Brand Audit

Everything you need to prepare for your brand audit event.

How to conduct a Brand Audit

Let’s get started! A brand audit is made up of four main parts. First, you will gather plastic waste. Next, you’ll need to sort it into categories. Then, you’ll record the data. Finally, after disposing of your plastic waste at a local recycling or landfill facility, you will submit the data digitally to be included in the BFFP global brand audit database. Please read through all the steps below. When your event logistics are confirmed, please

All the materials you'll need for your brand audit (data card and visual guide) can be found here, available in fifteen languages.

Have questions after watching this training video? Want to connect with other brand audit participants?

Join our next orientation call, hosted every month by the Break Free From Plastic team!


Before The Event

Choose Your Site

Anywhere that contains plastic waste can be the site of a brand audit.

Because plastic pollution has unfortunately reached everywhere from mountain peaks to the bottom of the ocean, this means you can collect plastic waste for your brand audit anywhere in the world - rivers, parks, city streets, and beyond. We recommend you choose a site that works best for you and the needs of your community.

An important factor is to choose a site of a size reasonable for the number of volunteers you have. For small groups, we recommend a smaller area with less waste, while bigger groups can spread out in larger areas that have more waste. If you are doing a brand audit on your own, consider auditing the plastics in your home, school, or office. either outdoors or indoors - because all plastic causes pollution, no matter where it is thrown away.

Whether your clean-up and brand audit will be outdoors or indoors, it is important that you plan ahead to get permission from the appropriate local authorities to host your event. For example, if you are a teacher organizing a brand audit in your classroom, you may need permission from the school principal. If you are organizing a brand audit in a city park, you may need permission from the local municipality.

Quick Tip: Cleanups and brand audits are a service you provide to the community. What community do you want to serve? Is your site accessible to this community?
Quick Tip: Check out these additional recommendations for your indoor brand audit.

Prepare Your Supplies

No matter where you are collecting and auditing plastic waste, you will need to bring printed brand audit data cards and visual guides (available in English and twelve other languages). We recommend printing extra copies, because sorting through garbage can get messy! Remember some pens and a hard surface to write on, such as a clipboard.

For outdoor cleanups

If you plan to collect waste in an outdoor location, here are a few things you should bring to protect yourself and your volunteers:

  • Protective gloves, tongs, and/or nets for all volunteers

  • Collection bins, bags, or bucket

  • A large tarp or an old sheet (a place for sorting your plastic items, to avoid making a mess!)

For collecting trash out on the water in a kayak or small boat, the best way to grab waste is with a medium sized net. You can then collect it all in bags or bins affixed to your vessel, and do the auditing and counting at the end once you’re back on land

For indoor cleanups

If you’re going to audit your home, school, or office, designate a separate collection bin or bag for all the plastic packaging and products you dispose of during a week, and collect them all in that bin for 7 days. Make sure to clean and dry these items before disposing of them. At the end of those 7 days, take an audit of everything in the collection bin, and record what you find on the brand audit data card.

Be sure to let your housemates, classmates, or colleagues know what you’re doing. We recommend hanging a sign above your plastic collection bin (click here for a template!) and telling them directly. It will stop them from throwing away your collected waste before you’ve audited it, and you can also start a conversation about solutions to plastic pollution!

Know Your Data Card

You and your volunteers should know how to complete the data card before your clean-up and brand audit day. Please watch this short video tutorial and share it with your volunteers! Subtitles are available in sixteen languages by clicking on “Settings.”
Follow these steps below to record the information about each plastic item in the data card. Use our helpful visual guide to identify the type of product and type of material for each piece of plastic trash you find.

1. Enter the name of the brand.

This will be the most visible word printed on the item. Plastic waste items with unidentifiable brands should still be counted. You can simply write “Unknown” in the column labeled “Brand” for these unidentifiable items, and then record the other information required.

2. Enter the item description.

Is it a water bottle? A cigarette butt? A plastic fragment?

3. Circle the type of product.

Refer to the key on the bottom left of the data card for the appropriate abbreviations. (Water bottle = FP for “Food Packaging”. Cigarette butt = SM for “Smoking Materials”.)

4. Circle the type of material.

Refer to the key on the bottom right of the data card for the appropriate abbreviations. If you find the number inside the chasing arrows, you’ll know! (Bottle? Probably PET. Cigarette butt? O for “Other type of plastic”.)

5. Circle the number of layers the item has.

If it is clearly made of one kind of material, like a plastic bag, circle SL for “single layer.” Is it a food wrapper, or one of those pouch / sachet things that shampoo and detergent come in? Those are usually multi-layer. You can try tearing the material, or cutting it with scissors, to see if there are multiple layers. If you’re not sure, circle ‘unsure’.

6. Write one tally mark for this item, and add another tally each time you find another item that matches it in all categories.

(Same brand, item description, type of product, type of material, and layers.) For example, if you find 8 identical Coca Cola bottles, you will have one row with information about this bottle type and 8 tally marks in the column labeled “Count.”

7. Add up all the tally marks, 

and write the total number of identical items in the final column labeled “Total.”
Refer to the key on the bottom right of the data card for the appropriate abbreviations. If you find the number inside the chasing arrows, you’ll know! (Bottle? Probably PET. Cigarette butt? O for “Other type of plastic”.)
Quick Tip: If the information for any of these categories is not identifiable, please leave it blank or write “Unknown.” Do your best to deduce the appropriate information with the help of our visual guide. DO NOT make up false information.

During The Audit

Organize Your Team

Depending on the size of your cleanup event, you can organize your brand audit volunteers in a few different ways. Here are two recommendations.

1. Big events

Gather all collected plastics together, and count at the end. Divide all collected items into piles by item (bottles, bags, cups, etc), and then divide each of those piles into groups by brand. Count all of the pieces, and record their descriptions, material types, and layers on the brand audit data card. This method is easiest if you are cleaning up a large area with a huge amount of waste (i.e. piles of waste, shovel-fulls at a time). Additionally, it helps to divide large events so that the cleanup and audit take place simultaneously. For example, if your event is scheduled for two hours, the cleanup team brings the plastic waste they collect every 30 minutes to the audit volunteers, so that they can record the data while the others continue to gather more waste. If you have enough audit volunteers, assign one person for each item. For example, one volunteer to be in charge of recording data about bottles, another in charge of cups, etc.

2. Small events

Categorize the items by brand as you collect them. Have each volunteer team record the item descriptions and tally them at the same time as they are collecting plastics. Two or three people can be collecting items and calling out brands they find, while another person marks the tally on the data card, adding tally marks for each branded piece of plastic as it is put into the collection bins or bags. This method is easier for smaller clean-ups with fewer or more isolated pieces of waste.

Quick Tip: We recommend you separate the brand audit volunteers from the cleanup volunteers. Both cleaning up and auditing is hard work, and it helps to divide the tasks so your team doesn’t get too tired.
Quick Tip: We recommend designating a plastic person or team to pick up only plastic so that it’s separated from the beginning. This will help you save time during the sorting and disposal process later.

Collect, Sort and Audit

Collect all the waste in your designated site area. Think ahead about how to properly dispose of all the waste from your clean-up or collection activity. You are welcome to collect non-plastic waste, but please keep plastics separate for the purpose of this plastic-only brand audit.

Please keep in mind that the process of sorting and auditing your plastic waste will take some time - approximately one hour per large garbage bag, depending on how many volunteers you have. It’s a good idea to plan ahead so your volunteer team knows that a brand audit requires a bit of patience! Plan for a break, provide snacks, make sure your team is staying hydrated. Refer to the tutorial video linked above to refresh your memory for how to complete the brand audit data card. Remember you can also refer to the visual guide to help you determine how to categorize your plastic waste items.

Take Photos And Videos

Take a “before” picture to document what you’re about to audit. Later, take an “after” photo of the site to share your progress. Group photos of your team are always great, as well as photos and videos of brand audits in action. You can also take photos of the piles of plastic from each brand. We encourage you to post your photos and videos to social media, tag the company, and use the hashtag #breakfreefromplastic!
Quick Tip: If you have enough volunteers, it’s a good idea to have one person in charge of taking photos and videos for social media.
Quick Tip: Keep branded plastic waste aside so that after your brand audit event, you can box it up and ship it back to the company headquarters! Skip ahead to the last section, RETURN THE TRASH TO THE POLLUTER, for details.

Dispose of Your Waste Responsibly

After you have completed your brand audit, prepare to dispose all of your waste appropriately:
  • Recyclable materials should go to your local material recovery and/or recycling facilities.
  • Biodegradable wastes could be set aside for composting.
  • Waste that cannot be recycled or composted locally (residual waste) must be put in a landfill once you have finished your cleanup. You may need to contact your local waste authority to arrange this, if you collect a very large amount.

After The Audit

Send In The Data

After your brand audit event, take a moment to rest and thank your volunteers for their hard work. Then it’s time to transcribe your data into a digital format and submit to Break Free From Plastic!

In order for your brand audit data to be available to others and used in our global database for the annual “BRANDED” report, you will need to submit your data digitally to our team. We have three data submission platforms available, so please choose the one that best suits your needs. Note that for the 2023 global brand audit, the deadline to submit your data is Dec 15, 2023. Any data received late will not be included in this year’s annual report. Skip ahead to the Submit Your Data page to explore the data submission platforms and decide which one is bset for you.

Quick Tip: Any data received in formatting different from one of these three options will not be included in our annual report. This is due to the difficulty of merging databases in formats that are not compatible. We also require that the data be submitted in English. If you require translation support, please email
Quick Tip: You can also share images of that branded plastic waste on social media, tag the brands, and use the hashtag #BreakFreeFromPlastic. Please email us your story, so we can support you and share on social media! Write to

Return The Trash To The Polluter

If you have the resources to do so, box up the branded plastic items and send them back to the company that made them! Include a letter to the company describing the purpose of your brand audit and urge them to #breakfreefromplastic! Remember to include our 3 demands: Reveal, Reduce, and Redesign. Some of our BFFP changemakers are already doing this, like this NGO in Europe, this community group in the US, and these young students in India. If they can do it, you can too!

Are you ready to register
your brand audit event?


Inspired to take your brand audit to the next level?

All brand audits contribute to the BFFP movement’s campaigns, and simply submitting data makes a huge difference in building a global dataset to hold corporate polluters accountable. But some people want to take things further and build their own campaign to leverage their brand audit to make a longer-term impact in their communities.

If this sounds like you, you can get ideas and inspiration by exploring “From Data to Change: A guide to impactful brand audit campaigning” – available in English, French, and Spanish

This guide is for everyone who has led a brand audit, or plans to do so in the future. It contains strategy guidelines, recommendations from successful brand audit campaigns, case studies, and resources for further learning. We hope this guide will offer clear advice to help you develop a focused plan for including your brand audit in a long term campaign in order to make a bigger impact.
Made possible thanks to the financial support of our funders
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram