European Commission steps forward to cut on single-use plastics – but it’s just the beginning

European Commission steps forward to cut on single-use plastics – but it’s just the beginning

This press release is produced by the Rethink Plastic Alliance, the European Policy and was originally posted on the Zero Waste Europe website. You can access the original press release here.

The European Commission has taken a leap forward in tackling plastic pollution, with new laws to reduce throwaway single-use plastics.

Speaking on behalf of Rethink Plastic [1], the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Sarah Baulch said: “The Commission has awakened to the call of European citizens to address the devastating impacts of plastic pollution on our environment. Phasing out unnecessary single-use plastic applications and those for which a sustainable alternative is already available is key to ensure a responsible use of plastics.”

The proposal, which is designed to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, and in particular the marine environment, sets a number of different policy measures to tackle these problematic single-use products, from bans and reduction efforts, to labelling and extended producer responsibility schemes [2].

However, the legislation fails to set specific EU-wide reduction targets for food containers and beverage cups, with a promise to look into this possibility only after a lengthy six years after transposition (circa 2027). This could result in countries claiming they are taking the necessary steps as long as any reduction is achieved, regardless of how small.

The same time period is also given for a review of the list of products the legislation addresses, with the possibility to expand it. This is vital to shorten to three years after transposition rather than six.

Baulch said: “Given the urgency and scale of the problem, the lack of specific reduction targets for Member States is alarming. We call on the European Parliament and EU Ministers to put in place such targets and set a shorter review period to ensure an effective and swift move beyond single-use plastics.”

The European Parliament and the Council of EU ministers will discuss and amend the legislative proposal in the coming months.



Press Contacts:

Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Officer, Rethink Plastic alliance / Zero Waste Europe: /+32 491 143197


[1] Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a future that is free from plastic pollution. We represent thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State, and we bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields. Members of Rethink Plastic are: Client Earth, ECOS, EEB, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth Europe, Seas at Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste Europe. We are part of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, consisting of over 1000 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.

[2] The range of legislative measures includes:

  • A ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and plates, cotton buds and balloon sticks
  • A requirement to achieve ‘significant’ reductions in the consumption of plastic food containers and cups within 6 years, through measures such as national consumption reduction targets, minimum reusable packaging targets, or ensuring such items are not provided free of charge
  • A 2025 target of 90% separate collection of plastic bottles, to be achieved through Extended Producer Responsibility schemes or the implementation of deposit return schemes
  • Detailed labelling on sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons informing citizens of the negative environmental impact of inappropriate disposal
  • The introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for waste fishing gear, cigarette butts, beverage containers including lids and caps, food containers, lightweight plastic bags and wet wipes amongst others.
Anything but Reduction: The American Chemistry Council’s Empty “Circular Economy” Promises

Anything but Reduction: The American Chemistry Council’s Empty “Circular Economy” Promises

Wednesday, May 23, 2018–This month, the American Chemistry Council, representing the plastic producers most responsible for the plastic pollution crisis–Dow,  Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Procter & Gamble, Chemicals Division, among others– has pledged to recycle or “recover” 100% of plastic packaging by 2040.

First and foremost, we cannot wait until 2040. The plastic pollution crisis is exploding at an alarming rate, and we need to take urgent measures now to significantly reduce plastic production, not just increase recycling.

The ACC’s commitment seems next to impossible given the out-of-control expansion of petrochemical infrastructure in the United States, with 264 facilities planned for a plastic production increase of 40% in the next decade. To date, only 9% of all plastics ever made have been recycled, the rest continues to pollute our land and water. If the ACC has any chance of achieving these goals, plastic production must rapidly decrease, not the opposite.

The use of the word “recovery” in the ACC’s pledge is code for incineration of plastic. The ACC has been pushing dangerous techno-fixes like pyrolysis or “plastic-to-fuel,” an expensive and inefficient process resulting in toxic ash and fossil fuel oil that releases greenhouse gas emissions when burned. Plastic pyrolysis and other forms of incineration cannot possibly absorb the existing and expanding production of plastic, yet it is frequently held up as a way to justify the production of more and more plastic garbage.

“What’s wrong with ACC’s pledge is that it relies on recycling and incineration to justify continuing and increased plastic production. Incineration of any kind is a dangerous techno-fix that causes harmful emissions, and recycling can’t possibly absorb rapidly increasing plastic production,” says Monica Wilson, Policy and Research Coordinator U.S. Associate Director at GAIA. “The only meaningful thing the ACC members can do is to stop making so much plastic.”


Claire Arkin, Campaign and Communications Associate,, 510-883-9490 ext. 111

Written by Claire Arkin. Article originally appeared at

Hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging: an initial analysis

Hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging: an initial analysis

This blog was originally published by #breakfreefromplastic member ChemTrust on their website and was written by Anna Watson

CHEM Trust has joined an important collaboration of NGOs and academic scientists looking at the topical and crucial issue of hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging.

As we all know, use of plastic packaging is increasing globally, causing environmental and human health concerns. In 2015 annual plastic production was 380Mt, of which about 40 per cent was used in packaging, with the majority being used in food packaging.

Plastic packaging is a source of chemical exposure to consumers and workers, as chemicals used in the packaging can migrate into foods and the environment during manufacturing, use, disposal and recycling. It is therefore vital for us to know what chemicals are present in plastic packaging and what the associated risks are.

Our colleagues at the Food Packaging ForumChemSec, the University of Gothenburg and The Vrije University in Amsterdam started by trawling through data to establish a list of the chemicals used in plastic packaging, and identified over 4000 chemicals that are potentially present in plastic packaging.

Of the 908 chemicals that were identified as likely to be present in plastic packaging, 68 chemicals were identified as being most hazardous for the environment and 64 were identified as being most hazardous for human health. However, for many other chemicals there was no harmonised toxicity classification available, so this will not be a complete list of the most hazardous chemicals.

Dr Jane Muncke, the Managing Director of the Food Packaging Forum said

“We were surprised at how difficult it has been to get hold of the data on which chemicals are used in plastic packaging. There is no single registry and often we faced barriers imposed by commercial confidentially. There is therefore a massive gap in our knowledge relating to the presence of chemicals in plastic packaging, which is hampering our ability to protect human health and the environment from chemicals of concern.”

Dr Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust said:

“This project is demonstrating the lack of openness about the chemicals used in everyday products, and the lack of adequate safety information for many chemicals. It’s shocking that regulators and companies have not yet addressed these issues. Even the EU, with its sophisticated REACH chemicals regulatory system, is not yet properly addressing the twin problems of secrecy and lack of good safety data”

The first results of the research project were presented at the SETAC Europe conference on May 15, 2018.

During the next 12 months the project will continue to investigate which chemicals in plastic packaging are most concerning for human health and the environment and look at potential alternatives.

Holding businesses accountable for plastic pollution: Clean-up and brand audits take place in key cities in India

Holding businesses accountable for plastic pollution: Clean-up and brand audits take place in key cities in India

MUMBAI, India (May 16, 2018) — As a lead-up to World Environment Day on June 5, environmental justice  groups are launching today an unprecedented coordinated waste and brand audits in key cities in India.

Scheduled to happen from May 16 to May 30 in the cities of Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bengaluru along with various cities in Goa, Kerala, and 12 Himalayan States, the  audits seek to highlight the role of corporations in the global plastic waste crisis, results of which will be published o 4th June.

“Through these audits, we want to put the spotlight on corporations who have been responsible for the manufacturing, distribution, and proliferation of non-recyclable and single-use plastic packaging that ends up in our landfills, oceans and waterways,” Pratibha Sharma, India Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, said. “The activity aims to gather important data to call for innovations in product packaging and delivery systems to ensure that plastic waste is drastically reduced and that NOTHING ends up in our oceans, landfills, and other disposal facilities,” she added.

India produces a whopping 62 million tonnes of waste every year. A staggering 43 million tonnes of solid waste is collected annually, out of which only 11.9 million or 22-28% is treated, while about 31 million tonnes of waste is left untreated and dumped in landfill sites. The waste and particularly plastic menace for Indian cities is compounded because of the poor state of solid waste management and the inadequate infrastructure for sewerage and stormwater drainage.

India’s Plastics Waste Management Rules 2016 emphasizes the phase-out of non-recyclable multi-layered plastics by March 2018, and requires manufacturers, producers, and users of non-recyclable packaging to either pay municipalities for the cost of managing such waste, or arrange to take it back and manage its disposal themselves. While there have been attempts by local governments to ban plastic bags and single-use plastic in various cities of India, the move has received backlash from the plastic industry.

As a a result, the Plastic Waste Management Rules were amended to benefit businesses manufacturing and using plastic especially Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies. The current amendment gives plastic producers a scope to argue that their products can be put to some other use, if not recycled. This move tantamounts to revoking a complete ban, which it had implied earlier. This type of plastic was supposed to be banned by March 2018, but it is nowhere near a phase-out.

According to Sherma Benosa, GAIA Asia Pacific Communications Officer, corporations have unfairly placed the blame on consumers for the waste problem when it is them who have been putting out and profiting from the problematic products.

Satyarupa Shekhar, Director for Research and Advocacy at Chennai-based Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG),  said, “the burden of managing poorly designed and manufactured products falls on the city governments and its people and it is about time the businesses are made accountable for their unsustainable business practices.”

June 5 is celebrated annually as World Environment Day as declared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). India is the global host for this year’s celebrations with the theme, Beat Plastic Pollution, chosen “to combat one of the great challenges of our time.”

Through this concerted effort, nine organizations in India, namely CAG, Chintan, SWaCH, Stree Mukti Sanghatana,, Thanal, V-recycle, Hasiru Dala, SWMRT, Zero Waste Himalayas–all members of GAIA–and Integrated Mountain Initiative, are coming together to question the preparedness and commitment of  businesses to beat plastic pollution. These organizations have been working to implement Zero Waste solutions to combat problems around poor solid waste management.

The organizations, together with the Break Free From Plastic movement, are waging war against plastic pollution to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. //ends.  

For details, please contact:

Pratibha Sharma

India Coordinator, GAIA Asia Pacific

Phone: +91-8411008973


Kripa Ramachandran

Researcher, CAG

Phone: +91-8939107923



Resin Industry Takes First Tentative Step to Deal with Plastic Pollution

Resin Industry Takes First Tentative Step to Deal with Plastic Pollution

The plastic pollution crisis has finally resulted in a wakeup call, albeit weak and tentative, by U.S. plastic resin producers. The American Chemistry Council’s plastics division issued a press release May 9 pledging to alter production of plastic packaging to make it all recyclable or recoverable by 2030, and to work to actually recycle or recover it by 2040.  Members include resin makers like Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., DowDupont, ExxonMobil Chemical Co., and Shell Chemical LP.  Until now, commitments on recycling and recovery have come largely from end user brands of plastic packaging like P&G and Unilever.

The commitments are an initial response to an issue that has exploded in recent months, especially in the United Kingdom, threatening to slow projected demand for plastic packaging. In December, nearly 200 countries called for an end to plastic pollution at a UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.  In January, McDonald’s Corp. committed to As You Sow to phase out use of polystyrene foam and to recycle packaging in all stores globally, and the European Commission released a plastics policystrategy that could require all packaging in the EC marketplace to be recyclable by 2030; it is also mulling a tax on plastic production.  European supermarkets are introducing plastic-free aisles. UK retailer Iceland went even further, pledging to stop using all plastic packaging by 2023.

As the Wall Street Journal noted last year, big oil and its petrochemical subsidiaries like those cited above, are making a risky bet that demand for consumer plastics will remain strong even as it cools for fossil based fuels. As much as 60% of new demand for oil between now and 2050 is projected to be for the petrochemical sector, which produces plastic resins. But clearly scientists, consumers, activists, and governments are sounding alarm bells about the huge amounts of plastics ending up in world oceans, harming marine animals and fouling beaches and rivers, and the inability of current collection and recycling systems to adequately capture plastic waste. Since 2012, As You Sow has been asking consumer goods companies to study the impact of continued use of non-recyclable plastic packaging and make plans to phase it out.

The ACC action is a welcome if belated acknowledgement of responsibility from an industry that has promoted plastic for packaging with little consideration for the ability of end users to recycle it or at least keep it out of harm’s way.  A 2011 assessmentof marine debris by the UN Global Environment Facility concluded that one cause of debris entering oceans is “design and marketing of products internationally without appropriate regard to their environmental fate or ability to be recycled…”

The goals are a small step in the right direction but are far from adequate.  It is positive that the industry will take action to ensure that the plastic it puts into commerce will be recyclable or recoverable, but a 12-year timeline is far too long and suggests a lack of urgency to develop sustainable solutions. End users like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive committed in 2014 to As You Sow to make most of their packaging recyclable by 2020. The commitment does not address the crucial question of how the industry intends to ensure that plastic is recycled or recovered in all markets globally, an enormously complex and ambitious undertaking.

Another concern is inclusion of the option of recoverability, which could undermine a badly needed laser focus on improvements in collection and recycling systems. Recoverability includes pyrolysis, gasification systems, and plastics-to-fuel technologies, which have yet to demonstrate their economic viability.  It is questionable whether these technologies have a place in developing a circular economy. Waste-to-energy schemes lose the embedded material value that went into the original creation of plastic. Toxic pollutants can be emitted during some energy recovery processes if they lack strict pollution controls and some result in toxic ash that requires special disposal. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy study notes that recycling one ton of plastic collected for recycling avoids emission of a ton of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas compared with a mix of landfill and incineration with energy recovery, with an estimated societal value of more than $100 per ton of plastic collected for recycling.

The final commitment involves requiring all ACC plastics division members to get its manufacturing sites to participate in the next four years in Operation Clean Sweep, a long-standing industry initiative to avoid and clean up spills of resin pellets onto land and waterways during production and transport. The fact that after 25 years of operation, there are still members who do not participate, and that there’s little to no reporting of what has been accomplished over that time period, says a lot about the seriousness of this effort.

If the industry wants to show real leadership to get a handle on the plastic waste engulfing our oceans and waterways, it should:

  • Remove the recoverability option from its commitment so the focus is squarely on circular economies and recycling;
  • Set aggressive recycled content goals for resin production. There’s no mention of committing to research technological barriers to including far more collected post-consumer plastics in new resin production.  If the industry wants to support recycling, it will find ways to use high levels of waste plastic in future production and then seal long-term contracts with processors, which could help provide long-term financial stability to recyclers and promote a more circular approach to plastics production;
  • Set far more aggressive timelines for making plastic recyclable and ensuring it get recycled by providing a transparent and detailed blueprint on how it intends to get there. Most importantly, this means dealing with the bottom line issue of who pays the tens of billions of dollars needed to modernize and supercharge performance of recycling systems globally. It should mean full-throated promotion (not just endorsement) of extended producer responsibility laws, whereby producers pick up most or all of the tab to make recycling systems work, or similar alternatives that are scalable and can be fully realized;
  • Pursue alternatives to “cheap” single use plastics. Plastic may not be appropriate for uses involving a 20-minute meal or drink and then waste that ends up in a landfill for longer than any of us will live.  Virgin plastic use is often promoted because it is “cheaper” to produce than recycled plastic or other materials; but these valuations rarely include the billions of dollars of annual subsidies to the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry or the cost of plastic when it degrades and becomes harmful to marine animals. The chemical industry acknowledges that the environmental cost to society of consumer plastic products and packaging was $139 billion in 2015, and is expected to grow to $209 billion by 2025 if current trends persist. So plastic is not really that cheap, is it?

The estimated plastic packaging rate is 14%; until the industry can demonstrate it can responsibly process 80% or more of the plastic packaging it and end users produce globally, it should work first with end user brands to prioritize reusable containers and alternative delivery systems that can greatly reduce the volume of single use plastics placed into commerce.


Written by Conrad Mackerron. Blog originally appeared at

WordPress Video Lightbox Plugin