European Plastic Pact: a positive gesture but NGOs unimpressed

European Plastic Pact: a positive gesture but NGOs unimpressed

06/03/2020, BrusselsToday 15 EU Member States and 66 companies signed the European Plastic Pact during a high-level event in Brussels. This document, which sets a number of targets aiming at achieving a circular economy for plastics, comes as a result of political discussions led by the Danish, Dutch and French governments. The #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement welcomes some of the ambition of the Pact, but regrets the lack of involvement of civil society in the process and highlights that this initiative remains fully voluntary, and can never replace strong regulatory measures. 

The European Plastic Pact is a largely positive signal from a number of European countries and companies, who acknowledge that reduction measures and product redesign are crucial to address the plastic pollution crisis. #BreakFreeFromPlastic welcomes the commitment to reduce virgin plastic products and packaging by at least 20% by 2025, with at least 10% coming from an absolute reduction of plastics. It is important that signatories of the Pact also monitor and report the progress in reduction per unit (and not only weight) so as to ensure a true reduction in single-use products and packaging.

However, #BreakFreeFromPlastic highlights that the targets set in the Pact remain completely voluntary and that this Pact cannot come as a substitute for legislation, but should complement an ambitious and prompt implementation of EU and national legislation on packaging and single-use plastics. #BreakFreeFromPlastic also notes that there is very limited attention given to the presence of hazardous chemicals in plastic products and packaging, and measures to be taken to prevent toxic recycling [1].

Last but not least, the NGO movement is warning against potential implementation loopholes if the indicators are not properly defined and the exclusion mechanism not enforced, and is calling signatories to frequently and publicly report on progress made. #BreakFreeFromPlastic also notes that, although the Pact aims at bringing actors from across the supply chain together, virgin plastic producers are largely missing from the signatories and this is likely to hinder any significant accomplishment.

#BreakFreeFromPlastic European Coordinator, Delphine Lévi Alvarès said:

“The European Plastic Pact is a significant gesture by some industry and governments but it remains completely voluntary and can never be considered as a replacement for ambitious regulatory measures on single-use plastics and packaging. Moreover, so far the architects of the Pact have only engaged NGOs at the surface level; this is not how we envisage multi-stakeholders processes, and this largely motivates our decision not to sign the Pact. #BreakFreeFromPlastic nevertheless remains keen on playing an advisory role for the implementation and to explore with signatories how to turn some of this ambition into legislative requirements that would apply all across Europe.”


Matt Franklin, Communications Officer at Break Free From Plastic Europe | +44 (0) 7923 373831

Eilidh Robb, Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe and Rethink Plastic alliance | +32 (0) 273 620 91


[1] Impacts of food contact chemicals on human health: a consensus statement –

#BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement of NGOs envisioning a future free from plastic pollution, counting nearly 1,900 organisations from across the world with active members are found in all regions working towards a global, unified vision.


Global Environmental Activists Ask UN to Support Worldwide Fracking Ban

Global Environmental Activists Ask UN to Support Worldwide Fracking Ban

Group represents frontline communities from Europe, Mexico and Pennsylvania, along with researchers and international climate campaigners

New York, NY — A group of environmental activists, public health professionals and campaigners who are fighting fracking, climate change, petrochemicals and plastic pollution met with the United Nations to discuss the harms and threats of gas drilling and petrochemical expansion in their communities, and the necessity of stopping further extraction to combat the global climate crisis.

Activists from Mexico, Ireland and Germany were joined by frontline residents and campaigners from Pennsylvania and New York in the meeting with Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of New York Office at UN Environment.

The meeting was the result of an open letter sent to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres last September. That letter — organized by Food & Water Action, its European arm Food & Water Europe and the Breathe Project in Pittsburgh — was signed by nearly 460 grassroots groups, faith communities, celebrities, activists and organizations, including actors Mark Ruffalo, Emma Thompson and Amber Heard, authors and activists Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, fashion icon Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré as well as iconic children’s singer Raffi.

As the groups wrote to Secretary General Guterres, the “continued production, trade and use of fracked hydrocarbons for energy, petrochemicals and plastics torpedoes our global efforts to tackle climate change and violates basic human rights.”

The groups appealed to the United Nations to consider the critical findings it has issued over the years. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have expressed concern that fracking will make it all but impossible to achieve emissions reductions targets outlined by the Paris Agreement, as well as the impacts of fossil fuel drilling on human rights. As early as 2012, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) issued a “Global Alert” on fracking, concluding that it may have adverse environmental impacts under any circumstances.

All speakers will appear at an evening event, “Global Impacts of Fracking: From Pennsylvania to Europe and Back,” at the CUNY School of Law in Long Island City on the evening following the UN meeting. They will be joined by Rolling Stone journalist Justin Nobel, who will discuss his bombshell article on fracking and radioactivity.


“Fracking has been linked to radioactive brine, higher rates of cancer and nervous, immune, and cardiovascular system problems,” highlights Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Concerned Health Professionals of New York together with Dr. Ned Ketyer, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania. “The gathered scientific evidence shows that women, industry workers, communities of color, and the poor are especially vulnerable to environmental injustices and harm to health and safety from fracking.”

“The petrochemical industry has teamed up with the fracking industry to benefit from cheap fracked ethane to produce more unneeded and environmentally destructive plastic,” says Michele Fetting, Breathe Project together with impacted local activist Lois Bjornson. “Families are suffering from the effects of contaminated air and water and there is increasing fear as fracking activities and the petrochemical build-out show no sign of slowing down.”

“The promise of our current president to stop fracking in Mexico has not been met. All legislation favors the industry in disregard of the rights of communities in extraction areas,” underlines Claudia Campero, Alianza Mexicana contra el Fracking, Mexico.

Eddie Mitchell, Love Letirim, Ireland, adds: “Now that we stopped fracking in Ireland, we’re also forced to fight the fracking industry from infiltrating our energy markets through import pipelines and LNG terminals – undermining all our efforts to move forward towards a clean energy future.”

“After over four years of evidence gathering, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal judges on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change recommended in 2019 that fracking be banned and that the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment be asked to investigate the violations of the rights of humans and nature by the Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction industry,” said Scott Edwards and Andy Gheorghiu, Food & Water Action US and EU. “It’s time for the UN take action and finally recommend a global ban on fracking to tackle one of the worst crises in human history.”

Talk Fracking founder Joe Corré says: “Countries like Britain are employing smoke and mirrors strategies to continue fracking while pretending they’re not. The United Nations must impose a global fracking ban for the sake of humanity. Fracking simply puts another log on the fire of the Climate emergency. It’s no bridging fuel. It’s fossil fuel’s last stand.”

Fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood adds: “If we’re serious about saving the planet from Climate devastation, then Fracking – or any other form of extreme energy extraction under a different name – like Acidisation – must be totally outlawed”.


Andy Gheorghiu, Policy Advisor and Campaigner, Food & Water Action Europe,, +49 160 20 30 974

Scott Edwards, Director, Food & Water Justice,, C 914.299.1250

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”.



  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 – +44 7923 37 38 31

Alice Bernard

Chemicals Lawyer, Client Earth – 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.”


  1. Download the full Plastic Atlas:
  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
  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
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.

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