“This was an opportunity to be a part of change in the world. Fighting against the plastic monster has been my main focus for over ten years. Plastics are one of the biggest threats to the planet.” – Camy Mathlouthi, founder of Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte movement
According to this 2018 WWF report, the global cost of ocean plastic pollution is approximately $13 billion USD per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems. This includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism, two sectors which provide many jobs in my country of Tunisia on the southern Meditteranean coast.
Today, the Meditteranean is one of the seas with the highest concentrations of plastic pollution in the world, with plastic accounting for 95% of the waste in its open sea, on its seabed and on its beaches (WWF 2018). Much of this waste washes up on our beaches in Tunisia, but this plastic comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France (WWF 2018).
Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte – “For a Clean and Green Tunisia” – is a movement trying to spread the word by engaging students and youth to be environmental stewards. We accomplished many beach cleanups, workshops and continue to work as hard as we can to reach people in all areas of Tunisia.
Break Free From Plastic provides a real vehicle to attack this huge problem. The 2019 Brand Audit helps to accurately identify the big corporate polluters through citizen science. As environmental activists and citizens of the world, we are committed to influence these big corporate polluters to change the packaging of their products. This is the most efficient way to reduce plastic pollution all over the world. It is our duty to our environment, for our children, and for our grandchildren.
On World Cleanup Day 2019, we conducted our own brand audit for the first time. We explained the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit initiative to our volunteers, and all of our crew was motivated and committed to following the BFFP brand audit methodology. At the end of the clean up, people told me that they “feel so good helping our nature.” The neighborhood locals in the neighborhood of Ezzahra (where we conducted our cleanup and brand audit) were very grateful as well, telling us “Thanks folks! Nice mission for the country and the planet!”
As a teacher, it is my personal mission to make the new generation aware of the dangers that threaten our planet. Plastics cause major damage to the Mediterranean. As a mother and grandmother, it is my responsibility to participate, protect and care about the next generation. Our Mediterranean is worth it.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, 11/28/19
STATEMENT ON TPC CHEMICAL DISASTER
On the morning of Wednesday, November 27, 2019, an explosion involving a processing unit was reported at TPC Group Port Neches, Texas Operations site, east of Houston and less than 10-miles from Port Arthur Texas. No official statement has disclosed the full names of chemicals or toxicants being released into the air and surrounding community during the ongoing fire. The TPC Group Plant has a total of 175 full-time employees and 50 contractors, all personnel on-site have been evacuated and 3 personnel sustained injuries, 2 personnel of TPC Group and 1 contract worker. All 3 injured personnel were taken to the medical center in Southeast Texas, and one was later transported to Memorial Herman in Houston.
“My father was a United Steelworker who succumbed to cancer in 2016. I am well aware that symptoms from this chemical disaster may not surface for years to come. Workers’ medical needs should be covered by TPC for years to come because of known bioaccumulation of both known and unknown chemicals exposures in the body. This facility is has a history of non-compliance, which means that workers bodies absorbed the costs in health impacts. Workers are the first line of defense when these chemical disasters happen. These expenses should be covered by TPC this is the cost of having unsafe business practices, otherwise, they will continue business-as-usual.” -Ana Parras, Co-Executive Director T.e.j.a.s and former President of AFSCME, Local 3242, Corpus Christi, Texas
Incident command was established offsite at the Huntsman Administration building due to the size of fire and inability to get into the location. No immediate shelter-in-place was ordered for the surrounding community until 9:00 am, as of 6:00 pm a total of 50,000 people are under mandatory evacuation. According to the EPA Region 6 and local officials, the main chemical of concern is 1,3-Butadiene although other chemicals may be involved. 1,3-butadiene is a gas used in the production of styrene-butadiene rubber, plastics, and thermoplastic resins. This chemical is carcinogenic, meaning it’s cancer-causing and has both short and long term effects including: irritation of the eyes, nasal passages, throat and lungs, neurological effects, blurred vision, fatigue, headache, and vertigo have also been reported at very high exposure levels. Skin exposure causes a sensation of cold, followed by a burning sensation which may lead to frostbite. Thousands of peo
“We will be spending thanksgiving under shelter-in-place and evacuation orders. We are now 35 hours after the initial blast that started at 1 am yesterday morning at the TPC plant, a known violator of the Clean Air Act, it will most likely burn throughout the night. We woke up to a fiery blast the day before Thanksgiving. This is life for our communities sitting at the fence-line of the petrochemical corridor along the gulf coast. Evacuation orders have only gone out to a 4- mile radius and more than 50,000 southeast Texans have evacuated. We live in an ever-growing petrochemical corridor because of the billions of dollars being invested in petrochemical infrastructure. Not even a full week after the Trump EPA Chemical Disaster Rule rollback. A rule that would have provided common-sense prevention rules in place during catastrophic events like this TPC Disasters.”
-Hilton Kelly, CIDA Inc. Founder & Director,
Just six days ago Trump’s EPA slashed common-sense protections under the Chemical Disaster Rule that could have mitigated the harm faced by communities impacted by disasters like this one. Protections including root-cause analysis, third party inspections and improved communications with first responders and local authorities. The impacted area included several vulnerable areas including residences and schools. The school district of Port Neches-Groves has a total of 11 schools with a total of 5,131 students, 39.1% are economically disadvantaged. All 11 schools sit inside the 4 mile radius of the chemical fire this includes: Taft Elementary, Groves Elementary, West Groves Education Center, Van Buren Elementary, Groves Middle School, Ridgewood Elementary, Port Neches Elementary, Port Neches Middle School, Port Neches- Groves High School, Woodcrest Elementary, and Alternative Education Center.
“People should be spending their holiday with families, instead they have been displaced due to no fault of their own. Fortunately, schools were not in session. What if the blast occurred during school hours? How many children and teachers would have suffered? Disasters like these are preventable, it shouldn’t take a chemical explosion for local, state and agency officials to take action and realize the dangers of chemical facilities.” – Nalleli Hidalgo, Community Engagement and Education Liaison
The TPC fire is not the first, nor last of explosive chemical disasters occurring in Texas. The frequency of chemical plant explosions are endangering workers’ lives on-site and raises concerns of public health issues for frontline communities. We are reminded of the recent fire at the ExxonMobil and the ITC facility on March 16, 2019 and March 17, 2019 in Baytown, Texas and Deer Park, Texas. All incidences found in the southeast Texas petrochemical corridor, east of Houston, Texas. We remain adamant that local, county and state officials implement a Regional Air Toxics Plan and support reinstating the Chemical Disaster Rule, which the current administration recently rolled back. We also want to urge the general public to seek legal remedies outside of the claims hotline and make a full assessment of damages including health impacts. We urge you not to come in direct contact with ash and other debris. Other considerations to keep in mind are the use of ponds, swimming pools and other open waters used for recreation, please avoid exposure to chemical ash and other debris that could have settled on these bodies of water. The same consideration should be given to ash and debris that has landed near residences, including but not limited to metal, charred material, and fire retardant foam that can potentially land on people’s residences, vehicles, and other property. If ash is located on your property avoid cutting lawns. The maintenance of lawns and other landscape can agitate any particulate matter. Instead, call local health and safety departments and take pictures and video of debris if permitted to return to your residences. If you are feeling any side effects visit your physician and maintain a record of your health. Document any symptoms including but not limited to the symptoms affiliated with 1,3-butadiene exposure. Local command stated that other chemicals may have been involved.
For these and additional concerns Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services urges residents in the area affected to evacuate and seek safety with friends and relatives further from the facility. Please remain calm and cautious of current and future road closures and weather events that may complicate the situation. Local officials have not called for a mandatory evacuation outside of the 4-mile radius but we urge those at further distances to take precautions and make decisions best for themselves and family members. Tejas also urges the surrounding municipalities and communities including but not limited to Port Arthur, Port Acres, Pear Ridge, Griffing Park, Lakeview, Central Gardens, and Viterbo, and communities in-view of the plume to take precautions and limit outdoor exposure due to unknown substances that the plume may carry. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is not a government agency or county entity to mandate evacuation. We are a 501(c)3 registered environmental advocacy nonprofit that seeks to educate and inform communities on the environmental issues of concern. Due to the concentration of production, storage and other sensitive materials in and around the area we remind the public to stay abreast of the situation as they are out during the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. A Red Cross shelter is being set up at Ford Park in Beaumont according to Chester Jourdan, executive director of the American Red Cross of Southeast and Deep East Texas.
As local, state, and agency officials release statements that their data, based on handheld air monitors is safe; community members continue to sit beneath a massive plume of toxic-chemical smoke. TPC is a petrochemical facility known to have a history of air permit violations according to the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO), an EPA database. ECHO data has documented TPC as a facility with over 12 quarters of violations dating back to 2017.
“Don’t tell me that health and safety is the topmost priority for TPC a known violator of the Clean Air Act. Children, elderly, pregnant women and so many others are being exposed to cancer-causing 1,3-butadiene. We have no information on the full slate of chemicals being released or the amounts. I appreciate local officials evacuating community members and taking intentional steps to protect public well-being it is a step up from the efforts during the ITC Disaster, and yet TPCs official updates lack the detail and information that ITC handed to the affected community. What we need is for the TCEQ to stop handing out air permits like candy and for the state to lift caps on financial penalties for facilities to fully enforce the letter of the law. How does a known-violator of the law keep getting permission to operate? This is not the first time TPC undermines community well-being. Their activity is criminal and TPC should not be allowed to continue to operate. I hope the general public understands this type of production is not one based on energy demand but the production of plastic goods. This is the real cost of plastic.” – Yvette Arellano, Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate, T.e.j.a.s
Both T.e.j.a.s and CIDA release this statement jointly believing that no community should have to face a chemical disaster as everyone, regardless of race or income, is entitled to live in a clean environment.
Contact: Yvette Arellano, T.e.j.a.s Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate, 281-919-5762, firstname.lastname@example.org Hilton Kelley, CIDA Inc. Founder & Director, 409-498-1088, email@example.com
Photo from Maharlika News.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Sunday said that single-use plastics and disposable materials will soon be banned in the city’s hotels and restaurants with the approval of City Ordinance No. 2876, which prohibits the distribution and/or use of single-use plastics/disposable materials, including cutlery for dine-in purposes in these establishments.
“The use of throw-away plates, spoons, forks, cups and other plastic and paper disposables for dining purposes will soon be banned in hotels and restaurants in Quezon City,’’ Joy Belmonte said.
In a joint press conference with environmental group EcoWasteCoalition, Belmonte said the measure was long overdue as she cited principal author and Councilor Dorothy Delarmente and the other members of the city council for its approval.
“The local government of Quezon City is taking this action to prevent and reduce the generation of waste materials that are hardly recovered and recycled, and to promote sustainable practices, especially in the city’s thriving hotel and restaurant industry,” she added.
With the looming single-use plastics ban, Belmonte expressed high hopes of a significant drop in the volume of residual and plastic waste in the city once the Implementing Rules and Regulations of this ordinance are duly promulgated.
“This will be beneficial for the environment and the people as these avoidable wastes are known to add to the city’s huge waste production and to littering and flooding problems,” Belmonte pointed out.
For her part, Delarmente emphasized “the enactment of this measure and its subsequent enforcement is essential amid the clamor against throw-away materials, both plastic and paper-based, which go straight to the bin after being used for just a few minutes.”
“In this ordinance, paper alternatives for plastic cups, plates and straws are not considered an option since these are not recyclable, but disposable,” clarified Delarmente, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Parks and Environment.
Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, commended the pollution prevention ordinance against plastic and paper disposables, calling it a step in the right direction.
“This action from the ground should encourage the speedy approval of a robust national legislation phasing out single-use plastics and other disposables to advance the consumption and production agenda in the country,” Lucero pointed out.
Sonia Mendoza, chairman of the Mother Earth Foundation, also welcomed the passage of the measure saying other local government units should take their cue from Quezon City and enact similar measures “that will address the proliferation of throw-away packaging such as single-use plastics, which constitute a main obstacle in community efforts to reach the Zero Waste goal.”
Among the single-use and disposable materials not allowed for dine-in customers in the city’s hotels and restaurants are plastic spoons, forks and knives; plastic/paper cups, plates, straws, stirrers; and styrofoam.
Delarmente said hotels are further prohibited from distributing bar and liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners, shower gels, and other items used for hygienic purposes in sachets and single-use containers.
The following penalties will be imposed on non-compliant hotels and restaurants: 1) a fine of P1,000 for the first offense; 2) a fine of P3,000 for the second offense, revocation of Environmental Clearance and issuance of a Cease and Desist Order; and 3) a fine of P5,000, revocation of Business Permit and issuance of a Closure Order.
The Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department (EPWMD) and the Business Permits and Licensing Department (BPLD) are mandated to ensure compliance of hotels and restaurants to the provisions of the Ordinance, with the Environmental Inspectors of the EPWMD tasked to issue Environmental Violation Receipts (EVRs) to violators.
Based on Quezon City’s Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS) conducted in 2013, 0.81 percent of the 9.64 percent of “recyclable plastic waste” generated by the city is comprised of single-use cutlery, including plastic cups, spoons and forks, which is equivalent to 2.6 tons per day or approximately one (1) truck load of a mini-dump truck.
Originally posted in Manila Bulletin.
Kuala Lumpur, 25 November 2019 – The UK has agreed to repatriate 42 containers comprising illegal shipment of plastic waste from Malaysia, in accordance with the Basel Convention. Authorities and shipping agents are currently working
together in the repatriation process. The containers, which had arrived at Penang Port between March 2018 and March 2019, were deemed illegal as they failed to comply with the necessary import papers.
The announcement came following a recent visit by the UK’s Environment Agency (EA) organised by the British High Commission in response to news of the illegal shipment of plastic waste from the UK. The EA held a series of meetings with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), Department of Environment, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, relevant port authorities and agencies in Malaysia. These meetings have resulted in
a greater mutual understanding of the regulatory framework and policies related to trade in plastic waste, as well as an exchange of knowledge in sharing intelligence, inspection procedures, identification and repatriation of plastic waste.
Y.B. Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change said, “The British High Commission’s proactive action of working closely with MESTECC in repatriating 42 plastic import containers in Penang Port is
highly commendable. This co-operation signifies a recognition that plastic pollution is a global issue which requires commitment from various countries to address the problem.
“We hope the co-operation and understanding between Malaysia and United Kingdom will set an example for other countries with companies exporting contaminated plastic waste to other developing nations,” she said.
H.E. Charles Hay MVO, British High Commissioner to Malaysia said, “The UK Government shares the same concerns as the Malaysian Government on the issue of plastic waste. The repatriation of these 42 containers reflects our commitment to fighting the illegal plastic waste trade.
“We look forward to working with Malaysia on the broader agenda of conserving the environment and addressing climate change, particularly with the UK becoming the joint chair of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) next year,” Hay added. MESTECC and the British High Commission are already collaborating on a number of initiatives in tackling plastic pollution including jointly hosting a VIP screening of BBC Studios’ Blue Planet II to raise public awareness on the perils of single-use plastics. In addition, the high commission is offering UK expertise from WRAP Global, a UK sustainability charity, to support MESTECC’s initiative in setting up the Malaysia Plastics Pact. The high commission will also be sending UK experts to deliver a venture workshop in partnership with MESTECC, to promote research and innovation in mitigating the use of plastic.
Raymond Chua, British High Commission +6012 3088043
NormaizatulAkmal Tujad, MESTECC +603 88858299