Mini brand audit: A how to guide

Welcome to your guide to running a mini Brand Audit in your community! Thank you for taking part in this global week of action in coordination with the #breakfreefromplastic movement. This guide should contain everything you need to know to organize a mini brand audit where you live, but if you have a question that isn’t addressed in this document, please email us at


Every year, thousands of people get together to clean up the waste that washes onto beaches around the world – but more plastic always reappears. This year, to break the cycle of plastic pollution, we’re not just cleaning up trash – we’re bringing accountability to the companies that create it.

To do so, groups and individuals around the world are organizing brand audits. Brand audits are global cleanup events with a healthy dose of citizen science! From September 10-16, volunteers around the world will be picking up litter at beaches, parks, and other public spaces. In addition to collecting waste, they’ll be tallying what brands and products show up most often. This data will help The Story of Stuff Project our partners in the #breakfreefromplastic movement identify the companies whose products most often end up in the environment, so we can work together to hold them accountable for their waste.

Follow this step-by-step guide to do your brand audit:

Step one: choose a location to do your brand audit: this should be a safe, public place like a beach or park where you’ll find plastic trash.

Step two: sign up!

Email letting us know you’re planning to take part with the following information:

  • Your name
  • Where you plan to do your brand audit (town/city and country)
  • When you plan to do the brand audit and when you’ll return the data to us

Step three: prepare to bring the following:

  • This how to guide
  • Data entry forms (you’ll probably need a few)
  • Material identification guide
  • Pens/pencils
  • Clipboards
  • Gloves to handle trash
  • Trash/recycling bags to dispose of the waste you collect
  • Optional:
    • Tongs, grabbers, or other gear that will help with waste collection
    • Supplies like snacks, water, and sunblock

Step four: collect and record the trash

Focus on picking up and recording information about branded plastic trash. There are three data points to record on your data entry form for each piece of waste.

    1. Brand – What brand is this product? It could be a Starbucks cup, a Dove shampoo bottle,
    2. Product Type – There are three options for the product type. Please be sure to stick to these categorizations so that everyone’s our data is consistent:
      • Household products (“HP”): detergents, cleaning products, bleach, cleaning tools, cigarette butts, textiles, etc.
      • Food packaging (“FP”): cookies, fast food, candies, sauces, ready-meals, drink bottles, etc.
      • Personal care (“PC”): soap packaging, shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes, etc.
    3. Material Type – Use the visual material guide to determine the eight options for the material type.

Don’t worry if you’re not be able to identify all three data points for every item you collect, just record as much information as you can. Each unique item that you identify should be recorded on its own line on the data sheet. If you find multiple pieces of the same item, use the “pieces” column to keep count. If an item has multiple components of different types of plastic e.g. a plastic bottle and its lid, record those as two items (in this example, a bottle and lid, they would be the same brand and product type, but two different material types).

Step five: share your brand audit story   

Help shift the narrative about who’s really responsible for plastic pollution! You can help join the conversation by sharing photos and videos of your event and by tweeting at the companies responsible for producing the trash you collect.

  • Take photos of branded trash in the environment, or piles of branded trash. Tweet photos at the company responsible for that trash, using the hashtags #breakfreefromplastic and #isthisyours? You can use sample tweets below:
    • “Hey @brand, we found this plastic trash with your name on it in [location] – #isthisyours? Let’s #breakfreefromplastic to create a future without plastic pollution!”
    • “Hey @brand, #isthisyours? Your plastic trash is ending up in the environment and harming communities around the world. We need to #breakfreefromplastic!”
    • “This single-use plastic from @brand got used just once before ending up here in [location]. We need to #breakfreefromplastic and hold companies responsible for all the plastic trash they create.”
  • Take a photo or video of your team at work! Make sure you obtain consent from people before sharing their photograph online.
  • Take a before and after photo of the area you cleaned up.

Step six: dispose of the trash

When you’re finished with your event, recycle as much of the waste as you can and dispose of the rest in a trash can.

Step seven: returning the data

  • Please return the data entry forms as soon as you can with your details on the top of each page, no later than 5pm on Sunday, September 16th. You can get your data to us in one of two ways:
    • Log your data as an excel file and email it to us at Make sure to include the information about your audit (contact, date, location) in the body of the email or at the top of the spreadsheet
    • Scan or take a photo of your data sheets and email them to us at Please make sure that your data is legible!
  • Any photos or videos that you took, indicating whether or not you got consent from the people in those photos for us to share them. By sharing photos and video with us, you are giving The Story of Stuff Project permission to republish them online on social media or elsewhere.

Step eight: what comes next

Story of Stuff Project will submit all the data #breakfreefromplastic movement, which will be used to learn more about the problem of plastics and determining the worst corporate offenders. Through brand audits, #breakfreefromplastic aims to hold polluting corporations accountable and bring people together to take action for a future where beach and community clean-ups are a thing of the past. Stay tuned for the next stage of the campaign and how you can get involved. In the meantime, look up #breakfreefromplastic and #IsthisYours? On Twitter to see the other brand audits happening across the world!