California Initiative to Fight Plastic Pollution Submits Petitions to Qualify for Statewide Ballot

California, U.S. – On Tuesday, supporters of an initiative to reduce plastic waste submitted more than 870,000 voter signatures to qualify the Plastics Free California initiative for the ballot – significantly more than the 623,212 signatures required.

The initiative was originally on track to appear on this November’s ballot; however, signature gathering was slowed to respect and protect public health as a result of the pandemic. A court extended the original deadline, and a surge of volunteer support provided the remaining signatures needed to appear on the next general election to occur after this November – presumably in November 2022.

The news was applauded by a wide range of respected individuals and organizations supporting the initiative. “Nearly eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, mostly from single-use plastic items like bags, bottle caps, water bottles, and StyrofoamTM cups,” said California Coastal Commissioner and official initiative proponent Linda Escalante. “Consumer use of these products is measured in days or minutes, while the environmental, public health, and social costs are measured in generations or centuries.”

“The simple fact is, there is just too much plastic — and too many different types of plastics — being produced, sold and littered into the environment; and there exist few, if any, viable end markets for the much of the material,” said official initiative proponent Mike Sangiacomo, President and CEO of Recology. “This effort intends to course correct the situation by incentivizing a shift to more sustainable materials and developing end markets for the post consumer plastic that remains.”

“We produce about one million tons of plastic every day, and we’re on track to double that by 2030 and have more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050,” said California Coastal Commissioner and official initiative proponent Dr. Caryl Hart. “Now is the time for Californians to take action by passing Plastics Free California.”

The initiative will:

  • Reduce plastic pollution
  • Restore and protect environments harmed by plastic pollution
  • Increase recycling

It will achieve this by:

  • Funding environmental restoration and protection of streams, rivers, beaches, and oceans harmed by plastic trash pollution.
  • Reducing the amount of plastic pollution in California by ensuring that all single-use plastic packaging be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2030.
  • Reducing the amount of single use plastic sold in California by 25% by 2030.
  • Instituting a statewide ban on non-recyclable plastic StyrofoamTM food containers. • Funding new recycling plants that will turn single-use trash into new products.
  • Protecting drinking water, reducing runoff from pesticides, and funding new composting facilities.
  • Charging corporate plastic manufacturers a penny tax on its single-use plastic packages to fund plastic recycling and environmental clean-up of plastic pollution.

“This initiative gives Californians a historic opportunity to turn the tide on the seemingly intractable problem of plastic pollution,” said Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy for the environmental organization Californians Against Waste. “With the passage of this ballot measure, California will set a model for how to transition to a circular economy and invest in a healthy environment.”

“The Plastic Free California Initiative is critical to addressing the growing problem of plastics pollution and its real impacts in our rivers and ocean,” said Jay Ziegler, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Policy External Affairs, “and given the tremendous voter support to qualify this initiative, we can see voters are eager and ready to take action to support this measure in the voting booth in 2022.”

“Our life-giving ocean is being overwhelmed by millions of tons of single-use plastic waste that ends up in the ocean every year,” said Aimee David, Vice President of Ocean Conservation Policy Strategy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “Plastic pollution is now found everywhere, from Arctic sea ice to the deepest ocean trenches. It’s in the bodies of microscopic organisms and the bellies of the largest whales. We know how to change this, and California can lead the way. This initiative harnesses the power of consumers, business and government so – together – we can rethink how we use and dispose of single-use plastic and achieve a healthy future for our ocean.”

“This initiative gives us the resources to move away from toxic plastics and towards a clean environment for all Californians while also investing in compost production and farmers who store carbon in healthy soils,” said Jeanne Merrill, Policy Director, California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN).

“The Surfrider Foundation is excited that the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act will be on the 2022 ballot,” said Miho Ligare, Plastic Pollution Policy Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation. “The need for urgent action to reduce plastic pollution is undeniably clear. The first and foremost focus of our organization’s Plastic Pollution Initiative is on source reduction of single-use plastics, followed by recycling of remaining plastics. Eliminating non-reusable, non-recyclable, and non-compostable products and foodware, and reducing packaging are by far the most effective and least expensive way to protect the health of people, wildlife, and the environment. This innovative initiative will move us in the right direction towards making concrete impacts in tackling this plastic crisis.”

“It is more important than ever that we address the plastic pollution crisis that affects ecosystems and communities from material extraction all the way through disposal,” said Genevieve Abedon, on behalf of the Clean Seas Lobbying Coalition. “The recent increase in disposables contributes to our climate crisis, costs taxpayers and local governments to clean up, and threatens human and wildlife health. With the initiative requiring producers to reduce the amount of plastic single-use packaging and foodware they make and sell first and foremost, and pay a fee for any recyclable or compostable items that they continue to produce, Californians have a chance to vote for a comprehensive solution to help create real change in the system.”

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Manila, Philippines – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the top 3 most identified companies in global brand audits for the second year in a row, according to a new report “BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.”

Four hundred and eighty-four cleanups in over 50 countries and 6 continents, organised by the Break Free From Plastic movement in September, identified the top polluting companies. The rest of the companies rounding out the top 10 polluters are Mondelēz International, Unilever, Mars, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle.

“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created. Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment. Recycling is not going to solve this problem. Break Free From Plastic’s nearly 1,800 member organizations are calling on corporations to urgently reduce their production of single-use plastic and find innovative solutions focused on alternative delivery systems that do not create pollution,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. 

This year’s most frequently identified companies in the brand audits – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo – have offered mostly false solutions to the plastics crisis, underscoring how important it is for voices from beyond the consumer goods sector to demand accountability and call for an end to single-use plastics. The list of top polluters is again filled with some of the world’s most commonly known brands.

“Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis unfortunately continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system. These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future,” said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia plastic campaign coordinator.

“The products and packaging that brands like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are churning out is turning our recycling system into garbage. China has effectively banned the import of the US and other exporting countries’ ‘recycling,’ and other countries are following suit. Plastic is being burned in incinerators across the world, exposing communities to toxic pollution. We must continue to expose these real culprits of our plastic and recycling crisis,” said Denise Patel, US Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

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#BrandAudit2019 highlights the power of citizens in holding corporate plastic polluters accountable

On World Cleanup Day on Sept. 21, Break Free From Plastic, of which Plastic Pollution Coalition is a founding member, highlighted the power of citizen action to hold corporate polluters accountable for the plastic pollution crisis.  

Through its #BrandAudit2019 initiative, members of  the #breakfreefromplastic movement have collectively organized over 700 brand audits in 84 countries to identify the brands responsible for the plastic pollution found in worldwide cleanups and record data to hold those brands accountable.

“Every time we do clean ups, we are confronted with the pervasive problem of plastic pollution suffocating the planet.  By doing brand audits, we are able to expose and challenge the real drivers of this crisis, especially the companies who keep marketing and selling their products in disposable, throwaway packaging. We can’t keep cleaning up after the mess created by these corporations. They need to be held accountable,”  said Emma Priestland, #breakfreefromplastic Corporate Campaign Coordinator.

“Corporations must own up to the plastic pollution that they are causing. These corporations have been inundating the Global South market with single-use products and multilayer small size sachets or packets that, according to them, are pro-poor, but can hardly be recycled. However, these corporations are the ones making profits out of this throwaway packaging, while at the same time polluting developing countries and calling us the world’s biggest polluters,” Daru Rini of Indonesia-based Ecoton. 

In the recently held Waste Assessment and Brand Audit in Surabaya River, Indonesia, Ecoton has identified plastic residual wastes such as soiled diapers, sachets or packets, and PET bottles as the biggest percentage of plastic waste. These single-use plastics that can neither be recycled nor composted are the biggest threat to achieving Zero Waste, and are to blame for releasing microplastics into the environment. 

Indonesia, along with other Southeast Asian countries, are reeling from the impacts of plastic pollution brought about by the influx of products wrapped in sachets or smaller plastic packaging aimed at reaching lower income brackets in developing countries. However, communities and governments often bear the brunt of managing the disposal of these unrecyclable plastic packaging while multinational corporations’ continued production and use of single-use plastic packaging is  escaping scrutiny and accountability.

“Communities around the world have carried the burden of cleaning up the plastic pollution created by corporations for too long. Brand audits transform beach cleanups into something truly powerful—a way to stop plastic pollution at the source by holding corporate polluters accountable. We will only see real change when companies like Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. end their reliance on fossil fuel-based plastic and throwaway packaging,” said Graham Forbes, Greenpeace USA Global Project Leader.

From North and South America to Europe to Africa and Asia,  #breakfreefromplastic has mobilized groups and individuals with a common mission to expose branded trash so that corporations can no longer pass the burden to citizens and governments. This year’s brand audit initiative has mobilized a massive number of volunteers in countries like Taiwan (11,000), Colombia (10,000) China (7 coastal cleanups), Benin (1800), Tanzania (1500), Kenya (700), Ecuador (600 volunteers), Ivory Coast (600 volunteers), India (600), Ghana (500 volunteers), the Philippines (500), and over 200 in Malawi, South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Brazil as well as many different groups in Nigeria and the Philippines. This year’s number of brand audit actions has tripled compared to last year.  

The results of this year’s global brand audits will be revealed and showcased in a report scheduled for release in the coming weeks. Last year, the results were  consolidated in a report entitled Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Polluters vol. 1 which revealed that among the world’s most polluting brands are multinational companies Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive. 

The top three companies alone (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé) accounted for 14% of the branded plastic pollution found in the six regions where the audits were conducted. These worldwide coordinated brand audits have been putting much pressure on companies to be responsible and accountable for the “branded pollution” that they have been causing. It has also emboldened the Break Free From Plastic movement to issue a Corporate Leadership Challenge in October 2018 and to reinforce its corporate call on the 3Rs: reveal how much plastic goes into markets and environments each year; reduce the amount of plastic produced and packaged; and reinvent how goods are packaged and delivered.//ends

 #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,500 non-governmental organizations and individuals from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision.


Last week, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a #CleanSeas campaign to “turn the tide on plastic.” The campaign educated people all over the world about the 8 million tons of plastic going into our oceans every year and urged individuals to take action to reduce their plastic footprint on the earth. Make a commitment here.  

According to the UNEP, countries across the globe are already making reduction commitments: Indonesia will cut marine litter by an astounding 70 percent by 2025; Uruguay has pledged to adopt a nationwide plastic bag fee in 2017; and Costa Rica is amping up education and improving waste management to reduce plastic pollution.

While these government pledges—and the more than 700 individual commitments—are a successful start, solving the plastic pollution crisis requires collaboration between communities, businesses, and governments. When governments commit to taking actionable steps to reduce plastic pollution worldwide, communities must be ready to hold their governments to those promises.

This process is already in action all over the world. When people in Rwanda advocated for a plastic bag ban with penalties for offenders the government followed through, and the ban has been upheld in the country since 2008. In California, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) partners with local government to ensure that waste diversion and recycling happens and that environmental commitments are kept. And in 2016, a grassroots movement of community members and organizations helped California uphold the state-wide plastic bag ban.

Here are five things we all can do to hold governments accountable:

  1. Contact your representatives. Tweet at them, call them, or write letters and emails. (Don’t know who your representatives are? Find out in the US, in Europe, and in the UN.)
  2. Ask your representatives to release strategies for combating plastic pollution. For example, find out whether your country has banned microbeads in personal care products, and if they haven’t, send a letter urging action.
  3. Ask for a timeline. Whether you ask your local government to ban plastic bags or your national government to ban microbeads, request a detailed timeline for implementation. Did you know? The U.S. and more than 70 other countries are working to promote transparency and fight corruption through the Open Government Partnership. In the U.S., you can demand access to documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
  4. Show up to community events. After making your voice heard by writing your representative, show up to public forums, committee meetings, speaking events, and other gatherings your representatives hold locally. Tell your politicians your concerns about the plastic pollution crisis and listen to their responses.
  5. Follow up. Use the information you’ve gathered to ensure your representatives keep the commitments they’ve made. Call, email, and follow up again. Thank them when measures pass that reducing plastic pollution and protect the environment. If they fail to meet your expectations, tell them. For instance, you can start by letting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo know that he failed to protect community rights by letting the plastic bag industry preempt New York City’s bag ban—a bad precedent for local vs. state/national rights all over the world.

Looking for a place to start? Learn how to start a plastic bag ban or polystyrene ban in your town.

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Take the pledge! Refuse single-use plastic.