‘Naming and shaming’ is a powerful tool in the fight against plastic waste

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Companies will do anything to protect their brand — possibly even redesign packaging.

Taking a posture against a giant, once you’re just a normal-sized individual, requires sharp plan. Thankfully, Froilan Grate has lots of this.

Grate is a community activist in the Philippines who’s made it his mission fight the plastic pollution which is overwhelming his homeland. It all began when he transferred to the capital for college at age 18. In an interview with NPR, he described the jolt of entering Manila Bay and seeing crap everywhere.

“He felt sick. ‘The contrast of where I grew up, beautiful white sand beaches, clear water, and arriving in Manila where it’s black water with countless plastic, that was shocking to me.’ His first thought at the time, he says, was that his own island would someday end up strewn with plastic as well. His next one was: What can I do to stop it?”

For decades Grate led up local initiatives to improve recycling practices and infrastructure. He talked to classes about lifestyle changes which could cut down waste, and joined an organization called the Mother Earth Foundation, working with waste-pickers to acquire formal job and better working conditions.

Despite his attempts, each tide brought a new wave of crap to Filipino shores. Grate said, “You realize that despite everything that you do, you really aren’t solving the problem.” He recognized that cleanup efforts would not get at the origin issue.

That’s when an idea occurred to him. Rather than simply collecting plastic crap and removing it to a landfill site, why not leverage the information that came with that garbage and use it to pressure producers to alter? That’s if Grate started conducting new audits — recording the titles of the companies that created every individual item and publicize it.

“They feel there is value in brand,” Grate states of the companies. Consumers trust brands. “We wanted to use it against them.”

Manila Bay brand audit&backup; Richard Atrero p Guzman/Greenpeace — Thousands participate in the Manila Bay cleanup and plastic waste brand audit in Roxas Blvd, Metro Manila.

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