If plastic was a country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter. And the industry’s footprint could grow further, doubling by 2040.
Consumer corporations are driving this crisis. Many have worked behind the scenes and hand-in-hand with fossil fuel companies to defeat initiatives that would have held them responsible for their waste. Instead, they continue to perpetuate false solutions. Given that plastics last so long that they exist outside of the human perception of time, what these companies are producing now will stick around on the planet long after they’re gone.
It can be difficult to get a handle on which corporations are responsible for what plastic pollution; some companies disclose some information about how much they produce, while others are black boxes. There are almost no government mandates for companies to report or clean up their branded trash anywhere in the world. But accountability is the first step to stopping the cycle of plastic overproduction.
The recently released annual brand audit from Break Free From Plastic, an international organization that seeks to form a movement to end plastic production and use, has helped identify the biggest plastic miscreants. To perform the audit, Break Free From Plastic used more than 11,000 volunteers in 45 countries to sort through plastic trash during cleanup or collection efforts, logging the brands they found in the 330,493 pieces of trash collected to get a representative sense of just whose plastic is clogging the world. Here are some of the most common polluters they found. (Earther reached out to each polluter and have included comments if they responded.)