The Outcomes of Uganda’s 2022 Brand Audit

No More Empty Promises

By Ndyamuhaki Isaac, Green Africa Youth Organization Uganda, Circular Economy Programs Manager.

Uganda’s communities and people find themselves in the clutches of top-polluting corporations. Incidentally, plastic pollution is an injustice to the environment, wildlife, climate, human health and general social life, making it a growing global problem. Research shows that approximately 7 billion of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced between 1950-2017 became plastic waste, ending up in landfills or dumped. Plastic pollution can alter habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change, and directly affecting millions of people’s livelihoods, food value chains and social well-being. 

Brand Audits elevate people’s understanding of the structural causes of plastic pollution, gather hard data proving that corporations are responsible for producing excessive amounts of single-use plastic packaging and reveal the disproportionate harm these corporations are causing to vulnerable communities. In 2018 when the first brand audit was carried out, unique achievements, challenges and breakthroughs were realized, putting a spotlight on major plastic-polluting companies across global and local scales.

End Plastic Pollution conducted a brand audit on River Rwizi in Mbarara City in 2021/ This generated significant evidence of a flowing river with plastics where 56 brands and 32 companies were identified as visibly damaging the river with plastic waste. The top polluting brands were The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi, and BIDCO Africa, as well as Mbarara-based companies like Yausafi Ventures and Ice Love Company.

The 2022 brand audit carried out on the showers of lake victoria and Kireka landfill jointly conducted by Green Africa Youth Organization Uganda and End Plastic Pollution was the most significant year for brand audits. The global plastic pollution crisis marked the 5th Anniversary of the global brand audits. This brand revealed a remarkable consistency of results; year after year, the same Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies with the largest market share are generating the most plastics polluting the environment. A total of 32 companies were exposed, with The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi and Unilever making the top three polluters. Six hundred fifty-six items were audited, 49% were food packaging, and 11% were personal care products. By material type, 49% of the items audited were PET, and 22% were HDPE. 

Through these brand audits, key findings contained the contribution of the brands and the key players in plastic pollution in  Kampala and Mbarara cities. A total of 1487 plastic items were collected and sorted. It was found that 137 brands produced by  39 parent companies were responsible for the plastic waste collected. By material type, 673 items were PET bottles, 424 items were HDPE bottles, and other items, including sachets and baby diapers, were 273.  The exercise also found 97 unbranded items, including plastic footwear and plastic cutlery. The Coca-Cola Company was the biggest plastic polluter with 312 items found,  followed by Pepsi with 124 items, BIDCO Africa with 115 items found,  Unilever in fourth place with 107 items and Mukwano Industries fifth with 99 items.

However, less than 10% of all the plastic ever produced globally has been recycled. According to the plastic coalition, 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels and their production is poised to quadruple by 2050. There exists, therefore, a dire need to control plastic pollution before the entire ecosystem is eaten up and rendered inhabitable. 

This audit proposed various recommendations to different stakeholders in Uganda: The corporations were recommended to freely reveal and share information about the true extent of their plastic footprint, reduce the amounts of plastics they produce and also redesign their packaging to involve reusable material. The government was recommended to hold accountable the corporate polluters, as voluntary commitments seemed to have failed; to ensure that no new plastics are produced. It was also tasked to invest in waste reduction measures and zero-waste systems that are in line with the national climate action plans. Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to life and the ecosystem. There is, therefore, a need for an immediate response, especially in holding accountable the perpetrators of plastic pollution.