Nfld. & Labrador

This zero-waste team wants your help revealing the biggest plastic polluters in N.L.

An environmental group is calling on residents to tally their trash in hopes of identifying the province's corporate plastic-waste juggernauts.

Last year, the Zero Waste Action Team found 75 per cent of plastics in households are non-recyclable

The Zero Waste Action Team N.L., part of the Social Justice Co-op, wants to identify the biggest polluters of plastic in the province. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

An environmentalist group is looking to pin down Newfoundland and Labrador's biggest plastic polluters.

The Zero Waste Action Team N.L., part of the Social Justice Co-op, launched its 2021 brand audit on Monday to get an idea of who and where the major polluters of plastics are in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Last year the team audited 40 households in St. John's. This year it's trying to sweep the entire province. 

Sarah Sauve, a volunteer with the group, told CBC Radio's On The Go a brand audit looks into all the plastic waste produced over a period of time. Last year the group followed a two-week block. This year will be one week. 

Their strategy involves a bit of sleuthing, Sauve explains.

The group notes "what brands are on that plastic, so that we have an idea of which companies … are producing the plastic in our communities," Sauve said. 

In its audit last year, the team found 75 per cent of plastics in households are non-recyclable. The top five brands associated with those plastics were President's Choice, Compliments, Kirkland, Ziploc and Hello Fresh.

Three major grocery chains are associated with some of those plastics: Dominion, Sobeys and Costco. 

The provincewide audit will work a little differently from last year's campaign. Sauve said the group is asking people to complete the audit at home and include friends, family members or community groups in the effort. 

"The goal is to get a better idea of what kind of plastics we're finding in Newfoundland and Labrador so that we can hold those producers accountable for the waste they are creating," she said. 

In the audit last year, the Zero Waste Action Team found that 75 per cent of plastics in households are non-recyclable. (Submitted by Social Justice Co-operative NL)

Sauve said the audit should take a couple of hours to complete, but the time will drop depending on how detailed the participant wants to be and how much they collect. She said the less plastic a person uses, the less time it will take to do the audit. 

Last year, Sauve added, it took four people 16 hours to audit 40 households. 

The team offers a toolkit to help participants, which can be found on its Facebook page. Sauve said it contains a step-by-step guide, video resources and a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. 

The end goal is to implement "extended producer responsibility," which is a piece of legislation that forces large companies that produce plastic to maintain responsibility for the plastic at the end of its life, said Sauve. 

"The way it works right now, the corporations make the plastic, and when we throw it out our taxpayer money goes toward processing that plastic, whether it's in a landfill, whether it's in recyclables," she said. 

"So we're paying for both the product and paying for the disposal of it. Our goal with extended producer responsibility is to make the companies pay for the disposal of the plastic they're producing."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go