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Broad International Opposition to Petrochemical Giant Ineos’ Expansion Plans

Broad International Opposition to Petrochemical Giant Ineos’ Expansion Plans

For immediate release

Movement seeks to stop #Fracking4Plastics Antwerp expansion

Brussels – A new expansion plan championed by petrochemical company Ineos, which would further deepen the environmentally disastrous connection between the plastics industry and the US fracking boom, is drawing international opposition.

In 2016, Ineos, the largest ethylene producer in Europe, began importing fracked US ethane to Europe to turn it into plastics at its facilities in the UK and Norway. The company wants now to invest €3bn to build a new ethane ‘cracker’ and a propylene producing propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant in the Port of Antwerp. The company has started the first of three intended Environmental Impact Assessment procedures for the project, which would deforest an area of 50-55 hectares.

The Port of Antwerp in Flanders, Belgium is home to the largest petrochemical cluster in Europe, and is now the second largest in the world after Houston, Texas. Satellite data showed last year that Belgium, and especially Antwerp, has some of the most polluted air in the world.

The plan of Ineos has spurred international opposition from 20 groups, NGOs and associations, who have jointly submitted an objection to the Port of Antwerp. Signatories from both sides of the Atlantic include Food & Water Europe, Food & Water Watch, #BreakFreeFromPlastic, Talk Fracking, CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law), WECF (Women Engage for a Common Future), Recycling Netwerk, Frack Free United, Greenpeace UK and Environmental Investigation Agency. This joint international objection comes on top of the ones submitted by Belgian grassroots groups and NGOs (such as Antwerpen Schaliegasvrij, StRaten Generaal and Greenpeace Belgium).

The international objection highlights the need to take the cumulative and transboundary climate and environmental effects into account, paying attention to the significant full lifecycle emissions along the supply chain. It states that no deforestation shall be allowed before any permitting decisions can be made on the ethane cracker and the PDH unit.

The signatories also refer to the ongoing plastic pellet pollution in protected Ramsar and Natura 2000 sites, and the absence of its management in the species and waste management plans.

“Apart from the fact that Ineos relies on climate hostile fracked US gas for their plans, we also see here a clear breach of the existing Natura 2000 legislation:, says Andy Gheorghiu, policy advisor and campaigner for Brussels based NGO Food & Water Europe. “The only way to solve the current massive virgin plastic pollution problem is to rein in the sources of such pollution, and that means stopping these facilities, not expanding them.”

“Ineos is a climate and environmental disaster — benefiting from fracking in the U.S. while planning to bring the dangerous practice to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe to produce more plastic waste,” said Scott Edwards, legal director of Food & Water Watch. “This company’s plans have been and will be met with a passionate, committed grassroots movement on both sides of the Atlantic. The Port of Antwerp must understand the additional high financial risk the relationship with Ineos represents.”

Joe Corré, founder of Talk Fracking, adds: “Every facility, like the proposed one by Ineos, that relies on fracked gas is a direct contribution to a dramatic increase in global warming, a constant production of plastic pollution and an involvement in human rights abuses along the supply chain. Everyone involved must be held responsible”.

“The #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement brings nearly 1,300 organisations around the world together to fight plastic pollution. INEOS are fuelling the plastics expansion with cheap plastics that will pollute our environment, but together we can put a stop to their polluting practices and expansion plans.” concludes Delphine Lévi Alvarès, coordinator of Break Free From Plastic in Europe. “The Port of Antwerp has already a massive transformational task to achieve. The investment plans of Ineos will torpedo every effort towards this necessary and existential process.”

International Objection (EN)

International Objection (NL)

Contacts:
Andy Gheorghiu, policy advisor and campaigner, Food & Water Europe
Mobile: 0049 160 20 30 974
Email: agheorghiu@fweurope.org

Notes for the Editor:

Green groups call on Japan, G20 to show genuine leadership in tackling the plastic pollution crisis

Green groups call on Japan, G20 to show genuine leadership in tackling the plastic pollution crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MANILA, Philippines (June 28, 2019) — As the G20 summit opens in Osaka, Japan, a coalition of more than 800 environmental organizations worldwide is challenging the heads of state to show leadership in tackling the plastic pollution crisis by addressing overproduction, rather than focusing on waste. The proposed voluntary marine plastics framework does not address the fundamental cause of plastic pollution: the overproduction of plastic..

“As the second-largest consumer of plastic in the world, Japan should show leadership by reducing consumption and production of plastic, especially single-use plastics,” said Beau Baconguis, Asia Pacific Plastics Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and concurrently Asia Pacific coordinator of the global #breakfreefromplastic movement.

Two weeks ago, a meeting of G20 environmental ministers in Japan resulted in a voluntary initiative to share best practices and establish standards for tracking marine plastic waste, but it stopped short of setting clear indicators or a timeline for progress. It is also largely an implementation framework for the “G20 action plan on marine litter”  adopted at the G20 Hamburg Summit in Germany in 2017. The 2017 action plan focuses mostly on plastic waste and marine plastics, rather than on accelerating production and consumption, or impacts on land, air, and freshwater ecosystems.

“Plastic pollutes throughout its lifecycle — from oil and gas extraction to production all the way to final disposal. It is not only a marine litter issue. It is more importantly an overproduction issue. The G20 and Japan need to deal with the plastic pollution crisis in a holistic manner,” added Baconguis.

Most recently, Japan has announced setting aside USD 18.6 million to promote waste incineration in Southeast Asian countries. Through public-private partnerships, waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration plants will find their way to Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.

“WTE Incineration directly undermines waste reduction, reuse and recycling, and incinerating plastics exacerbates climate change, and creates toxic pollution and hazardous ash. If Japan and other G20 governments are serious about resolving the plastic pollution crisis and about responding to the climate emergency, they must stop using this outdated technology and stop pushing it on other countries,” said Sirine Rached, Global Policy Advocate at GAIA.

“There is no solution to the plastic problem or to climate change that allows the industry to continue growing at 4% per year. It is time for the G-20 to rein in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries starting with broad bans on single-use plastics,” Rached added.

A 2018 UN Environment Programme report identified Japan as the world’s second largest consumer of single-use plastic packaging per person — behind the United States. G-20 nations produce half of the world’s plastic waste. Abe, who chairs the summit, has already given his intentions to prioritize this issue at the G20 summit and through domestic policies in Japan.

According to a recent Greenpeace East Asia report, Japan is also the world’s second largest exporter of plastic waste, behind the United States. fter China stopped accepting plastic waste imports in 2018, several Southeast Asian nations became new targets.

“Japan and the G20 need to get their plastic addiction under control. Instead of pointing the finger at Southeast Asian countries while dumping plastic waste on them, the G20 needs to address its own overproduction and consumption of plastic,” said Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director for GAIA.

Press contact:

Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic

jed@breakfreefromplastic.org | +63 917-6070248

Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific

sherma@no-burn.org | +63 917-8157570

 

Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific

sonia@no-burn.org | +63 917-5969286

About BFFP –  #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,400 non-governmental 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. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

About GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. www.no-burn.org

How America Is Sabotaging The Global War On Plastic Waste

How America Is Sabotaging The Global War On Plastic Waste

When President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan Save Our Seas Act into law last October, he painted a grim picture of just how dire marine plastic pollution had become.

“Every year, over 8 million tons of garbage is dumped into our oceans,” he declared. “This waste, trash and debris harms not only marine life, but also fishermen and coastal economies along America’s vast stretches.”

However, the Trump administration has refused to recognize America’s role in the ocean plastic crisis and has repeatedly tried to stymie international efforts to tackle the problem, while boosting the plastic industry at home.

Trump has blamed “many countries of the world” for the marine plastic problem, calling out China and Japan by name. “The bad news is [this garbage] floats toward us” from “other countries very far away,” the president said last year, adding that the U.S. is then “charged with removing it, which is a very unfair situation.”

While it is true that Asia is the source of an estimated 80% of marine plastic pollution, what Trump failed to mention was that most of it doesn’t actually originate there.

 

KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS
President Donald Trump signing the Save Our Seas Act in the Oval Office on Oct. 11, 2018.

 

“It’s an uncomfortable fact that … the vast majority of the waste in these Asian countries that are ending up in the oceans actually come from the U.S. and Europe,” David Azoulay of the Center for International Environmental Law said from Geneva on Thursday.

The U.S., which is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of plastic, is also the No. 1 exporter of plastic scrap.

For decades, it sent much of this waste to China, which had processed about 45% of the world’s plastic scrap until it decided in 2018 to bar most of these imports. As a result, China’s Southeast Asian neighbors have been deluged with American plastic waste. Unlike China, however, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have neither the infrastructure nor the resources to properly handle this onslaught.

As a HuffPost investigation uncovered earlier this year, bales of plastic trash from countries like the U.S., U.K. and Australia are being illegally dumped or burned across Southeast Asian countries. Local activists in Malaysia said at the time that the U.S. and other wealthy nations were using the region as a “dumping ground.”

 

Greenpeace activist Malaysia

JOSHUA PAUL FOR HUFFPOST
A Greenpeace activist at a dumpsite in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Jan. 30. Unlicensed recyclers are illegally burning or dumping waste plastics at sites across the country.

 

Yet, despite Americans’ contribution to the global plastic waste crisis ― and despite the recent efforts of most of the world’s governments to develop solutions to address it ― the Trump administration has chosen to take an “obstructionist” stance on this issue, activists say.

The U.S. is “very clearly isolating itself from the rest of the world on this issue,” said Azoulay, who directs CIEL’s environmental health program.

Just last week, the U.S. was accused of attempting to undermine a landmark Basel Convention proposal to control the flow of plastic waste to developing countries ― a set of rules that would shut the U.S. off from many of the countries where it currently ships its plastic scrap.

“It was another clear example of the U.S. playing an obstructive role in international negotiations,” Von Hernandez, global coordinator for the Break Free From Plastic initiative, said on Tuesday, speaking from the Philippines. “This has long been their playbook for anything to do with the plastic waste trade; they obfuscate the issue, they try to delay the process.”

On Friday, 186 countries and the European Union — all parties of the 1992 Basel treaty, which controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste between nations — signed a legally binding agreement to track and limit the trade of lower-quality, mixed and contaminated plastics. These materials are typically difficult or impossible to recycle and are the plastics that often end up in landfills or polluting waterways. They also make up the vast majority of the plastic scrap exported by developed countries to poorer ones.

The U.S. is one of two countries that signed but never ratified the Basel treaty ― and, as such, was not among the countries that signed on to the new agreement, dubbed the Norwegian amendment after the country that first proposed it. That didn’t stop the American delegation from rabble-rousing, however.

There was an overwhelming consensus in support of the amendment, an unusual scenario for international agreements of this kind, according to Hernandez, Azoulay and Jim Puckett, founder of the Basel Action Network, who were all in the room during the Basel negotiations last week. Even countries that have historically been antagonistic to plastic waste regulation, like Japan and Canada, backed the proposal.

There was just one tiny faction of countries that opposed the amendment, they said. The U.S. was vocal in its opposition, they noted. The others were Argentina and Brazil, neither of which export very much plastic scrap; the South American duo appeared to parrot the U.S. line.

“The U.S. delegation’s argument was the same argument we always hear from them: ‘We need more time, we cannot make a decision now, we need more data,’” Hernandez said. “You could tell that other parties were frustrated by their behavior.”

Puckett estimated that about 90% of the plastic exported to developing countries is mixed or contaminated. Under the new agreement, which will come into effect in January 2021, parties to the convention that wish to export most mixed and contaminated plastics will first need to obtain consent from the receiving nations.

Puckett described the new rules as “historic” and one of the convention’s greatest achievements to date.

The regulations, he said, are expected to have a profoundly positive effect on the plastic waste and recycling industry worldwide. There will be more transparency to what has historically been the very opaque international trade of plastic scrap. Recyclers in wealthy nations will be compelled to improve their sorting practices, which is expected to increase the rate that plastics are actually recycled. (Since 1950, the plastic waste recycling rate has been an abysmal 9% globally.)

The measures are also expected to significantly reduce the amount of contaminated plastics flowing into Southeast Asia, Africa and other developing areas ― and, in turn, slash the amount of marine plastic pollution originating from these nations.

It’s not hard to imagine why the Trump administration would oppose the Norwegian amendment. Hernandez said the U.S. has long opposed the Basel Convention and has a terrible track record when it comes to regulations related to waste of any kind.

Plus, he noted, the new rules are expected to hit the U.S. especially hard.

According to recent estimates by industry publication Resource Recycling, the U.S. currently exports at least 80% of its mixed plastics. Since the U.S. has not ratified the Basel Convention, however, developing countries that are parties to the treaty will no longer be able to accept most mixed plastics from the U.S. under the new rules.

“As a nonparty, the U.S. won’t be allowed to trade with parties” except for the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Puckett explained, noting that OECD members are mostly high-income economies known more for exporting plastic scrap than for importing it.

“The United States has been exporting so much of its scrap [to developing countries],” Puckett said. “They’re going to have to figure out something very different” after 2021.

 

Malaysian activist dumpsite

JOSHUA PAUL FOR HUFFPOST
A Malaysian activist checks out an illegal plastic dumping site inside a palm oil estate in Kuala Langat. Shredded plastic was spread on the ground and left here. Often, the dumpers will return and burn the piles at night.

 

Under Trump, a self-declared anti-globalist, the U.S. has increasingly been steered onto an isolationist path. It’s distanced itself from traditional trade partners and allies, has pulled out of international treaties like the landmark Paris climate change agreement and now, on the issue of plastics, has emerged starkly as a global outlier ― one that, according to activists, has attempted to dismantle the progress that other nations have made in this area.

Azoulay said this American separateness and antagonism was particularly obvious at a United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting held in Kenya in March. During that meeting, almost all countries agreed to a proposal calling for U.N. members to phase out “most problematic single-use plastic products by 2025.” The U.S., with the support of Saudi Arabia and Cuba, however, took issue with this pledge and ultimately succeeded in watering down the language of the commitment to say only that countries would aim to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics by 2030.

According to Azoulay, who attended the Kenya meeting, the U.S. also played a “very strong obstructionist role” during discussions about broader frameworks related to marine litter and microplastics. “Again, the U.S. was a very lonely voice opposing the [plastic proposals] at UNEA,” he said.

Azoulay, a veteran attorney of environmental law, said he’s never seen the world’s nations as united over an issue as they appear to be regarding plastic waste.

“Today, if you look at those international gatherings, almost all countries are supporting tighter controls of plastic and they’re moving very fast,” he said. “In my whole career, I’ve never seen any international regulation move as fast.”

“Since there’s such a wide consensus,” Azoulay added, America’s opposition appears even “more radical.”

Observers have suggested that Trump’s chummy relationship with the fossil fuel industry, as well as influence from the American recycling lobby, could be a root cause of the administration’s hostile position.

Plastic production had been ramping up in the U.S. even prior to Trump’s ascent to the presidency. In 2015, the American Chemistry Council, an oil and gas trade association, declared that a plastics “renaissance” was underway in the U.S.

 

fossil fuels north dakota

GETTY EDITORIAL
A pump jack operating as a drill rig sits on a well pad in the Bakken Formation in Williston, North Dakota, on March 8, 2018. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels.

 

Trump’s support of natural gas and other fossil fuels has further boosted America’s plastics industry, according to Azoulay and others.

As a 2017 CIEL reports detailed, 99% of the world’s plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels, and the “availability of cheap shale gas in the United States is fueling a massive wave of new investments in plastics infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad, with $164 billion planned for 264 new facilities or expansion projects in the U.S. alone,” the report said.

If this investment is spent in the way that it’s intended, CIEL said, virgin plastic production is slated to increase by 33%-36% in the U.S. by 2025.

“With the current administration relying so much on a good relationship with the fossil fuel industry, you can see a pattern in their [international] negotiations ― they oppose any source of restriction or anything that would result in a tighter control on plastic, whether virgin plastic production or plastic waste,” Azoulay said. “Their policy line at this point is, basically, don’t touch the plastic industry and let them deal with these issues themselves.”

U.S. politics has for decades been heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry, ― and the country has historically been known for its generally anti-regulatory stance in the global arena. But Jesse Bragg of the Boston-based nonprofit Corporate Accountability International said the Trump administration has been unique in its strident approach.

Even the Obama administration, which positioned the U.S. as an environmental leader and the country that spearheaded the Paris agreement, has been accused of weakening global environmental agreements, Bragg said, noting that “if you speak to most developing countries, they’ll tell you the reason the Paris agreement is as weak as it is, is because of the U.S.” But the Obama White House took pains to obscure this side of the negotiations.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, appears to have “less interest in hiding their true intentions,” Bragg said. “It doesn’t take much to see what they’re doing … and that’s a big departure from past administrations. The Trump administration doesn’t care what the world thinks.”

This attitude, Bragg warned, is a “dangerous place to be.”

“If they don’t care what their international reputation is, there’s nothing keeping the administration from continuing the obstruction that has been the [U.S.] trend for decades,” he said, “and they can operate in some dangerous ways to advance the financial interest of those in the administration ― and those supporting the administration.”

This story is part of a series on plastic waste, funded by SC Johnson. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the company.

Article originally posted in Huffpost.

 

Texas should put communities first

Texas should put communities first

The fracking boom is driving environmental disasters like the Intercontinental Terminal Company (ITC) Deer Park petrochemical fire. The ITC fire isn’t the first such disaster, and so long as Texas government prioritizes oil and gas industry profits ahead of public health, it won’t be the last.

Facilities like ITC’s are proposed for the Gulf Coast and Appalachia, thanks to an overabundance of fracking byproducts like those stored in the tanks that caught fire. As the Houston Chronicle reported, “Whether these fracking byproducts are used to make plastics or nail polish, these chemicals are known to cause adverse health impacts to people.” As noted by Houston-based community justice champion TEJAS, and confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, “symptoms of acute exposure to naphtha may include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. High exposures can cause lightheadedness and fatigue while repeated exposure may cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Xylene exposure at high levels can lead to irritation of eyes, nose and throat; cause difficulties breathing; problems with lungs; delayed reaction times; memory difficulties; stomach discomfort and possibly changes in liver and kidneys. It can cause unconsciousness and even death at high levels.”

The Center for International Environmental Law Plastics and Health report documents these same chemicals are found in air surrounding fracking sites, where nearby communities have reported similar health impacts.

For coastal communities like Deer Park, health impacts are coupled with climate change impacts. Recent studies by NASA and others link the global spike in methane — a climate pollutant 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide — with oil and gas production. We don’t yet know the long-term health impacts from Hurricane Harvey, and with state and federal officials declining full disclosure of its environmental impacts, we may never know.

With petrochemical infrastructure on the rise, we can expect more “Deer Parks” and even more undocumented impacts to fence-line communities not located adjacent to a major metropolitan area. That’s partially because our state regulator, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), protects the well-being of the oil and gas industry first, not Texas’ communities. TCEQ’s failures at ITC Deer Park, proven by its long list of unpunished environmental violations, suggest thousands more polluting facilities receiving the same (lack of) oversight.

The oil and gas industry is rapidly building petrochemical infrastructure to ensure continued fossil fuel dependency — as power and transportation electrify — just when we must make use of a very short window of opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases to prevent catastrophic climate change.

When will Texas start putting people over profit? Not yet. Next Wave Energy LP’s $600M Deer Park petrochemical facility was recently approved with tax incentives to boot, revenue that should benefit the community-at-risk is instead profiting the company. But state Sen. Judith Zaffirini has proposed a bill to help protect children from oil and gas production’s environmental risks. We need that enacted, but even if that happens (unlikely given our governor and legislative leaders), communities like Deer Park would be unprotected from petrochemical plants. To protect everyone we need comprehensive reform of state oil and gas oversight that puts Texas communities first. Soon thereafter, we need to transition to a renewable energy economy — the well-being of our neighbors, friends, families and future depends on it.

Priscilla Villa is the Houston-based South Texas Organizer at Earthworks. Article originally posted in Galvnews.

 

Dozens of companies launch US$1 billion bid to end plastic pollution in Asia but environmentalists dismiss it as ‘greenwashing’ stunt

Dozens of companies launch US$1 billion bid to end plastic pollution in Asia but environmentalists dismiss it as ‘greenwashing’ stunt

  • Since China banned plastic waste imports in January 2018, Southeast Asia has become the world’s dumping ground

  • Thailand had a 2,000 per cent jump in the imports of US plastic waste in the first six months of 2018

A new oil and chemical industry-led global alliance founded to tackle Asia’s crippling plastic waste crisis has been slammed by environmental groups as a “greenwashing” stunt.

The “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” (AEPW) consortium of more than 30 companies launched last month, dedicating a combined total of US$1 billion over the next five years – aiming for US$1.5 billion if more conglomerates join – to develop better plastic recycling practices and infrastructure around the world.

Its founding members include companies such as Chevron, Dow, Formosa Plastics, Mitsubishi Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Sumitomo Chemical, and Shell.

A alliance of conglomerates led by oil and chemical giants, including Shell, says it is aiming to “end plastic waste”. Photo: EPA

The group said it would start in Southeast Asia – namely in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the four countries that, along with China, are estimated by the Ocean Conservancy to generate more than 60 per cent of the plastic trash in oceans.

The alliance announced that it was partnering with the United Nations, the National Geographic Society and Project STOP in Indonesia, among other organisations.

These companies want to appear to be … concerned about plastic pollution, while they continue to churn out plastics

GREENPEACE MALAYSIA

Speaking at the launch, Laurent Auguste, vice-president of the waste management company Veolia, said Southeast Asia was the first stop because the region’s rapid development and expanding middle class had “changed consumption patterns”.

“At the same time, there has been a lack of investment in waste management and infrastructure,” Auguste said. He added that the group would work with a project called Circular Capital to provide funding for Southeast Asian entrepreneurs willing to develop collection and processing sites for recycling plastic waste.

Almost at once, the alliance drew fire from regional environmental groups over the campaign’s intent and location.

“We have reasons to be sceptical with the newly launched Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which is led by chemical and plastic industries. The conflict of interest is obvious,” said Daniel Alejandre of the EcoWaste Coalition in the Philippines.

“Can we expect this alliance to ditch single-use plastics in favour of sustainable packaging and delivery systems that will conserve resources and stop chemical and plastic pollution of our oceans? The answer is probably not.”

He continued: “Also, we fear that their US$1 billion pledge will only be used for cosmetic waste management projects to conceal the real problem and block the real solution.”

A alliance of conglomerates led by oil and chemical giants, including Shell, says it is aiming to “end plastic waste”. Photo: EPA

‘AN ASIAN PROBLEM’

Since China banned plastic waste imports in January 2018, Southeast Asia has become the world’s dumping ground. In just one example, Thailand had a 2,000-per-cent jump in the imports of US plastic waste in the first six months of 2018.

In November, Greenpeace Malaysia issued a statement: “The Malaysian plastic recycling industry is overwhelmed by the influx and cannot accommodate waste in a way that is sustainable and acceptable by the government’s own standards.” The group said that Malaysia had become a trash bin for plastic recycling from more than 19 countries, including the US, the UK and Australia.

“It seems that the illegal entry of plastic garbage from overseas in the guise of recycling has aggravated our woes,” said Alejandre of the Manila-based EcoWaste Coalition. “We have seen that plastic waste no longer allowed to enter China is now being sent to countries in Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, for so-called recycling – but it is rarely retrieved or recycled.”

Data from the Korea Custom Service showed that waste exports to the Philippines increased from 4,398 tons in 2017 to 11,588 tons in 2018 after Beijing’s ban.

According to Greenpeace Malaysia, 90 per cent of plastic waste is exported from high-income countries, but only 9 per cent of it is recycled. Roughly 12 per cent is burned, it said, and the rest – roughly 80 per cent – ends up in landfills, oceans or the environment.

Southeast Asia government’s have started to react. In the past few months, the Philippines has twice shipped back exported plastic waste from South Korea. In July, Vietnam banned new licenses for the import of waste and took measures against illegal shipments. In October, Thailand said it would stop plastic waste imports by 2021, and Malaysia announced that it would permanently ban plastic waste imports in same timeframe.

The AEPW, which includes some of the biggest global plastics giants, said it was formed to fight the problem.

“Everyone agrees that plastic waste does not belong in our oceans or anywhere in the environment. This is a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership,” said David Taylor, the chief executive Procter & Gamble, and chairman of the AEPW, in a launch statement.

“This new alliance is the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment.”

But environmentalists were having none of it.

“We consider this alliance a greenwashing operation. It’s like the firefighters who started the fire,” said Tom Zoete, a spokesman for the Brussels-based Recycling Netwerk, referring to the practice of an industry or company trying to appear to be more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

“As for Southeast Asia, there are two possible answers for why they are starting there. You could argue that you could make a bigger difference in the countries that don’t have developed waste-disposal systems.

“But we think there is another agenda: focusing on Southeast Asia is a way to tell the US and western Europe that this crisis is far away – it’s an Asian problem.”

Rubbish collectors clearing plastic trash on Kuta beach, Bali. Photo: AFP

A DEAFENING SILENCE

Among the many critics of AEPW, the most vocal has been Greenpeace, the Amsterdam-based environmental watchdog.

Its Malaysia affiliate told the Post that many of the members who pledged US$1 billion to fight plastic waste also “invested US$186 billion between 2010 and 2017 into new facilities for plastic production”.

“These companies want to appear to be environmentalists concerned about plastic pollution, while they continue to churn out plastics for profit. Fossil fuel companies plan to expand plastic production by 40 per cent in the coming years, locking us into decades of worsening plastic pollution,” the group said in an email this week to the Post.

“Corporations are attempting to make themselves look green, but we know this is really about protecting their bottom line. The only way to keep plastics out of our environment is to stop producing so much to begin with.”

Graham Forbes, the head of Greenpeace Global Plastics, was even more direct when the AEPW was formed: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics. Make no mistake about it: plastics are a lifeline for the dying fossil fuel industry, and today’s announcement goes to show how far companies will go to preserve it.”

Yet Laurent Auguste, the head of Veolia, was quoted as saying that the AEPW is not just about making “lofty commitments” before going back to the plastics business. And Peter Baker, chief executive of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, called the AEPW campaign “unprecedented in size, in scope, in positions in the sector and geographic spread”.

“History has shown us that collective action and partnerships between industry, governments and NGOs can deliver innovative solutions to a global challenge like this,” said Bob Patel, chief executive of LyondellBasell, and a vice-chairman of the AEPW.

“The issue of plastic waste is seen and felt all over the world. It must be addressed and we believe the time for action is now.”

Even so, amid the accusations of greenwashing, the AEPW has been quiet. It has made few public statements since its launch and multiple request for comment by the Post were ignored.

The silence has left some industry insiders wondering, what’s next?

About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans every year – over half of which comes from five China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Photo: AFP

Steve Alexander, president of the Association of Plastic Recyclers, pointed out that industry-led campaigns such as this have been around for 30 years. This time, he said, the AEPW appears “aware of the situation in Southeast Asia, and the focus is pretty direct”.

“Tremendous anti-plastic sentiment that has percolated up. They are very aware of the situation,” Alexander said.

“What’s intriguing to me, is that the big brands have aligned themselves with the project. And though they won’t really be negatively affected if it doesn’t work, it make a big difference. They’re admitting it and are being the face of it: they put their chins out there.

“This is good start,” he said. “It sure as heck beats not doing anything.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Green groups slam industry bid to reduce plastic waste.
#Fracking4Plastics – a link that drives plastic and climate pollution

#Fracking4Plastics – a link that drives plastic and climate pollution

By Andy Gheorghiu, Food and Water Europe

I guess that when people think of plastic pollution most of the time they think of single use plastic items (such as plastic bags, cotton buds, plastic straws, and food & beverage packaging).

I also guess that – when people think about getting active against plastic pollution –  some people would like to introduce bans on single-use plastic bags and cotton buds as well as bottle deposit-return and recycling schemes – basically trying to help reduce the use of polluting plastic in their daily lives.

However, the core of the problem lies in the business of  virgin plastic production where the key corporations totally rely on, or even represent major oil and gas companies. Unfortunately, these guys are not keen to reduce plastic production at all because that’s what makes both theirs and their shareholders deep pockets happy.

Shale gas and fracking is creating a plastics renaissance in the U.S.

It is increasingly clear that the plastics industry in the United States has reaped massive hidden benefits from the environmentally destructive fracking boom. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) injects large quantities of fresh water, sand and toxic chemicals under high pressure to release oil and gas that are tightly held in rock layers.

The fracking boom has also produced an oversupply of cheap ethane in the past few years. This surge has been a boon for the plastics industry, which relies on petrochemical manufacturing to turn ethane (i.e. the so-called “wet gas” component of natural gas) into plastics. According to a recently published IEA report, the United States is home to around 40% of the global production capacity for ethane-based petrochemicals.

Petrochemicals are about to rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil (including “wet gas” or ethane) consumption – ahead of trucks, aviation and shipping. Today, the chemical sector is already the largest industrial consumer of fossil fuels, accounting for 14% of global oil (including ethane) and 8% of gas primary demand. The IEA expects that cheap ethane consumption will grow by 70% until 2030, in part due to the expansion of US exports to regions such as Europe.

According to the American Chemistry Council, a total investment of $202.4 billion for 333 petrochemical projects have been announced since 2010, with 53 percent already completed or under construction. Appalachia, a region in Pennsylvania that has been already hit hard by massive fracking development in the last 10 years could turn into the largest gas-producing region in the US (accounting for 37% by 2040).

 

Fracking & plastics’ profiteer you’ve never heard of is the richest man in the UK

The CEO (and basically owner) of major petrochemical giant Ineos, Jim Ratcliffe, has made a fortune by #Fracking4Plastics and it has helped him become the richest man in the UK.

He is the main driving force behind the establishment of an already existing supply chain of fracked US gas that Ineos uses to produce plastics in Europe. The Ineos Dragon Ships crossing the Atlantic emblazoned with the slogan “Shale Gas for Europe” are leaving more than a toxic legacy in Europe — they are fueling the proliferation of fracking in Pennsylvania, a state that already struggeled with the impacts of oil and gas industry pollution. As a matter of course, Ineos tries to downplay the risks of fracking and plastics production; Jim Ratcliffe compared environmental accidents to getting a car tyre puncture.

No wonder. His fortune has been built on it.

Ineos is Europe’s largest ethylene producer, with ethylene being the most important chemical building block for plastics, solvents and fibres. The company has operated chemical plants for nearly two decades, but in that short time many of its facilities have been bedeviled by environmental problems. Its dozens of manufacturing facilities across Europe have been responsible for releases of toxic chemicals, leaks, fires and explosions that have endangered workers, communities and the environment. In 2016, Ineos’ Grangemouth complex was Scotland’s top emitter of carbon dioxide. And Ineos is currently facing prosecution over gas-flaring pollution breaches at the Grangemouth facility.

In May 2018, about 450,000 plastic pellets were found on a single beach in Scotland, not very far away from Ineos’ biggest facility in the UK. Endangered Scottish puffins have also been found with plastic pellets in their stomachs.  Experts believe that 15 percent of the puffins population that lives in the Firth of Forth (where the Grangemouth chemical complex of Ineos is located) could suffer from swallowed plastic pellets.

Plastic – mainly in the form of pellets or so-called nurdles – has already littered 73 percent of UK’s 279 shorelines. Several studies have shown that sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic. Plastic fibres have been found in tap and bottled water around the world; in 2017 plankton was caught on camera eating plastic and we now have scientific evidence that degrading plastic emits methane and represents a hitherto unrecognised source of climate change.

Personally, I say “enough is enough” It’s time to stand up and make a difference. It’s time to hold upstream virgin plastic producers for the pollution they’re causing responsible.

It’s time to unite, fight #Fracking4Plastics and companies like #IneosVthePeople.

It’s time to #BanFrackingNow to #BreakFreeFromPlastic!

 

We’re taking action for the #GasDownFrackDown 2018:

World Sailing Association urged to exclude Ineos sailing team

After pledging to “beat plastic pollution” earlier this year, World Sailing’s President comes under fire for allowing UK petrochemical giant INEOS to sponsor the UK sailing team.

INEOS’s sponsorship can be seen as nothing but blatant greenwashing, which directly undermines the ethics of World Sailing.

In its Code of Ethics, World Sailing makes a promise “to protect the environment on the occasion of any events…and to uphold generally accepted standards for environmental protection.” World Sailing further claims to support the objectives of increasing and developing awareness of sustainability issues amongst all sailing stakeholders.

In June this year, World Sailing joined the Clean Seas Campaign, partnering with the International Olympic Committee and UN Environment to “beat plastic pollution”.

The ongoing presence of INEOS Team UK in World Sailing’s headline event single-handedly shatters these endeavours, bringing World Sailing, into disrepute.

Key environmental organisations (including Greenpeace UK, Food & Water Watch, Oil Change International and BreakFreeFromPlastic) as well as grassroots groups have teamed up with academics and are asking World Sailing in an open letter written by Australian Human Rights Lawyer Jennifer Robinson to are asking World Sailing to disassociate itself from INEOS Team UK, and consider the implementation of an ethical and environmentally friendly sponsorship policy that truly reflects its goals.

INEOS Team UK led by Sir Ben Ainslie embark on the GC32 X in Toulon, France between 10th-14th October 2018 (www.gc32racingtour.com).

In the Letter addressed to World Sailing President Kim Andersen points out:

  • World Sailing Code of Ethics promises to protect the environment at any event!
  • World Sailing joined the Clean Seas Campaign to beat plastic pollution!
  • But now World Sailing allows INEOS to sponsor a sailing team led by Sir Ben Ainslie!
  • INEOS is #Fracking4Plastics on both sides of the Atlantic!
  • Fracking contributes significantly to climate change, pollutes the environment, threats public health and violates human rights!
  • INEOS wants to frack the UK to make more ocean polluting plastics!
  • Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our ocean!
  • World Sailing to disassociate itself from INEOS Team UK!

 

The letter will be delivered Wednesday, October 10th 2018, to World Sailing HQ, Paddington, London. This action is part of a wide range of events of groups from around the world who will stand together in a united fight against the gas, fracking and plastics/petrochemicals industry for the Global #GasDownFrackDown 2018

Actions are planned across North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Join us!

 

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