Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance- STRONG SUPPORT

Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance- STRONG SUPPORT

Dear Mayor and City Councilmembers,

 

Thank you for your leadership on Zero Waste issues. I am writing to express Break Free From Plastic’s strong support of the Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction, Item #27 on the December 11th City Council meeting agenda. The ordinance represents a brave and necessary step forward in tackling plastic waste and pollution.

We are at a pivotal moment in time. Cities all across the country are drowning in single-use foodware and packaging – primarily plastic – which is costly to clean up, impactful on the local business districts, likely to pollute the marine environment, and often incompatible with municipal recycling or composting systems. If Berkeley is to reach the 75% diversion from landfill goal of AB 341, it will have to do more than recycle and compost. Similarly, to achieve the storm-water permit requirements established by the state and regional water boards, Berkeley and other jurisdictions will need to do more than capture and clean up trash. To reach our goals, a prevention and source reduction approach is needed, targeting the most problematic materials.

Berkeley has a long history of leading waste reduction strategies like the polystyrene ban of 1986 and the Carryout Bag Reduction legislation, which was adopted by Alameda County and has since become state law. It’s time for Berkeley to take another strong stand. Addressing the over-use of disposable foodware is a vital step towards improving both human and environmental health.

This ordinance represents a comprehensive approach: it includes the increasingly popular “straws and utensils on request” policies being enacted in many other cities, with more mandatory measures to move away from a throw-away culture to one where reusable, durable food and beverage containers are the norm. This ordinance will set a new global standard for reducing disposable foodware while bringing many benefits to the business community.

We strongly urge you to vote yes to adopt this ordinance and the associated referrals to the City Manager. It is the right thing for Berkeley, and the right thing for the planet.

Sincerely,

Shilpi Chhotray
Senior Communications Officer (based in Berkeley, California)

 

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Give me Convenience or Give Me Death

Give me Convenience or Give Me Death

Written by Stiv Wilson. Article originally posted in Story of Stuff.

At this point in modern life, we likely touch plastic more than we touch our loved ones.  Plastic has become a ubiquitous symbol of globalization. Most of us have a limited relationship to this material, experiencing it only from purchase to disposal.  But there is a whole story that exists before and after when we come into contact with it, and that’s the real Story of Plastic.

One of the most common misconceptions about plastic is its recycling value, but the story there is nuanced. Recycled plastics don’t have much value, especially given our rising levels of virgin plastic production. What’s more, not all plastic is created alike, and plastics with little or no recycling value are likely to end up poisoning people and the environment. For the most part, countries in the developed world pass off this burden to developing nations. We simply can’t recycle our way out of this problem.

We wanted to see where low value plastic recycled in the US and other developed countries ends up. That curiosity took us to Indonesia, and what we found was startling.

We throw all sorts of plastic into our recycling bins, which then gets sorted at big, automated recycling facilities. In this process, flat plastic often gets mistaken for paper and ends up in huge bales of recycled paper. These bales as loaded into shipping containers and exported to countries with fewer environmental controls and cheap labor to be recycled into new paper and cardboard products. At the paper plants in countries like Indonesia, the flat plastic “contaminants” are sorted out by hand.

The problem is that the onslaught of these exports is near constant, so all that plastic ends up being dumped in open fields and neighborhoods where an informal sector of wastepickers sort through it for materials that can earn them money from the recycling operators in country. They make about $1.50 a day sorting through these mountains of plastic waste for recyclables like flattened aluminum cans and beverage bottles. And because the trucks of plastic never stop, they continue to look only for the highest-value materials. The rest of the plastic – ”residuals” like snack wrappers, bags, and other scraps – could technically be recycled (for the most part), it has so little value that it’s not worth it even for someone making just $1.50 a day to pick it up.

Places like this, in Surabaya, Indonesia, are the end of the line for plastic from all over the world. To get rid of the onslaught of plastic that keeps coming from places like the US, The European Union, and Australia, it’s openly burned or used as fuel in local neighborhood tofu factories. The ash is full of toxics and is dumped without any control, often adjacent to rivers and rice fields. The unfiltered smoke from hundreds of stacks goes straight into the air.

In other neighborhoods in this area, the residual plastic separated from the paper is dumped in communities willing to sort it for a few extra dollars to augment rice farming and other small-scale industries. The result is a surreal landscape of litter, with hills of waste and the occasional tree sticking through a floor of plastic so thick you can’t see the ground. Here, too, the plastic is burned to make room for more, sending dioxins and heavy metals straight into the soil and water table. The smell of burning plastic is omnipresent, and induces headaches and sore throats within minutes of stepping out of car. There is little public health data in places like rural Indonesia, but I can say anecdotally there’s something in plain view that’s hard to stomach: there are few old people. People in these communities don’t seem to live long lives. They are choking on plastic and its poisonous fumes.

It’s easy to look at this sort of practice out of context and blame a country like Indonesia for ‘bad management.’ But what’s missing from the dialogue is that the current global system of plastic consumption and disposal depends on this reality.  If poor people in other countries weren’t sorting out the few valuable materials and burning the rest of our Trader Joe’s packaging and water bottle wrappers, the recycling systems in developed world countries would economically collapse.

It’s easy to look at this sort of practice out of context and blame a country like Indonesia for ‘bad management.’ But what’s missing from the dialogue is that the current global system of plastic consumption and disposal depends on this reality.  If poor people in other countries weren’t sorting out the few valuable materials and burning the rest of our Trader Joe’s packaging and water bottle wrappers, the recycling systems in developed world countries would economically collapse.

This environmental horror is one of the main reasons China announced that it would no longer take our waste. That alone has drastically affected the economics of recycling globally, but also created a race to the bottom where developed world countries are desperately trying to find new places to dispose of our waste. In a sense, this system is designed this way, not necessarily by any one evil specter, but more from a series of bad ideas that have become an entrenched system that is hard to change.

Luckily, in all the places where these problems exist, there are people fighting back, working to change the system. They’re working to stop waste imports and ban low- and no-value plastics from their communities. But we in privileged societies also have an obligation to work in solidarity with people in developing countries and to push back at the convenience industrial complex that created this mess in the first place. That means organizing against corporations like Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever who profit from this model. It means passing strong policies aimed at reducing the amount of plastic in the system and making companies responsible for the waste that their products leave behind.

The Story of Plastic will show not only what this hidden global system looks like, but also how a global movement is rising up to fix it. It not only can be done, it must be done.

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EU Parliament and Commission firm on cutting plastic pollution, governments must follow

EU Parliament and Commission firm on cutting plastic pollution, governments must follow

Producer responsibility requirements must be stronger, campaigners warn

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 26/11/2018

“The fight against plastic pollution is one that we can win. The EU plastics laws initiated by the Commission and endorsed by the Parliament are a first step towards a future where plastic doesn’t poison us. If we commit to this together, nobody loses, everybody wins“, said European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans at a press conference today. “The industry is clearly now focusing its energy on the EU Council. It’s up to the Austrian presidency to resist, and maintain the level of ambition initiated by the Commission, and reinforced by Parliament. This is the perfect slot in our history to impulse the virtuous change demanded by citizens. Disappointing them would be tragic”, added Frédérique Ries, who represents the European Parliament in the negotiations on the single-use plastics law.

Mr Timmermans and Ms Ries were speaking beside a three-metre tall dragon spewing single-use plastic litter collected in beach clean-ups, which will stay in front of the Council till Wednesday.

“The Commission and Parliament plan would deal a significant first blow to the monster of plastic pollution, but this plan is at risk. Consumption of throwaway plastic needs to be cut drastically, and the companies making money on the back of this pollution must also be held responsible. If governments don’t ensure the polluter pays, they side with the dragon” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic [1].

Campaigners warned that national governments risk weakening ambitious extended producer responsibility (EPR), whereby producers would cover costs for clean-up of litter, for management of plastic waste [2], as well as for awareness raising. Notably, countries may attempt to delay EPR implementation by four years, and exempt waste management costs for some items including the most littered plastic item in Europe: tobacco filters.

“We are at a turning point. Member States must break with short-termism, by holding producers accountable and supporting ambitious prevention and collection measures for fishing gear as well as single-use plastics. EU institutions have the unique chance to spearhead global action on swift and effective solutions to curb plastic pollution.” said Frédérique Mongodin, Seas At Risk senior marine litter policy officer, on behalf of Rethink Plastic. [3]

On November 28, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are meeting for a second round of negotiations on single-use plastics laws. The third and last negotiation round is to take place on December 18.

ENDS

***
NOTES:

[1] Break Free From Plastic published in October the results of its global brand audits which identify top plastic polluters: https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2018/

[2] Including putting relevant waste collection infrastructure in place and collecting, transporting and treating this waste.

[3] The European Parliament voted last month in favour of modulated financial contributions to promote eco-design as well as specific 50% collection and 15% recycling targets for fishing gear.

***
Press contacts:

Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic
roberta@rethinkplasticalliance.eu +32 491 14 31 97

Matt Franklin, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic
matt@breakfreefromplastic.org / +44 79 23 37 38 31

Frédérique Mongodin, Senior Marine Litter Policy Officer at Seas at Risk
fmongodin@seas-at-risk.org +32 2 893 09 67

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4,000 tons of single-use plastic produced annually

4,000 tons of single-use plastic produced annually

Written by Mehedi Al Amin. Originally posted in Dhaka Tribune.

In Old Dhaka alone, around 250 tons of non-recyclable products such as straws and plastic cutlery are being sold every month.

An estimated 312 tons of single-use plastic is produced per month in Bangladesh, posing a serious threat to the nation’s health and the environment, experts warned on Wednesday.

The “Stop using single use plastic to protect human health and Environment” report released by the Environment and Social Development Organization (Esdo) found that per year, 3,744 tons of single-use plastics are produced nationwide.

In Old Dhaka alone, around 250 tons of non-recyclable products such as straws and plastic cutlery are being sold every month.

Among the produced plastics, approximately 80-85% are discarded after one use and end up in drains, canals and rivers, creating massive pollution in the rivers which eventually ends up in the Bay of Bengal.

The report revealed that only five manufacturers make around 97.5 million pieces of products per month, which weigh a combined 195 tons.

“In Bangladesh, manufacturers are using single use plastics for packaging various food products, household and personal care products,” Esdo Chairperson Syed Marghub Murshed said at a press conference in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Single-use plastics include drinking straws, plastic cotton buds, sachets, food packaging and plastic bags. In the slow process of their decomposition, the plastics release toxic chemicals which are now being detected in human bloodstreams and  may cause cancer, infertility, birth defects and many other ailments.

“This plastic contains many different chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties including solvents, UV stabilizers, phthalates, antimicrobials, and industrial additives,” the Esdo chairperson said.

Professor Md Abul Hashem, chairman of chemical division of Bangladesh Standards Testing Institute, said awareness should be raised against the use of single use plastics.

“They are a big environmental problem and are causing massive issues that affect human and animal health,” he said.

Secretary General of Esdo, Dr Shahriar Hossain, said foamed plastic contains styrene and benzene which are toxic and carcinogenic.

“They have severe effects on our respiratory, nervous and reproductive systems,” he said.

“We use single-use plastic only for our comfort. We need to ban this plastic. There are more environment-friendly alternatives, for example bamboo or glass.”

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Polluters Bury their Heads in the Sand Instead of Committing to Reduce their Plastic Footprint

Polluters Bury their Heads in the Sand Instead of Committing to Reduce their Plastic Footprint

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nusa Dua (Bali, Indonesia), October 29th Today at the Our Ocean conference, corporations are yet again refusing to take responsibility for their role in creating and perpetuating the plastic pollution crisis.

At a side-event organised by Ocean Conservancy and Circulate Capital, companies exposed as the world’s Top Polluters by the recent #breakfreefromplastic brand audit report committed funds to a new “catalytic capital fund” to “solve” the plastic pollution crisis. Coca-Cola, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and PepsiCo all in the top 10 of corporate brands found on plastic pollution worldwide sat alongside Dow, one of the world’s largest producers of plastic, as self-identified “frontrunning” corporate leaders working to tackle plastic pollution through improved waste management and technology.

Global #breakfreefromplastic Coordinator Von Hernandez states, “Plastic is pollution the minute it is made. The problem with plastic pollution is not one of waste management or ocean leakage; rather, the problem is that there is simply too much plastic being pushed upon us by industry than can be safely and properly dealt with. In any crisis, the most important action is how you address the source of the problem.”

The very corporations pushing these inadequate solutions are at the same time pumping an overwhelming amount of plastic into markets across the world with no responsibility or intention for the plastic after its initial use.

If these companies are serious about addressing plastic pollution, they must significantly decrease and ultimately eliminate single-use plastics.  For a start, these corporations should disclose publicly the amount of plastic each of them is pushing into local markets and waste management systems across the world, and accept regulations instead of making weak, voluntary commitments. This ‘catalytic capital’ would be better invested in alternative delivery systems for products which don’t require single-use or plastic overpackaging. (See Leadership Challenge to Corporate Plastic Polluters of #breakfreefromplastic)

Experts on the ground in cities and communities  have already innovated on zero waste solutions to improve local collection and waste prevention systems, and expose problematic products. Examples can be found around the world in the Philippines, Indonesia, India, across Europe, the US for a fraction of the cost. For example, one zero waste project in the Philippines averages at $2.30 per person per year.3

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) has estimated that an initial influx of $30 million could provide zero waste programs for the entire Metro Manila area over two years. Corporations should be investing capital to support and replicate these solutions.

As the major contributors to the plastic pollution crisis, these companies should pursue true innovation in plastic reduction, instead of the same inadequate waste management approaches. Only then will we truly #breakfreefromplastic.

###

NOTES

 

  1. ‘Branded: In Search of the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters’  details the results of 239 cleanups in 42 countries on 6 continents. The report was released on October 9, 2018. http://bit.ly/brandauditreport2018
  2. On the eve of the 2018 Our Ocean Conference, the #breakfreefromplastic movement has released a challenge to the Top Polluters identified in the global brand audit to pursue real solutions to the plastic crisis, not the same hollow commitments and empty gestures. Read more here: http://bit.ly/2D6YhVN
  3. http://www.no-burn.org/whatawaste2-0/

#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,300 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.

CONTACT DETAILS

  1. Jed Alegado, +63917-6070248, jed@breakfreefromplastic.org
  2. Sherma Benosa, +63920-9038511, sherma@no-burn.org
  3. Claire Arkin, +1 9734444869, claire@no-burn.org
  4. Matthew Franklin, +44 7923 37 38 31,  matt@breakfreefromplastic.org

 

 

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European Parliament takes historic stand against single-use plastic pollution

European Parliament takes historic stand against single-use plastic pollution

National governments must follow suit, say campaigners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Strasbourg, 24/10/2018

The European Parliament has leapt forward to protect people and the environment from plastic pollution, and national governments must now show the same ambition, according to the Rethink Plastic alliance.

An overwhelming majority in the European Parliament voted today to strengthen the European Commission’s plan to cut pollution from single-use plastic items. [1] The Parliament voted to ban some of the most problematic throwaway products, such as expanded polystyrene food containers, and to ensure producers are held accountable for the costs of single-use plastic pollution. For fishing gear, one of the largest contributors to marine litter, harmonised standards will be developed and minimum collection and recycling targets will be set at the EU level. [2]

“The European Parliament has made history by voting to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our rivers and ocean” said Justine Maillot, EU Affairs Project Officer at Surfrider Foundation Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic. “Citizens across Europe want to see an end to plastic pollution. It’s now up to national governments to keep the ambition high, and resist corporate pressure to continue a throwaway culture.”

However, campaigners are disappointed that the full Parliament did not adopt a ban on very light-weight single-use plastic bags supported by the Environment committee.

A leaked letter recently exposed how major plastic polluters such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone are lobbying national environment ministers to water down the directive. [3]

Representatives of EU national governments are expected to meet later this month to agree on their joint position, and the three-way negotiations between governments, the European Parliament, and the European Commission could then start as soon as early November.

ENDS

NOTES:

[1] European Commission steps forward to cut on single-use plastics – but it’s just the beginning, Rethink Plastic alliance

[2] The measures adopted include:

  • A EU-wide ban of single-use plastic cotton buds, straws, plates and cutlery (with exemptions until 2023), beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups
  • An obligation for EU countries to adopt measures to achieve a 25% reduction of the consumption of food containers and cups for beverages
  • An obligation for EU countries to reduce post-consumption waste from tobacco product filters containing plastic by 50 % by 2025 and 80 % by 2030,
  • Extended Producer Responsibilty (EPR) schemes that include the cost of clean up and awareness raising measures
  • Harmonised standards and an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for fishing gear, as well as a 50% collection target and a 15% recycling target for fishing gear by 2025
  • An obligation to separately collect 90% of beverage containers and ensure they are produced from 35% recycled content by 2025
  • An obligation to prevent the use of hazardous chemicals in the composition of sanitary items
  • An obligation to label products to inform consumers about the presence of chemicals of concern in certain single-use plastic products

These measures apply to all single-use plastics listed in the Annexes including bio-based and biodegradable plastics.

[3] Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle attempt to water down new plastics laws, leaked letter reveals, The IndependentDrinks giants rail against EU bottle cap plan, Euractiv

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