) again this year for a mass data collection project focusing on “brand audits”.
A “brand audit” is a detailed log of the plastic found during a regular cleanup. It records the date; location; type of material and the number of layers in each piece; and then the name of the producer, if it’s still visible. The data is collected in a systematic way and – for this project – from a wide range of locations on a global scale, involving many different NGOs and volunteers.
BFFP, as the coordinator of the project, will then compile and interpret the collected data for their annual Brand Audit Report (results of the 2019 report here). The results serve as evidence of the scale and provenance of consumer-goods-related pollution. They enable BFFP to push the biggest manufacturers of this plastic waste to change the way they make and deliver their products.
This year’s report is due out in early December. Trash Hero World has committed to make the findings available in Indonesian, Thai and Malaysian to amplify the media coverage in Southeast Asia.
To broaden the dataset, Trash Hero World and BFFP provided brand audit training for Trash Hero volunteers in several different countries in August and September. It was a new experience for most of them: gathering and recording the information is a fairly labour-intensive process, but one that proved to be both eye-opening and fun. In the lead up to the official data collection period, Trash Hero Canggu in Indonesia collected 140 unrecyclable tubes of toothpaste from a single brand (Pepsodent, by Unilever) in just one hour!
The data collection period lasted six weeks, coming to an end on 30 September 2020. Although the results are still coming in, our estimates show that around 80 brand audits were carried out by Trash Hero volunteers in around 60 locations in the northern, southern, eastern and western hemispheres.
This is more than four times the number of brand audits we submitted as an organisation last year and should in the end make up around one-sixth of the total brand audits contributed to the project globally this year (final numbers TBC). We are very proud of our citizen scientists, many of whom were working under challenging conditions due to COVID-19. We will publish the outcomes of the whole project in a future post.