Your mess, your responsibility

A pan-India brand audit of waste aims to hold multinationals accountable for encouraging use-and-throw behaviour through their products

The clinking of cool drink bottles on a humid summer day, as the shopkeeper takes them out of their crates, is a sound that is perhaps embedded in the childhood memories of many a reader. That was well before the aerated beverage companies introduced PET bottles, a more convenient product. But at what cost does this convenience come?

Ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, a pan-India brand audit, led by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, aims to identify top companies and products responsible for generating the most plastic waste, given that India is hosting World Environment Day with the theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.

In the coming week, audits will be led in Delhi by Chintan, in Bangalore by Hasirudala, in Thiruvananthapuram by Thanal, in Pune by Swach, in Mumbai by Stree Mukti Sanghatana and in the Himalayan region by Zero Waste Himalayas.

In Chennai, the audit is being led by Citizen consumers and Civic Action Group (CAG) and Kuppai Matters. They want to make manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods aware of their role in environmental pollution.

CAG researcher Kripa Ramachandran explains the reasoning behind the initiative, “We see a lot of clean-up drives in the city — plogging has become a trend, even. These drives make it look like it’s a consumer behaviour problem, but the reason people litter more is that certain products are designed to be thrown after one use. So the idea is to examine what these products are, and who are these big businesses using unsustainable packaging material.”


CAG and Kuppai Matters is joining hands with various welfare NGOs to gather volunteers. Volunteers can clean up a place of their choosing; either at Srinivasapuram, Elliot’s Beach, Chitlapakkam lake or Pallavaram lake. “First, we will categorise the waste according to the type of material — that will help us in identifying which product is the biggest trouble-maker. Then, we further classify them according to brand. We have a separate unbranded section as well, to help identify which products invite more plastic and if there is any alternative to it,” says Ramachandran.

Ramachandran trains her gun on MNCs that aim to break into the poorer markets by reducing their market prices, but harm the environment in the process. “Take sachets for example. They are propagated as some kind of benevolent capitalism and made to look cheaper. But they come at a huge environmental cost.”

The data from different cities will be compiled into a list of non-eco-friendly companies. “The data from Chennai will be given to the Chennai Corporation. We are hoping to bring some policy changes through this,” says Ramachandran.

She agrees that the list isn’t be-all, end-all. “We might not arrive at the exact numbers, the list might not be completely representative, but at least we will get a sense of the amount of waste produced by companies and force them to own up and clean their mess.”

The audit will take place from May 18 to May 20. To volunteer, call 8939107923.

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Corrections & Clarifications: The article had erroneously mentioned that the audit in Pune was carried out by KKPKP. It is actually being carried out by Swach. In the Himalayan region, the project will be carried out Zero Waste Himalayas. The error is regretted.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 2:22:11 PM |

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