The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) are pleased that Penang will embark on a ban of plastic straws and other single-use plastic food and drink containers after Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow gave local authorities carte blanche to execute such policies to preserve the environment.
The proposal by the Penang government and local authorities is the way forward as the growing reliance on plastic to meet our culture of convenience is a bane to the state and the planet. In the past, CAP and SAM have observed and received complaints regarding the excessive use of plastic food and drink containers, disposable cutlery, straws, take-out containers in food outlets. This practice not only increases the amount of waste to be disposed but subsequently impacts the environment, economy and public health.
Globally, an average of eight million tons of plastic escapes collection systems, winding up in the environment and eventually the ocean. Hence, it is essential that the single-use, throw away culture end. The best alternative is to replace plastic products with reusable/refillable products.
Restaurants and food service establishments can solve the problem of plastic pollution by switching from disposable plastic for washable, reusable utensils. For take-outs, customers should use their own utensils. The local authorities can expedite these changes by banning plastic and other disposable utensils.
The movement to ban straws and other single-use plastics are growing all over the world. In March 2018, the Maharashtra government in India had announced its ban on plastic bags, water bottles and other disposable plastic items and started implementing the prohibition beginning 23 June this year.
Taiwan is planning a blanket ban on single-use plastic items including straws, cups and shopping bags by 2030. In May 2018, the European Commission proposed banning single-use plastic products such as cotton buds and plastic straws and putting the burden of cleaning up waste on manufacturers in an effort to reduce marine litter.Vancouver, Scotland, and other cities in the United States of America have also announced plastic straw bans and pending ban legislations.
The RefillNotLandfill movement in Cambodia aims to cut down on millions of plastic water bottles discarded by tourists and locals. The alternative offered is reusable aluminium bottles that can be refilled free of charge at designated venues across the country. This campaign has expanded to Myanmar and Laos. We can learn from this initiative to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.
Whilst States and consumers are taking positive initiatives, producers must also be compelled to take responsibility for the full life-cycle costs and impacts of their products and packaging, and must redesign and innovate safer materials and systems. Businesses must start transitioning and usher in alternatives that are reusable.
CAP and SAM urge the Federal government to enact legislation to impose a nationwide ban on plastic straws, carry bags, water bottles, stirrers, utensils, toothpicks, sachets, food wrap sheets, polystyrene packaging and food containers. Both the local authorities in Penang must expedite implementation of the proposed bans and lead the way to address the plastic pollution in the state and country.
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Commerce, CA, U.S. June 27, 2018–The city of Commerce has announced that the Commerce “Refuse to Energy” Facility will be decommissioned, citing inefficient operating costs as the primary cause. The plant will close on June 30, 2018.
Environmental Justice groups including East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice applauded the news as a victory for communities who have long suffered from the health impacts of this hazardous facility.
“It’s no secret that these types of facilities are disproportionately located in lower income communities of color,” says Laura Cortez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. “No community should have to breathe in the pollution from other people’s garbage.”
The air quality in Southeast LA is among the worst in the nation. Residents have been exposed to toxic emissions from industrial sources including the incinerator, rail yards, and ports, which can lead to cancer risks and respiratory conditions. The Commerce incinerator has been responsible for repeated emissions violations since it began operating in 1986, endangering the already overburdened community surrounding the plant.
The Commerce incinerator’s demise came about after environmental justice advocates succeeded in blocking state renewable energy subsidies from going to the incinerator. These subsidies are meant for true sustainable power methods like solar and wind, but the incinerator industry was attempting to use them to prop up its unsustainable, expensive practices. Studies show that more than 90% of materials currently disposed of in incinerators and landfills can be reused, recycled, and composted. Instead of using these sustainable methods, incineration destroys valuable resources and causes emissions of some of the most dangerous chemicals, like mercury, dioxins, and ultra-fine particles. Incinerators pose a grave climate risk as well– compared to coal, waste incineration produces twice as much carbon pollution per unit of energy.
“Communities have always been at the forefront of enacting positive change by standing together and fighting against facilities that threat our health and environment. The Commerce Incinerator shutdown not only serves as a model for other communities facing similar issues, but is also another clear example of community power and victory,” says Whitney Amaya of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.
Without the artificial boost of state subsidies, the Commerce Incinerator has proven itself to be an economic flop, leading the facility to close its doors in June. Waste incineration is the most expensive way to produce electricity, exceeding advanced nuclear energy, coal, solar, and wind.
This has been a terrible year for the incinerator industry around the world, as citizens and policymakers are increasingly aware of the dangers that this practice poses to human health and the climate. Much like the fossil fuel divestment movement, governments are opting to defund waste burning, saving subsidies for renewable sources instead.
Earlier this year the Maryland State Senate voted to remove subsidies for waste incineration, endangering a Wheelabrator incinerator in Baltimore that has long plagued the community with toxic air emissions. Late last year the Council of Mayors pointedly excluded incineration from its renewable energy plan. In Europe, long known as the champion of waste-to-energy, the European Parliament voted to halt subsidies for waste incineration.
Ahmina Maxey, US & Canada Regional Coordinator at GAIA, states, “These developments throughout the US and Europe signal a sea change in public opinion on waste incineration as an outmoded and dangerous practice that, like the Commerce Incinerator, will soon be extinct.”
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California “Soda Tax deal” includes preemption of charges or assessments on packaging
Contact: Shilpi Chhotray
Senior Communications Officer, #breakfreefromplastic
email@example.com, 703.400.9986 (mobile)
Sacramento, CA – June 28, 2018 – Today the California Legislature passed, and the Governor
signed, Assembly Bill 1838 which would preempt local governments from levying fees and taxes
on soda and other groceries. As has been widely reported, Coke, Pepsi, and other members of
the American Beverage Association signed this backroom deal with California legislators in
exchange for withdrawing a ballot measure that would make all local taxes require a ⅔ vote.
In addition to prohibiting so called “Soda Taxes,” the legislation would also prohibit any charges
on grocery packaging. Local fees and deposit systems have proven to be a successful tool in
reducing waste, and have been used effectively by local jurisdictions for the past three decades.
Members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement have expressed strong condemnation of this
“Threatening funding for local police, firefighters, parks, roads and public transit to force the
legislature to prohibit residents from having a say on soda taxes or fees on packaging is not
only an underhanded move by Big Soda, but it is also a perversion of our initiative process. The
public has been clear that they want manufacturers to bare the cost of their impacts on our
personal health and the health of our planet, and we urge local governments to stand up to this
corporate bullying and use all the tools in their toolbox to achieve these goals.” – Nick Lapis,
Director of Advocacy for Californians Against Waste
“This bill will obstruct local efforts of groups working hard to deal with the plastic pollution crisis.
This is just one more attempt by big industry to silence community activism – but the tide is
turning on plastic pollution, and this is one issue that we fully expect to win.” – Anna Wagner,
Los Angeles-based Senior National Organizer, Greenpeace.
“This bill is an egregious example of big soda exerting undue financial influence to try and
prevent municipalities from protecting the health and well-being of our communities. As a
movement, we plan to support local governments to oppose this going forward –as we believe
strongly in a democratic process that puts people and planet over profits.” – Anna Cummins,
Global Strategy Director for 5 Gyres
“This beverage industry today has silenced the voice of local communities and pre-empted
them from incorporating health and environmental costs into the cost of their products. This is
shameless and sets a bad precedent. Local communities should not be held hostage to industry
giants, like Coke and Pepsi, in addressing costs to public health and the environment from
products like sugary beverages or plastic packaging.” – Miriam Gordon, Policy Director,
“Taking away the right of local communities to regulate top forms of litter is an affront to
democratic principles and the authority of local government. The everyday citizen loses when
corporations, special interests and state lawmakers interfere in local law-making to protect
communities from litter, pollution and blight.” – Angela T. Howe, Esq., Legal Director,
Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.
Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,200 groups from across the world have joined the
movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions
to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental
protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a
global, unified vision. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
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This press release was created and posted by Zero Waste Europe and is available here.
Ferran ROSA, Waste Policy Officer, Zero Waste Europe: firstname.lastname@example.org /+32 (0) 2 73 62 091
Zero Waste Europe released today its latest case study on Recircle, a Swiss social enterprise that is determined to put an end to the flood of single-use containers for take-away food. The publication reports that only two years from the foundation, more than 400 restaurants across Switzerland are already using Recircle’s 70,000 reusable meal boxes with a deposit. Recircle’s scheme is not just preventing waste and litter but also saving money for cities and restaurants, while coming at zero cost to consumers.
The case study illustrates how a small social enterprise can push for a large-scale and quick transition from disposable to reusable containers. According to Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Waste Policy Officer, “The case of Recircle shows that there are no more excuses not to ditch single-use containers when reusable alternatives are available, and they are easy to use, more sustainable and cheaper”.
The publication also highlights some of the challenges that reusable schemes still have to face in order to fully develop, such as the lack of level playing field with regards to disposable containers. Among these, the fact that single-use containers tend to be free of charge for customers, which does not encourage them to rethink their habits. “Visible charges, levies or taxes have proved to be very effective in driving habits change, reducing the use of disposables and boosting reusables. It is time to apply what we learned from plastic bags to take-away containers, and stop the flood of avoidable single-use packaging”, added Rosa.
This document is part of a new series of case studies where Zero Waste Europe displays change-making initiatives from cities, companies and individuals that are challenging and transforming current business models.
To read the case study, click here.
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Volunteers collect garbage along the coast of Freedom Island during a ‘Break free from Plastic’ activity in Paranaque City, the Philippines. Photo by Xinhua/ROUELLE UMALI/Getty Images
by Isabelle Morrison. Article originally posted here.
Plastic manufacturers are not responsible for the disposal of their products, so the burden is placed on people in the Philippines.
Heaps of plastic waste cover the shores of Manila Bay in the Philippines. Myrna Dominguez remembers when an abundance of fish inhabited its waters—locals would catch enough to feed their families and sell at the market. Today, she says, they are catching more plastic than fish.
“We’re very afraid that if this is not addressed, the bay, which 100,000 small fishers rely on, will no longer be viable for them,” Dominguez says.
In May, Dominguez and Indian labor organizer Lakshmi Narayan visited communities in the U.S. that are affected by pollution from oil extraction and plastic production, to show the effects that these processes have on communities overseas. The “Stopping Plastic Where It Starts Tour,” organized by #Breakfreefromplastic and Earthworks, is part of a project that aims to reduce plastic consumption and production by raising awareness about the impacts of plastic production on the communities at either end of its supply chain.
Dominguez and Narayan, representing communities in Asia experiencing the effects of plastic pollution, visited places in the U.S. experiencing the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) oil and gas production—an industry that is producing the raw materials to build plastic.
Dominguez is the policy and advocacy adviser of the Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty, which campaigns to protect the rights of small food producers such as fishers and farmers, and to preserve fishing grounds and cultural lands of indigenous communities.
Narayan is the co-founder of Solid Waste and Collection Handling, a cooperative of waste-pickers in Pune, India, who collect waste throughout the city and separate it into categories for proper disposal.
Both women represent groups from Asian countries that are dealing with the effects of plastic pollution—particularly plastic that is produced and distributed by U.S. companies.
“I’m hoping this tour will change American people’s views of how they live every day, and how it impacts poor countries like us,” Dominguez says. “If America gets a cold, the Philippines gets the flu. We’re very dependent on the U.S., so whatever happens here affects us too.”
The Philippines is the third largest ocean plastic polluter in the world—it also has the most persistent poverty rate in Southeast Asia. In 2017, the U.S. was the third largest plastic exporter in the world, exporting $6.8 billion worth of plastic items.
“There’s no easy, technological solution to the problem of ocean plastic waste.”
Single-use plastic products, such as straws and other utensils—and products packaged in plastic, including toiletries and food—are produced by transnational companies and marketed to people in places like the Philippines at low costs. The plastic waste from these products ends up in landfills or marine areas like Manila Bay.
Plastic manufacturers are not responsible for the disposal of their products, so the burden is placed on people in the Philippines, who do not have the resources to properly dispose of all the waste, Dominguez says.
“People have realized there’s no easy, technological solution to the problem of ocean plastic waste, and the only way to stop ocean plastic is to stop plastic,” says Jennifer Krill. Krill is the executive director of Earthworks, an environmental and social justice organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of mining and energy extraction.
“If we were to somehow recover all that waste from the ocean, we would still have to put it in a landfill or in an incinerator, and there would be significant environmental impacts from those solutions. The better solution would be to not make so much of it to begin with.”
That’s why Dominguez and Narayan traveled to the U.S., where the women visited communities affected by fracking. In the U.S., a fracking boom is helping fuel plastic production worldwide by providing a necessary building block of plastic: ethane. Dominguez and Narayan visited communities experiencing the impacts of fracking in Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They also visited Washington D.C.
In 2017, the U.S. consumed around 1.2 million barrels of ethane per day.
In Texas, for example, a major fracking boom is underway. A new report by IHS Markit shows the Permian Basin in West Texas is expecting a surge in oil production—more than double by 2023—in large part because of fracking, which has made trapped oil and gas accessible.
Fracking involves pumping water, sand, and chemicals underground to release gas and oil from rock. The shale formations used for extracting oil and gas in the U.S. are high in ethane, which is wasted in the extraction process unless the industry has a way to bring it to market.
“Currently what we’re seeing is a major build-out of new petrochemical manufacturing in order for the industry to recover that waste ethane and convert it into plastic, most of which is also going to become waste, but along the way they’ll make a lot of money manufacturing it into plastic,” Krill says.
In 2017, the U.S. consumed around 1.2 million barrels of ethane per day, and exported around 180,000 barrels per day to countries overseas.
Earthworks—one of the organizations that organized the tour—has recently introduced a Community Empowerment Project to provide communities near oil and gas facilities with data on methane and ethane pollution from nearby oil and gas extraction sites by using an optical gas imaging camera that makes invisible ethane—and methane—pollution from these sites visible.
Not only does methane and ethane pollution contribute to climate change, but it also causes health issues for people who live near oil and gas facilities—in the U.S., that’s more than 17 million people.
Residents who live near these facilities have reported experiencingrespiratory problems such as asthma and coughing, eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and fatigue.
“If we are going to stop plastic we need to stop plastic where it starts.”
The organization has been taking the camera to oil and gas wells, pipelines, and compressor stations to show government regulators and companies that the methane and ethane pollution problem is real. Gas imaging videos are available on Earthworks’ YouTube channel for citizens to use as evidence when urging regulators in their states to require operators clean up the gas waste.
“It hasn’t stopped pollution—it hasn’t been as effective as we’d like it to be yet,” Krill says about the project. But she hopes it will be. “The industry likes to say ‘There’s no pollution, we’re very clean,’ and with this video evidence it’s hard to deny that there’s a serious problem with oil and gas extraction.”
On a global scale, the #Breakfreefromplastic movement, made up of 1,000 organizations worldwide, has been focused on creating “zero-waste cities” in Malaysia, India, and the Philippines—teaching communities about separating organic from inorganic waste, composting, and recycling.
Narayan, who represents the waste-pickers who collect and separate waste in Pune, India, says the process of recycling plastics into reusable materials is so expensive that the waste is often not recyclable at all.
#Breakfreefromplastic also focuses on making the public aware of their consumption habits in hopes of reducing the use of one-use plastic products, and pushing for “corporate accountability,” says Jed Alegado, the Asia Pacific communications officer for #Breakfreefromplastic.
“Corporations that have the money to come up with these products should invest in more sustainable and ecological distribution systems for their products,” Alegado says. “They shouldn’t pass the burden to consumers and governments for the plastic waste they are creating.”
Growing up in the Philippines, Dominguez recalls using coconut shells as plates, and eating food with her bare hands—before large companies had convinced the world that plastic products are a necessity, she says.
Dominguez is optimistic that change can occur by educating and inspiring people to reduce their use of plastic products and become vocal about how the government handles waste.
“If we are going to stop plastic we need to stop plastic where it starts,” Krill says. “We can’t let greed get in the way of common sense and sustainability.”
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