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Loophole & delays undermine microplastics restriction

Loophole & delays undermine microplastics restriction

NGO letter to key decision makers reiterates support for restrictions on all intentionally added microplastics under the chemicals legislation, REACH.

For Immediate Release, Brussels

There are major concerns that proposed limitations to the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) restriction on intentionally added microplastics act as loopholes to satisfy industry, by delaying implementation and creating derogations for biodegradable plastics. Comments from the industry lobby in the ECHA public consultation on microplastics are aimed at undermining the core purpose of the restriction rather than contributing to meaningfully addressing the issue of microplastic pollution.

The latest European Chemicals Agency proposal to restrict all intentionally added microplastics has generally received strong support from NGOs across many sectors. In letters to national governments, 32 NGOs together with the #breakfreefromplastic movement of more than 1,800 organisations, and the Rethink Plastic alliance, reiterated this support, while raising major concerns on derogations and unnecessary delays in a letter addressed to national environment ministers and relevant agencies on Tuesday. They call on the Commission and Member States to address these concerns and move the restriction process forward without delays or derogations.

Once released in the environment, microplastics are practically impossible to remove, and are expected to be present in the environment for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years, with severe and well documented effects on the environment. The scientific data gathered by ECHA in the report backing the need for a restriction is unequivocal: microplastics constitute a serious risk to the environment, and are a source of pollution that is currently, and undeniably, out of control.

In particular proposed derogations for allegedly biodegradable microplastics and the extended transitional periods are highlighted as undermining the prevention of microplastic pollution, and lacking in scientific basis.

Elise Vitali, Chemicals Project Officer at the European Environmental Bureau said “The restriction proposal is a big step forward. But if passed as it stands, this plan would seriously jeopardise the EU’s reputation as a leader in the fight against plastic pollution. It is a matter of urgency that these unjustifiable loopholes are closed, and that the restrictions are applied to all intentional microplastics in a concise timeframe.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement in Europe and of the Rethink Plastic alliance said “It is high time the industry stops bringing biodegradability claims to obtain exemptions and create loopholes in much needed restrictions, be it on single-use plastics or in this case on microplastics added to products. If it is even slightly serious about contributing to solving the plastic crisis, the industry should rather focus its efforts on redesigning and removing all intentionally added microplastics from Industry products”.

ENDS

NOTES

  1. Read the full letter sent to EU ENVI Committee members and REACH competent authorities
  2. Read the NGOs Position For An Impactful Restriction Of Microplastics
  3. ECHA Annex XV Restriction Report Proposal for a Restriction on Intentionally Added Microplastics

 

Press Contacts:

Matt Franklin

European Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic

matt@breakfreefromplastic.org – +44 7923 37 38 31

Alice Bernard

Chemicals Lawyer, Client Earth

ABernard@clientearth.org – 0032 (0)2 808 8015

Plastic Atlas demonstrates scale of plastic pollution crisis and solutions for a zero waste future 

Plastic Atlas demonstrates scale of plastic pollution crisis and solutions for a zero waste future 

49 detailed infographics over 19 chapters cover many aspects of plastic production, consumption and disposal.

Brussels/Manila/Washington D.C. Today, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Break Free From Plastic movement have published the international English edition of the Plastic Atlas, holding launch events in the European Parliament in Brussels (quotes EC-FVP Frans Timmermans, MEP Bas Eickhout further down), and in Washington D.C. and Manila.

The Plastic Atlas contains more than 49 detailed infographics covering a broad range of topics regarding the plastic pollution crisis looking along the entire value chain of plastic. The atlas highlights the scale of the crisis, and the global impacts of plastic production, consumption and disposal on other key global challenges such as human health and climate change. It also outlines the role of plastic for key industrial sectors such as agriculture and tourism and describes the corporate interests and drivers behind the plastic crisis. Finally, the Plastic Atlas presents an overview of key plastic-free regulations, zero waste solutions and a snapshot of the growing global movement working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans emphasized: ”The European Union has made an important first step by banning some of the most polluting single use plastic products in Europe. We now need to continue our efforts to design products for reuse, improve waste management and recycling, and move towards a zero-pollution economic model. Valuable resources must be retained and recycled material used for making new products, not shipped abroad or sent up in smoke through an incinerator.”

The Heinrich Böll Foundation’s President Barbara Unmüßig called for global action to address the crisis at source: “A ban on single-use plastics makes sense but will not be sufficient to end one of the biggest environmental crises of the planet. Plastics began as a waste product of the petrochemical industry. Today, ExxonMobil, BASF, Eni, INEOS, and Dow are the biggest plastic producers worldwide with sales totaling 420 billion Euros per year,” Unmüßig said. “Instead of cutting down on this part of the business they have clear targets to increase plastic production over the coming years. The unlimited availability of cheap oil and gas as raw materials for plastic production prevents effective recycling strategies and blocks a real circular economy. Regional and global politics must hold the plastic industry accountable and define a clear and strict framework for the reduction of overall plastic production and consumption. However, circular-economy strategies are needed to make a lasting impact”, Unmüßig emphasized.

Lili Fuhr, Head of the International Environmental Policy Division of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and project leader for the Plastic Atlas said: “Since 99% of all plastics are made of fossil fuels and produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions along the entire lifecycle of plastic, it is clear that the solutions to the plastic and climate crisis need to go hand in hand. The petrochemical industry is planning a massive expansion of the plastic production infrastructure to flood the global market with yet more waste and toxics. Governments in Europe and North America must not allow this expansion to go ahead. As a first step, the EU must work to ban the import of fracked hydrocarbon feedstock for plastics from the US.”

Break Free From Plastic European Coordinator, Delphine Lévi Alvarès stated: “Europe plays a significant role in the plastic pollution crisis at almost every juncture. From the export of low-grade plastic waste to the global south where Europe avoids their responsibility of dealing with the waste that we create, to the European corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Unilever who are again and again cited as the top global producers of branded plastic pollution. Europe’s role in this crisis is ubiquitous. But Europe also has great potential to tackle plastic pollution at source, notably by enacting strong policies. This is the only way to achieve a circular economy and go above and beyond the Paris Agreement commitments.”

Bas Eickhout, Vice-Chair of the EP-Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (The Greens/EFA) and co-host of the Plastic-Atlas launch pointed out: “This plastic atlas shows the painful reality behind our plastic addiction, and there is no excuse to wait with the implementation of policies to cure it. Let me name a few: Bans on needless use of plastic. Strict eco-design rules to ensure that we use as little plastic as possible in the products that we make. New legislation to prevent the leakage of plastic pellets in our environment. Mandatory use of recycled instead of virgin plastic. And of course: a plastic tax. It’s time to walk the walk.”


NOTES

  1. Download the full Plastic Atlas:  www.boell.de/plasticatlas
  2. #breakfreefromplastic 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. Sign up at www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
  3. The Heinrich Böll Foundation, as part of the Green political movement, is a catalyst for Green visions and projects, a think tank for policy reform, and an international network. We globally support and cooperate with partners promoting Democracy, human rights, socio-ecological transformation and gender justice. Find out more at https://www.boell.de/en.
Nurdle Hunt in Port of Antwerp & Schelde (estuary of river Scheldt – Belgium & The Netherlands)

Nurdle Hunt in Port of Antwerp & Schelde (estuary of river Scheldt – Belgium & The Netherlands)

Science, environmental activism and a refreshing family excursion!

On November 3, 2019 Antwerpen Schaliegasvrij (Shale Free Antwerp) is organizing a plastic nurdle hunt in the Scheldt estuary. The aim of the action is to obtain a clear picture of the seriousness of the pollution caused by these ‘plastic granules’ (‘nurdles’ or ‘pellets’ in English) in the estuary of the Scheldt river. We combine science and research with a fun family day. We randomly search along the banks for plastic pellets that have been washed ashore. We take notes of the location, make pictures and collect samples. This pollution is mainly generated by the plastics industry itself. Nurdles are constantly being spilled when loading or unloading ships and trucks and eventually end up in the Scheldt.

Antwerpen Schaliegasvrij invites everyone to this child-friendly event which combines science with environmental activism and a refreshing trip along the river Scheldt. The plastic nurdle hunt is a continuation and extension of “The Great Nurdle Hunt”, an international initiative by FIDRA.

Join us between 10 am and 11:30 am at Stormkop on t’Eilandje, (Droogdokkenweg, 2030 Antwerp). From there, hunting parties leave for the nearest nurdle handling factories (production, processing or transportation). Or become a team coordinator and set up your own team in another specific area of the Scheldt Estuary. After the hunt we return to Stormkop to collect and make an inventory of the nurdle samples (not mandatory for teams operating at more remote locations outside the Port area – several collection sites will be communicated), after which we will discuss the first results with the press and all participants during an informal drink and information session.

Related news: Last week, a group of citizens from Texas succeeded in enforcing an amicable USD 50 million settlement of Formosa Plastics Corp. Formosa is a petrochemical giant and plastics manufacturing company responsible for polluting local waters with billions of plastic nurdles. The large amount of physical evidence (nurdles) collected may have been decisive in this case. It is estimated that the port of Antwerp has 6 times more plastic producing capacity.

Find out more about our event? Check our website or the Facebook event page.
Find out more about the trial in Texas? Check the press release.

Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo named top plastic polluters for the second year in a row

Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo named top plastic polluters for the second year in a row

October 23, 2019

Manila, Philippines – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the top 3 most identified companies in global brand audits for the second year in a row, according to a new report “BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.”

Four hundred and eighty-four cleanups in over 50 countries and 6 continents, organised by the Break Free From Plastic movement in September, identified the top polluting companies. The rest of the companies rounding out the top 10 polluters are Mondelēz International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle.

“This report provides more evidence that corporations urgently need to do more to address the plastic pollution crisis they’ve created. Their continued reliance on single-use plastic packaging translates to pumping more throwaway plastic into the environment. Recycling is not going to solve this problem. Break Free From Plastic’s nearly 1,800 member organizations are calling on corporations to urgently reduce their production of single-use plastic and find innovative solutions focused on alternative delivery systems that do not create pollution,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement.

This year’s most frequently identified companies in the brand audits – Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo – have offered mostly false solutions to the plastics crisis, underscoring how important it is for voices from beyond the consumer goods sector to demand accountability and call for an end to single-use plastics. The list of top polluters is again filled with some of the world’s most commonly known brands.

“Recent commitments by corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to address the crisis unfortunately continue to rely on false solutions like replacing plastic with paper or bioplastics and relying more heavily on a broken global recycling system. These strategies largely protect the outdated throwaway business model that caused the plastic pollution crisis, and will do nothing to prevent these brands from being named the top polluters again in the future,” said Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia plastic campaign coordinator.

“The products and packaging that brands like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are churning out is turning our recycling system into garbage. China has effectively banned the import of the US and other exporting countries’ ‘recycling,’ and other countries are following suit. Plastic is being burned in incinerators across the world, exposing communities to toxic pollution. We must continue to expose these real culprits of our plastic and recycling crisis,” said Denise Patel, US Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

ENDS


NOTES

  1. This report is published under the responsibility of Greenpeace Philippines
  2. BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters. (2019)
  3. 2018 Brand audit report:  Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters, volume 1 (2018)
  4. A Greenpeace USA report titled Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have It Wrong on Plastic Pollution “Solutions,” recently called out companies for opting for false solutions.

Contacts: 

Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic Senior Communications Officer [Global/US]: shilpi@breakfreefromplastic.org, +1 703 400 9986

Jed Alegado, Break Free From Plastic Asia Pacific Communications Officer: jed@breakfreefromplastic.org, +63 917 607 0248

Matt Franklin, Break Free From Plastic European Communications Officer: matt@breakfreefromplastic.org, +44 792 337 3831

New report shows how EU countries can quit single-use plastics and switch to reusables 

New report shows how EU countries can quit single-use plastics and switch to reusables 

Simple reusable solutions to throwaway plastic cups, plates, cutlery and takeaway boxes are working across Europe – but need governments’ backing to take off and power the #ReuseRevolution

Brussels, October 15 – Reusable alternatives to wasteful single-use plastics are on the rise across Europe, and national governments have the tools at their disposal to boost them and slash plastic pollution, according to a new report released today by Break Free From Plastic Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance.

The Reusable solutions: how governments can help stop single-use plastic pollution report shows how a mixture of public and private initiatives are slashing the consumption of single-use plastic packaging and products across Europe. They include:

  • The reusable cup scheme ‘ReCup’ is used by almost 3,000 vendors in over 450 cities in Germany. Citizens pay a €1 deposit per cup, which is refunded when they are returned to a vendor. Half a million of these cups are in circulation, and each can be reused up to 500 times.
  • 1.5 tonnes of food packaging waste are saved per year in Brussels, where more than 1,000 members use “Tiffin” reusable steel takeaway boxes. This also saves €20,000 in the purchase of disposable containers.
  • Deposit return schemes for reuse can work: in Germany’s system 99% of reusable glass bottles are returned, meaning they are cleaned and refilled up to 50 times.

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe and co-author of the report, said “If governments switched to reusable products instead of wasteful single-use plastics, they would slash plastic pollution, save local authorities money for collection and waste cleanup, and create local jobs.”

Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe and co-author of the report, said: “Benefits of reuse systems are countless, yet such zero waste business models encounter many challenges to get their way through the current market dominated by single-use. Policy intervention is key to allowing such positive change to be rolled out across the EU and become the norm.”

The report calls on national governments to scale up these successes across Europe by building on the EU’s single-use plastics laws, including by:

  • Passing laws to oblige restaurants to use reusable cutlery, plates and cups for onsite consumption
  • Setting consumption reduction targets for single-use plastic cups and food containers of 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030
  • Introducing deposit return scheme (DRS) policies for reusable items including beverage bottles, cups and food containers
  • Taxing single-use plastics to quickly force businesses to find alternatives

ENDS

 

NOTES

[1] Full report: “Reusable solutions: how governments can help stop single-use plastic pollution” available here 

[2] rethinkplasticalliance.eu/news/european-parliament-takes-historic-stand-against-single-use-plastic-pollution/ 

 

For more information, please contact: 

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, meadhbh.bolger@foeeurope.org |  +32 (0) 2 893 1016

 

Paul Hallows, communications officer at Friends of the Earth Europe, 

paul.hallows@foeeurope.org | +32 2 893 10 10

 

Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,500 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 organisations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. 

Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs, with thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State. We bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields, and work with European policy-makers to design and deliver policy solutions for a future that is free from plastic pollution. We are part of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, along with over 1,500 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.

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