Plastic pollution is a global crisis affecting global flora, fauna, and human health. Plastics are ubiquitous in our homes and in litter found on beaches and roadsides. A staggering 97% of waste by weight, volume, and toxicity is industrial solid waste (Liboiron and Lepawsky 2022:9).
This project connected citizen scientists working at the household level in Newfoundland and Labrador with the #breakfreefromplastic global movement. Using a brand audit, this project identified and highlighted the worst polluters of plastics . A brand audit is the analysis of plastics collected over a given period of time from a particular location, noting usage category (e.g., food packaging), type of plastic (e.g., PET), any visible brand and count of each item (e.g., bottle caps).
In summary, we find that food packaging is the largest source of plastic waste in households, and the top brands are Dominion, Sobeys and Costco. We also find that the majority of plastic is not recyclable, at least in St. John's. The report ties these results into extended producer responsibility, for which consultation has begun in the province. Project participants and organisers call for full EPR legislation to ensure that producers take complete responsibility for the waste they bring to communities in this province and beyond. The report includes two specific demands for the legislation: a ban on incineration in the province and incentives for refillables.
The project had three core activities: 1) a brand audit in households in St. John's and area, NL with data submitted to the #breakfreefromplastic global brand audit; 2) a social media campaign based on brand audits of the past three years; and 3) a published report presenting the findings of the brand audit, with a focus on sources of plastic, and the experiences of the project participants and team.
The report can be found here: https://t.co/TH12Kc06p8
Beyond 2022, the SJCNL-ZWAT plans to continue organizing province-wide brand audits on a yearly basis, with the goal to include commercial and industrial sources of plastic pollution in future years. This is in line with current research that has found that municipal level recycling programs have not reduced the amount of plastic pollution (MacBride 2012), in fact it has increased. The problem, and solution to, plastic pollution is more aptly understood on the production side.
For more information, check out these works cited:
Liboiron, Max, and Josh Lepawsky. 2022. Discard Studies: Wasting, Systems, and Power. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
MacBride, Samantha. 2011. Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.