Major Consumer Brands asked to show plastic accountability

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Led by Changing Markets Foundation, over 15 civil society organisations from across the world have written to major consumer brands to ‘demand’ plastic management accountability. The organisations include Clean Up Kenya, The Story of Plastic Project, Environment Investigation Agency, Gallifrey Foundation, GAIA India, Trash Hero World, No Plastic in the Sea, among others.

The corporations that the letters have been sent to include Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Perfetti van Melle and Unilever.

The letter has also been sent to President von der Leyen, of the European Commision.

Led by Coca-Cola, these corporations are the face of the plastic crisis globally. Between them, they are responsible for the production of over 10 million metric tonnes of plastic globally, most of which ends up in the sea or are incinerated contributing tremendously to the global carbon footprint. Only an insignificant percentage of the plastics are recycled, despite many idle commitments from the consumer brands.

In developing and poor countries, where waste management systems are weak and plastics ends up being incinerated on open-air dumpsites, there is also a real health implication on communities. This is made worse by the exportation of plastic waste by rich countries to poor ones.

In September 2020, Changing Markets Foundation released a damning report titled, ‘Talking Trash: the corporate playbook of false solutions to the plastic crisis’. This report which was also launched in Nairobi by Clean Up Kenya highlights industry tactics to undermine legislative solutions to the crisis.

Clean Up Kenya Patron, Betterman Simidi, (left) hands ‘Talking Trash’ report to Kenya’s Senate Speaker, Hon. Kenneth Lusaka (right)

Among the tactics used by organisations such as Coca-Cola includes false recycling commitments, lobbying, lack of transparency in reporting the companies’ full plastic footprint, setting up greenwashing organisations to appear to be doing something about the problem when they are actually working to undermine and derail progressive legislation, etc.

In Kenya for example, Coca-Cola together with other consumer brands has set up PETCO Kenya to do their bidding in the work of undermining any movement in solving this problem. Following a sustained exposure of the despicable workings of PETCO Kenya by Clean Up Kenya, Kenya Association Of Manufacturers has recently set up KEPRO, another greenwashing organisation which is also set to do the consumer brands bidding.

Nusa Urbancic, Campaigns Director, Changing Markets Foundation, has observed about the other tactics used by the consumer brands: Others are sneakier – like setting up fake environmental groups, withholding or manipulating data, and even co-opting the Covid-19 crisis in the case of the plastics industry pushing back on bans on single-use plastics and delaying other legislation.’ 

The letters by the over 15 organisations are therefore asking the consumer brands to “publicly advocate for legislative solutions to the crisis and also leave trade groups and other organisations that were set up and continue to oppose legislative solutions. They should also distance themselves publicly from producer responsibility organisations in opposition to deposit return systems, such as ARA in Austria, EKO-KOM in the Czech Republic and Ecoembes in Spain and PETCO Kenya and the newly established KEPRO by Kenya Association of Manufacturers in Kenya.”

The organizations have given the consumer brands until 19th November 2020 to respond.

The letters are available publicly here.


Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the de-facto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilizing for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. These cleanups are meant to increase visibility on the problem of waste and it is therefore common to see our volunteers in bibs with one message, ‘Clean Up Kenya’. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, green-washing NGOs, and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.