Green Neighbors Program

The Clark County Green Neighbors Program was developed and is maintained by Clark County Solid Waste and Environmental Outreach to assist citizens with developing more sustainable lifestyles and building a strong environmental community in Clark County. Solid waste regional planning and programs are a cooperative effort of Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt. Funding for this project provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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‘Is This Yours?’ The Responsibility of Name Brands in Plastic Pollution

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We see litter and plastic pollution everywhere we go, and it is no secret that it has proven a serious environmental hazard for our oceans and wildlife. Often this issue is pushed back onto consumers, who are told to clean up their coasts, recycle their plastics, and stop littering. But are individuals the only ones to blame?

In reality, brands and major corporations intentionally develop plastic packaging to be single-use, toxic, and rarely recyclable, causing it to end up in our landfills and waterways. Household names such as Starbucks, Hershey, and McDonald's produce these materials, leaving the disposal costs and repercussions up to the communities that purchase them. While individuals are left with the responsibility (and guilt), corporations are able to direct attention towards cleanup efforts, rather than a change in packaging. In this 'linear economy', the product is designed to be made, used for a short period, and disposed of. It is inherently unsustainable.

Many groups are calling for a more 'circular economy', in which resources are used for as long as possible, then recovered or reused for regeneration of new products. Think your reusable tote bag, as opposed to the short-lived plastic grocery bag. One of these organizations is the Story of Stuff, who released their Brand Report this October. This report accumulated data from cleanups all over the world, and tracked which corporations were the biggest litter producers. Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle consistently showed as the top three polluters worldwide. This report shows in startling numbers the impact our single-use packaging system has on environments and communities all over the globe.

One of these organizations is the Story of Stuff, who released their Brand Report this October. This report accumulated data from cleanups all over the world, and tracked which corporations were the biggest litter producers. Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle consistently showed as the top three polluters worldwide. This report shows in startling numbers the impact our single-use packaging system has on environments and communities all over the globe. Clark County Green Neighbors conducted our own cleanup on September 15, 2018 at BluRock Landing and Captain William Clark Park, which was included in the Story of Stuff's final numbers. The results can be found at the end of this article; plastic food packaging topped the lists, as well as hundreds of cigarette butts.

If you missed the cleanup, but still want to hold corporations accountable, consider downloading the Litterati app. This allows you to photograph trash as you pick it up, and tag the company that produced it. The app then compiles those numbers, in order to notify communities what type of packaging is the biggest problem in their area, and what franchises are doing the most polluting. Litterati has been used to fight litter at various levels- by leading schools to change their purchasing decisions, helping cities make corporation tax decisions, or teaching individuals what brands to avoid. If you are active on other forms of social media, you can also tag the company when you post their litter, with the hashtags #IsThisYours? and #breakfreefromplastic. Click here to learn more about planning a brand audit.

So what does this tell us? Cleanups are a powerful and important way to help your community, but at the heart of the litter, plastic, and pollution problem, the solution is holding companies accountable. By voting with our dollars and deciding who we choose to give money to, as well as using data from what we pick up, together we can work to change the way products are sold and break free from plastic. So next time you come across some litter, don't just think about who dropped it, but who created it, and ask, 'Is This Yours?'. Read the Story of Stuff's Brand Report to learn more about this topic and their findings.

Brand Audit Results

Blurock Landing 

Captain Willam Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach  

Brand

Product Type

Material Type

Pieces

Aquafina

food packaging

PET (#1)

1

7-11 Big Gulp

food packaging

PS (#6)

1

Coca-Cola

food packaging

PET (#1)

1

Crystal Water

food packaging

PET (#1)

1

Honey Stinger Organic Chews

food packaging

multilayer

1

Accel Gel

food packaging

multilayer

1

GU Energy Gel

food packaging

multilayer

1

Solo cup lid

food packaging

PS (#6)

2

David Sunflower Seeds

food packaging

single layer

1

D&G Bait Co (syro cup)

food packaging

PS (#6)

1

Walgreen's (plastic bag)

household product

single layer

2

Wrigley's Big Red

food packaging

multilayer

1

Doritos

food packaging

multilayer

1

Diaper (unk)

personal care product

other

1

Water Bottle (unk)

food packaging

PET (#1)

3

Cigarette butts

household product

other

1000

Plastic wrap (pieces)

household product

single layer

20

Plastic bags (unk)

household product

single layer

10

Brand

Product Type

Material Type

Pieces

Not identifiable

food packaging

PP (#5)

48

Not identifiable

food packaging

multilayer

17

Starbucks

food packaging

multilayer

1

Wendy's

food packaging

multilayer

1

Little Caesar's

food packaging

multilayer

2

ecotainer

food packaging

multilayer

1

Gatorade

food packaging

PET (#1)

3

Unilever

food packaging

PET (#1)

1

Safeway

household product

single layer

1

Not identifiable

household product

single layer

2

Not identifiable

food packaging

PP (#5)

2

Not identifiable

food packaging

PET (#1)

1

Frito Lay

food packaging

multilayer

1

Pepperidge Farm (Campbell Soup Company)

food packaging

multilayer

1

Ghirardelli

food packaging

multilayer

1

General Mills

food packaging

multilayer

1

Hershey

food packaging

multilayer

1

Charms (Tootsie Roll Industries)

food packaging

multilayer

1

Kraft

food packaging

multilayer

2

Impact Confections

food packaging

multilayer

1

Kellog

food packaging

multilayer

1

Ziploc (S. C. Johnson)

household product

single layer

1

Smuckers

food packaging

multilayer

1

Hostess

food packaging

multilayer

2

Not identifiable

personal care product

other

1

Not identifiable (cigarette butts)

other

60

...

Break Free From Plastic Movement | #breakfreefromplastic

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