Media contact: Stefanie Spear, email@example.com, 216-387-1609
BERKELEY, CA—FEB. 25, 2020 — Following in-depth engagement by As You Sow and Trillium Asset Management, Waste Management, Inc. (WM) has committed to publishing a report that could help ease the recycling crisis that has developed in parts of the United States. The report will identify gaps in recycling infrastructure, and discuss how many of its processing facilities have been upgraded, which can boost material yield.
China’s 2018 ban on plastic waste imports exposed the fragility of parts of the U.S. recycling collection and processing system. In some areas, there is no market for collected recyclable plastics due to historical reliance on China for processing. To help address this situation, Trillium and As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal with WM for 2020, asking it to report on how it can increase the scale and pace of efforts to boost recycling rates, especially in relation to plastic pollution.
The company will provide a report to help identify basic gaps in plastic recycling infrastructure in the U.S. In addition, WM will provide overlay maps and data highlighting its marketing of three commonly recycled types of plastic — PET, HDPE, and polypropylene. This data will show material flows between regions by polymer, and categories of current end market uses for these materials. WM will identify actions it believes will help address the gaps identified in the report — both possible company actions and broader recommendations.
One of the factors in low recycling rates are inefficient or outdated Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF), where collected recyclables are separated for processing. Outdated facilities can result in lower capture rates of recyclables. The company has agreed to disclose information on the number of its MRFs that are equipped with the latest processing equipment, as well as those that are slated for near-term upgrades that can improve recycling outputs and yields, and those that have not been upgraded.
The company will also provide an updated statement on its position on extended producer responsibility (EPR), a strategy that requires consumer goods producers to finance collection and recycling of their packaging, currently paid for by taxpayers. Trillium and As You Sow believe EPR policies are essential to provide adequate funding to collectors and processors to be able to take a range of actions needed to improve recycling rates.
As You Sow and Trillium have withdrawn their shareholder proposal in response to these commitments by the company.
“Less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled and the lack of export markets has put heavy strains on the domestic recycling market,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. “This report will provide deeper insight into plastic material flows once they leave consumers hands and should be an invaluable resource to stakeholders working to increase recycling rates.”
As You Sow believes more organized, concerted action is needed by producer brands, recyclers, processors, regulators, and advocacy groups to dramatically increase levels of recycling, both to capture the embedded value of these materials, as well as to provide feedstock for the recycled content many brands now promise to use. Without such action, more recyclable plastics will end up in landfills instead of being recycled.
“We are pleased to have been a driving force behind this new action from WM and we hope this report will provide a meaningful addition to the industry’s understanding of plastic recycling challenges in the U.S.,” said Allan Pearce, a shareholder advocate at Trillium.
To learn more about As You Sow’s work on ocean plastics, click here.
Originally posted in As you Sow.
For Immediate Release: February 11, 2020
Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic, +1 703 400 9986 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ned Adriance, Senator Udall’s Office, Ned_adriance@tomudall.senate.gov
Keith Higginbotham, Congressman Lowenthal’s Office, email@example.com
Washington DC — Today, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act – the first comprehensive bill in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis. Drawing on stakeholder input from over 200 individuals, environmental groups, businesses, trade associations, aquariums, academics, grassroots organizations, and state and local governments, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act reduces unnecessary plastic and reforms our broken waste management system.
Globally, the plastics industry produces over 335 million tons of plastic each year – and this volume is continuing to increase. By 2050, global plastic production is projected to triple and will account for 20 percent of all oil consumption. But nearly two-thirds of plastic produced becomes waste. The materials in Americans’ blue bins are often landfilled, incinerated, or shipped overseas to countries that are unable to manage the burden of additional trash. What were once pristine agricultural communities in southeast Asia are now toxic dumpsites due to imported waste from wealthier nations like the United States. Plastic waste finds its way into our water, soil, and air where it breaks down into microplastics that contaminate food and drinking water, consequently posing a risk to human health.
Break Free From Plastic members are supportive of the bill (learn what they are saying) as it addresses the root cause of the plastic pollution crisis. Communities who live on the fenceline of the neighboring petrochemical facilities, in particular, face the brunt of toxic air emissions resulting in negative health impacts. In the United States, state and local governments are implementing policies to reduce unnecessary plastic products and shift the huge financial responsibility to producers for managing our waste. The Break Free From Plastic movement is calling for federal leadership to build on this momentum.
ABOUT BREAK FREE FROM PLASTIC
Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,800 organizations 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.
Coca-Cola recently released several TV ads, which were strongly criticized in social media. Two of them, in particular, refer to environmental problems: global warming and forest fires in one of them and the problem of waste, in the other. Just a few days before, the company declared in Davos that it won’t stop using single-use plastic bottles, excusing themselves on consumers’ demand. Coca-Cola is the worst plastic polluter at a global level. It is one of the main corporations that scaled up the consumption of single-use plastic bottles and systematically lobbied against any kind of regulation. Coca-Cola must stop greenwashing, take responsibility for the problem it created and abandon single-use packaging.
In one of the ads, there is a TV broadcasting the news about forest fires and the headline “Global Warming” together with young people that, while drinking Coca-Cola in plastic bottles, say “In the world, there are many things to do” and “ It’s time to be awake”. In the other spot, there are young people that, after drinking Coca-Cola, collect waste on a beach, with the statement reading
“A world without waste”. These ads caused an immediate and massive reaction in social media, particularly on Instagram. On one of them, users wrote over 600 comments rejecting it, and more than 100 on the other. Instagram was filled up with comments like these:
A fake message coming from the company that leads the ranking of plastics found in rivers and seas since there are waste audits in riverbeds and
Seriously? Global Warming with plastic bottles in hands? You’re a joke. If you will commit, do it with true actions, not lying ads. Shame!
Wouldn’t it be better if you took responsibility for the disaster you are causing?
It’s better to stop producing single-use plastics. This advertisement is a lack of respect.
You should start avoiding single-use bottles, instead of promoting them, if you really care. More actions, less greenwashing please!
In October 2019, the global movement Break Free From Plastic submitted a report identifying the main corporations polluting ecosystems with plastics. To do that there were 484 cleanups with brand audits in the shores of 51 countries. For second year in a row it was found that Coca-Cola is the most polluting corporation.
In the city of Rosario (Argentina), Taller Ecologista, as part of Más Río Menos Basura (More River Less Waste) a group of organizations and institutions, participated in BFFP Brand Audit collecting waste in the Paraná river shoreline. In this action, just like in others organized by the local group, they always found that Coca-Cola was responsible for the majority of waste polluting the river. For that reason, in November 2019 the local organizations took the bottles collected in the river to the company’s distribution facility in the city of Rosario. They demanded “Stop Using Disposables” and claimed the company to go back to returnable bottles.
Coca-Cola has to change and lead the path to other companies. In the past it led the path to an unsustainable system, scaling up the use of disposable bottles and then creating the problem of which today we are seeing the consequences: millions of tons of plastics in the oceans, in the rivers; microplastics in animals and our bodies and so on. It is unacceptable that Coca-Cola maintains, as it did in Davos, that it will continue using single-use bottles because consumers are demanding them. Everybody knows the big corporations have always been creating the demand for the products they want to sell. We say: Coca-Cola, don’t wash your hands, take responsibility and stop using disposables.
Mirko Moskat (Taller Ecologista): 341 5795088
Despite Malaysia having sent a total of 3,737 metric tonnes of unwanted waste back to 13 countries as of January 2020, it is still saddled with tonnes of illegally disposed plastic waste across the country.
The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is concerned over such indiscriminate dumping of plastic wastes which poses environmental pollution and also a threat to public health. Between January and July 2019, Malaysia imported 754,000 tonnes of plastic valued at RM483 million and, according to Greenpeace’s estimation, only 9 per cent of the plastic waste comprising clean plastic could be recycled. Hence, most of the unrecyclable plastic would either be incinerated or dumped by the illegal operators.
In most situations the incineration of plastic waste was mostly at night to conceal the smoke, and residents in the affected area would complain about the acrid smell, and health effects such as respiratory problems, coughing, breathing difficulties, eye irritation and skin itchiness. However, on 20 January 2020, Sungai Petani’s 45ha Bedong landfill caught fire and raged on for days causing a haze that enveloped Penang as well. The fire was aggravated by the presence of plastic wastes beneath the landfill and this incident is just the tip of the iceberg.
We do not need illegal plastic recycling factories and there is a need to minimise the number of legal ones if the relevant authorities are unable to keep track of the existing legal operators. A lack of monitoring and enforcement by the authorities is compounding the problem.
In September 2018, it was reported in the media that out of an estimated 200 plastic processing facilities in Penang only 27 were legal. When Penang had a major crackdown on these facilities, operators of factories that were ordered to shut down moved their plastic waste to Kulim, Gurun, and Sungai Petani in Kedah. Such was their modus operandi.
It is known that the incineration of plastics produce highly toxic chemicals such as dioxins, furans, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Moreover, if polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is burned, it liberates hazardous halogens.
Dioxins are persistent organic pollutants. Its worst component 2,3,7,8 tetrachlodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), commonly known as Agent Orange, is a known carcinogen and causes damage to the nervous system. The effects of Agent Orange, used by the US as a defoliant during the Vietnam War, is still evident until today with as many as 3 million Vietnamese who suffered health problems (including physical deformity) associated with the chemical.
Environmental pollution and health are two important factors that the authorities cannot brush aside for economic gains because plastics may take up to 1,000 years to decompose. The health cost is immense for people suffering from poor health because of exposure to chemicals leached out or as a result of inhalation of smoke from burning plastics.
Under 29A. (2) of the ‘Prohibition on open burning’ of the Environmental Protection Act, it stated that:
“Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.”
We urge the authorities to impose the highest penalty as a deterrent on the offenders who would otherwise only see the lucrativeness of the billion Ringgit plastic recycling business.
Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers Association of Penang
10 Jalan Masjid Negeri
Tel: 04-8299511/Fax: 04-8298109