A sweeping “circular economy” bill in the California legislature aims to drastically reduce plastic waste and boost domestic recycling.
The ubiquity of plastic in our lives is leaving a mark — on the geologic record, in remote regions of the Earth, in the bodies of 90 percent of seabirds. Our oceans are a toxic soup, swirling with an estimated 50 million tons of plastic waste. But the tide is changing.
Mounting global pressure to curb plastic pollution is gaining steam. A significant leap came last year with the European Union’s vote to ban single-use plastic items by 2021 and boost bottle recycling 90 percent by 2025. On June 10 Canada announced it would follow Europe’s lead.
In the United States, efforts to reduce plastic waste have so far been piecemeal — bans on specific items, like plastic bags, and only in certain municipalities. But California could help the country take a massive leap forward.
At the end of May, the California Senate passed S.B. 54, the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, introduced by Senator Ben Allen and modeled after the European effort. A day later, the state’s assembly passed identical legislation, A.B. 1080, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. If the bills clear opposite houses and earn the governor’s signature, it will be groundbreaking.
“We haven’t seen anything like this elsewhere in the U.S.,” says Angela Howe, legal director of Surfrider, a nonprofit devoted to clean oceans and beaches, which is part of a coalition of organizations working in support of the legislation and reducing plastic pollution.
The focus of the legislation is on producer responsibility — both reducing the amount of waste generated and making sure what is absolutely necessary is either compostable or recyclable. On average only 9 percent of plastics are recycled in the United States, and that already-modest number is expected to decrease even further as more countries follow China’s lead in closing their doors to waste exports from the United States and elsewhere.
Plastic isn’t just washing up on beaches, it’s piling up at landfills, making the crisis in the country even more urgent and expensive.
Plastic washes ashore with other marine litter. (Photo by Bo Eide, public domain)
As written now the legislation would require manufacturers and retailers in California to reduce the waste generated by single-use packaging and products by 75 percent by 2030 through producing less plastic, recycling more of it, making reusable packaging, or using compostable materials. It would also set guidelines for manufacturers of single-use plastic packaging and products that would ensure that 20 percent of their products are recycled by 2024, 40 percent by 2028, and 75 percent by 2030.
“The single-use plastic crisis is so pervasive that we’re seeing microplastics in the tiniest plankton to the largest whales,” says Ashley Blacow-Draeger, Pacific policy and communications manager at Oceana, which is helping to support the legislation. “It just drives home the message that we can’t recycle our way out of this crisis. We need really strong, bold and timely action now and we don’t have any more time to wait to address the issue.”
Previous efforts to tackle banning or restricting items like foam food containers, plastic bags and plastic straws has been tantamount to winning battles but not winning the war, says Stiv Wilson, director of campaigns for the Story of Stuff, which is producing a film about the global fight against plastic pollution and is a leading coalition partner supporting the legislation.
“If we’re going to fix the system, we have to actually take a systemic approach,” he says.
He admits that regulating the materials economy isn’t as easy as a simple message like banning bags, but it’s the only effective way to tackle the problem.
One of the biggest issues is that there’s simply too much plastic, which is why the bill has an emphasis on source reduction, he says.
“We have to get to a manageable supply to be able to create a reasonable demand,” says Wilson. “Once that lever gets pulled where there is a statutory obligation on a supply chain, all of a sudden you will see investment in that supply chain to meet that demand.”
And that, advocates of the legislation say, should spur investment domestic recycling, build green jobs, and enable companies to develop alternative delivery systems for products meant to create reusability instead of disposability.
The potential benefits would be far-reaching — aiding not just oceans, but wildlife and human health, as well as economies, says Blacow-Draeger.
“It’s shocking how expensive it is for cities and counties to remediate all the single-use plastics waste that is being produced,” she says. “The hope with these pieces of legislation is that they will actually lessen the burden on municipalities and on ratepayers by not producing as much waste to have to process in the future.”
For many industries it would also be a big change.
“It wouldn’t just be the one major plastic bag manufacturer that’s affected,” says Howe. “It’s everything from grocery stores to the natural gas plants that make plastics to retailers and manufacturers.”
Proponents of the legislation say they anticipate pushback from these industries as the bills go through committee in the opposite houses over the next few months. The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) didn’t return a request for comment, but an industry publication, Plastics Today, reported that the association was urging legislators to vote against the bills: “PLASTICS notes that it has attempted to work with the bills’ sponsors ‘to try and redirect the bills toward policies that are proven to reduce litter and increase diversion rates. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to have the bills amended to a point where we can support them,’” according to the publication.
Wilson says that the comprehensive nature of the legislation is the only way to effectively reduce plastic pollution, and with California being the fifth biggest economy in the world, the impact of this legislation is likely to be felt in other states.
“I think it’s fair to say that we have a history of seeing manufacturers conform to California laws,” he says. “We saw it with auto emissions — it’s a big enough market that it should spur change across the industry.”
For that ripple effect to happen, California first needs to pass its landmark legislation.
The bills will now need to clear the natural resources and appropriations committees in the opposite houses of their origin before having a chance at a floor vote by Sept. 13. If they pass those hurdles and earn the governor’s signature, the legislation would set a high bar for other states.
“I think it is a line in the sand that essentially says if we don’t take this approach, we don’t solve the problem,” says Wilson. “It’s not only trying to solve a problem, it’s trying to shift the narrative on how you solve the problem. This is actually an expression of the world we want and one we think that can work, and absent that, we’re a dog chasing its tail.”
Photo by Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times.
Just one day after Senate passes companion measure, AB 1080 approved to phase out top trash items contributing to global pollution crisis
SACRAMENTO–Acknowledging the worldwide environmental devastation and health problems wrought by plastic and non-recycled trash, both houses of the California State Legislature have now approved identical first-of-their-kind measures to dramatically reduce plastic and packaging waste and jumpstart the in-state clean recycling economy.
Senate Bill 54 (Allen) and Assembly Bill 1080 (Gonzalez), together known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, attack the trash crisis at both ends — both before a product is ever created or purchased, and after a single-use item is ready for disposal. The measures help businesses transition from single-use plastic containers to reusable or compostable packaging with reasonable timelines to make changes in order to achieve an overall reduction of 75 percent by the year 2030. The measures also call for incentives for in-state manufacturing using recycled materials. Together, these requirements will cut back on the amount and type of trash going into landfills and litter in neighborhoods, waterways, and the ocean, which will reduce costs to taxpayers for disposal and clean-up.
By increasing recycling rates and incentivizing the in-state manufacture of goods using recycled materials, the Act will end California’s existing reliance on other countries to take its waste, and it will boost the state economy. Currently, California waste and recycling industries are struggling to adapt to China’s 2017 “National Sword” policy to stop accepting other nations’ trash. This has resulted in Californians’ garbage and recyclables piling up at local waste facilities, going into landfills, or being shipped to other countries in Asia that cannot process the sheer amount of trash coming to them. California’s local governments — and, therefore, ratepayers — are experiencing increased costs as a result. But if fully implemented, the Act’s 75 percent recycling rate will not only help reduce California’s need to ship meaningful quantities of waste out-of-state, it is expected to double the existing 125,000 California jobs in recycling and manufacturing.
Plastic and single-use packaging contribute to a variety of environmental ills. As plastic breaks down in the environment, it becomes microplastic particles that leach chemicals into waterways and ocean environments, or is eaten by wildlife and marine creatures. Further, single-use items don’t simply cause pollution; they also contribute to the climate crisis. Plastic items, in particular, are derived from fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases as they break down. Reducing California’s reliance on these items is critical for the state to meet its climate and waste diversion commitments.
Plastic and single-use items also contaminate drinking water sources, food supplies, and even air. Human exposure to plastic and its associated toxins has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other serious health problems.
The measures are supported by a broad coalition of environmental organizations, health advocates, green businesses, local governments, and labor. AB 1080 now goes to the State Senate, while SB 54 heads to the State Assembly.
For more information about the measures, see the bill text or view the fact sheet here.
What others are saying about the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act:
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), joint author of SB 54 and co-author of companion measure AB 1080: “We need to phase out single-use plastics as quickly as possible. These plastics are ruining entire ecosystems, poisoning our oceans and waterways, and killing wildlife. It’s time to transition to better alternatives and to send a powerful signal to industry to innovate and to create more sustainable products.”
Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), joint author of AB 1080 and principal co-author of SB 54: “Our decades of overusing non-recyclable and non-compostable single-use products has set the stage for what could be one of the greatest man-made ecological and environmental crises in history. The longer we go without taking action, the higher the costs to our environment, animal life, public health, and our economy. These bills are an important step forward and a direly-needed investment in the health of our planet.”
Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), joint author of AB 1080: “Tossing our single-use plastics in recycling bins is no longer good enough. If we don’t step up and change our ways, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050. California can turn an environmental crisis around with bold plastic reduction policies like this one. Companies must re-use materials they’ve already made.”
Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition: “Plastic Pollution Coalition urges your support of this legislation to dramatically reduce plastic and packaging waste in California. It’s time for California to take the next step towards Zero Waste to protect human and animal health, waterways, oceans, and our environment for years to come.”
Dan Jacobson, Director, Environment California (firstname.lastname@example.org): “Nothing we use for a few minutes should end up polluting our environment for thousands of years. The time of the single-use plastic container needs to go the way of the dinosaur.”
Geoff Shester, California Campaign Director and Senior Scientist, Oceana: “Solving the plastics problem in our oceans will take a concerted effort from the companies that are producing and selling these materials. This legislation will create the framework desperately needed to turn the tide on our single-use plastics problem. We applaud these state leaders and urge that these bills remain strong in their commitment to meaningfully and drastically reduce the impacts of single-use products. As the fifth-largest economy in the world, California has the opportunity to remain an environmental leader on responsible plastics policy and inspire national and international change.”
Stiv Wilson, Campaigns Director, The Story of Stuff Project (Stiv@storyofstuff.org): “This represents California drawing a line in the sand on plastic pollution. As plastic production skyrockets, we’re witnessing the growing environmental and financial cost of attempting to manage the unmanageable. Without a policy like this, we won’t address the scale of the problem. This is California making a quantum leap in the fight against plastic pollution.”
Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club California (email@example.com): “We are in the midst of a global health crisis. Single-use packaging and product waste pollutes our environment and harms humans and wildlife. California must dramatically reduce the amount of single-use packaging and products. We must also ensure that these products are reusable, recyclable or compostable. Sierra Club California thanks the legislators who have taken a bold step forward in addressing this urgent crisis.”
Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director, Save Our Shores (firstname.lastname@example.org): “Comprehensive legislation like this is exactly what is needed to address the plastic pollution crisis we have reached. The framework it puts in place provides the kind of flexibility that is required to address various single use packaging formats and some of the most ubiquitous plastic products with a best approach for each. At the same time, the legislation mandates significant source reduction while driving recycling rates to levels we should have been able to achieve voluntarily but have failed to for decades. Save Our Shores applauds our state legislators for taking bold action.”
Shilpi Chhotray, Senior Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic (email@example.com): “China may have set the trend of refusing foreign plastic waste but now other countries are following suit, including Malaysia, Thailand, and India. It’s time for California to set the gold standard for the US in reducing the overall global production and consumption of plastics and redesign for their reuse. This type of systemic legislation is crucially needed to address the global plastic pollution crisis.”
Christopher Chin, Executive Director, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE) (firstname.lastname@example.org): “Waste management is an important part of the conversation, but it cannot effectively address the deluge of plastic pollution we all face. We cannot recycle our way out of this problem, and it is imperative that we, as a society, support upstream solutions considering the full lifecycle of plastics – including its production and consumption. This legislation begins providing the framework for an approach that the world wants, and that the world so desperately needs.”
Sophie Haddad, State Board Chair, CALPIRG Students (email@example.com): “As students and young people, we are the generation who will have to face the worst levels of ocean pollution. We know that if we don’t act now, our environment will be even more devastated by trash. We have to do everything we can to stop using single-use plastics, and SB 54 and AB 1080 are great steps in the right direction.”
Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director – AZUL (firstname.lastname@example.org): “From production to disposal, single-use plastic and packaging waste negatively affect humans, wildlife and the environment, with a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. This legislation is a strong step towards remedying this environmental justice crisis. Mil Gracias to supporting legislators for their strong leadership!”
Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of National Stewardship Action Council (email@example.com): “Producers of wasteful single-use products need to rethink their design and share in the responsibility for those end of life costs previously externalized onto the public sector and the environment do achieve a circular economy. We need well-designed durable, reusable products and the product producers are the only ones who can change that and why we support SB 54/AB 1080.”
Angela Howe, Legal Director, Surfrider Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org): “Surfrider Foundation stands in strong support of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which will help Californians rise above plastics and begin to free our ocean of the plague of plastic pollution. We applaud the state legislature for taking this critical step to usher in forward thinking policy and pave the way toward zero waste.”
Anu Natarajan, Legislative Affairs Manager, Stopwaste (ANatarajan@stopwaste.org): “StopWaste is pleased to support SB 54 and AB 1080 because these bills constitute meaningful progress toward managing packaging and plastic waste, which are both among StopWaste’s top priorities.”
Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy, Californians Against Waste (email@example.com): “These monumental bipartisan votes on SB 54 and AB 1080 show that California will continue to lead on tackling environmental pollution that our federal government actively ignores. We simply can’t continue to trash our planet.”
Contact: Arianna Smith
Nations agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates movement of hazardous materials from one country to another, in order to combat the dangerous effects of plastic pollution around the world.
The pact was approved at the end of a two-week meeting of UN-backed conventions in Geneva, Switzerland.
But the US was not involved in the decision-making process, as it is one of just two countries that have not ratified the agreement.
The resolution means contaminated and most mixes of plastic wastes will require prior consent from receiving countries before they are traded, with the exceptions of mixes of PE, PP and PET, according to WWF.
Although it sat out of the decision, the ruling will still apply to the United States when it tries to trade plastic waste to virtually any country in the world.
The US has been sending its plastic waste to various countries around the world, including China and Malaysia, but has recently faced crackdowns in those countries
as they attempt to cope with the amounts of plastic flooding through their borders.
Over the past year, other southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and India have also reportedly taken steps to restrict the import of foreign plastic waste, which has left containers of plastic sitting in US ports waiting for a destination.
The new international move is “a highly welcome step towards redressing this imbalance and restoring a measure of accountability to the global plastic waste management system,” the WWF said.
An estimated 100 million tons of plastic is now found in the world’s oceans, up to 90% of which comes from land-based sources, studies have found.
Nearly 1 million people signed a global petition this week urging the governments of the Basel Convention to take action, by preventing western countries from “dumping millions of tonnes of plastic waste on developing countries instead of recycling it.”
And environmental groups welcomed the move after that call was acted on.
“Countries at the receiving end of mixed and unsorted plastic waste from foreign sources now have the right to refuse these problematic shipments, in turn compelling source countries to ensure exports of clean, recyclable plastics only,” he added. “Recycling will not be enough, however. Ultimately, production of plastics has to be significantly curtailed to effectively resolve the plastic pollution crisis.”
Acnkowledging the petition that encouraged the move, Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) conventions, said in a statement: “Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, and the fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high.”
Jakarta (29 April 2019). The upsurge of bans of single-use plastics in Indonesia, such as plastic bags, is proof that Indonesia is able to overcome its plastic pollution problem. After Dr. Jenna Jambeck’s research publication in the journal Science in 2015 which mentions Indonesia as the second largest marine plastic polluter in the world, Indonesia has made several assertive initiatives, including plastic bag bans in several localities, such as Banjarmasin City, Balikpapan City, Bogor City, and Bali Province.
The Bali Governor Regulation and Bogor Mayor Regulation about plastic ban is currently being brought to the Supreme Court for a judicial review by the plastic industry and plastic recycling industry, on the basis that the ban does not legally align with the Waste Management Act. That basis has been denied by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
“The principle is like this, in the Waste Management Act No. 18 of 2008, ‘waste management’ is classified as ‘waste reduction’ and ‘waste handling.’ Waste reduction consists of waste limitation, waste reuse, and waste recycling. Several localities such as Bali Province, Banjarmasin City, Balikpapan City, and others have implemented a limitation policy on single-use plastic bag waste by not providing single-use plastic bags in modern retail stores, Banjarmasin’s policy has even entered traditional markets. Philosophically, in the Waste Management Act, the highest hierarchy in waste management is prevention or limitation of waste generation,” said Novrizal Tahar, Director of Waste Management, Directorate General of Waste and Toxic Waste Management, Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK).
A coalition of several non-government organizations, environmental law experts and human rights experts support KLHK’s position. The coalition includes the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), Perkumpulan Pembina Hukum Lingkungan Indonesia (PPLHI), Pusat Studi Hukum dan Kebijakan Indonesia (PSHK), Amnesty International, Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik, and other environmental law experts. This coalition has filed an amici curiae document to the Supreme Court, containing academic reasoning from a legal perspective on the alignment of local single-use plastics bans to the Waste Management Act, Legal Drafting Act, and Human Rights Act.
Seen from a legal perspective, other than the Waste Management Act, the limitation of waste generation is also supported by several regulations.
“The Waste Management Act (UUPS), seen from both its Academic Brief which serves as its background as well as the Government Regulation No. 81 of 2012 which serves as its derivative, supports the existence of regulations that oblige the avoidance or prevention of single-use items and packaging. Fundamentally, whatever the title, be it reduction, ban or cessation, as long as the purpose is to avoid or prevent the usage of single-use plastics, then that regulation is still in alignment with the Waste Management Act’s aim to limit waste generation.”, said Raynaldo Sembiring, S.H. Researcher at Indonesian Center for Environmental Law.
One of the things being protested by the plastic waste recycling industry to the Bali Province Government is the relevance of Protection and Management of the Environment Act No. 32 of 2009 (UUPPLH) as the legal basis of Article 7 and Article 9 paragraph (1) of Bali Governor Regulation No. 97 of 2018. Nevertheless, UUPPLH does not contain the terminology of waste as “sampah”. It only contains the terminology of waste as “limbah”, and emphasizes limbah as the cause of environmental pollution and/or destruction. The meaning of sampah and limbah are different, both from its legal definition as well as its legal regime.
“Localities have the authority to regulate single-use plastics ban in locality head regulations under certain terms and conditions. The Waste Management Act gives a delegation to localities to regulate the management of household waste and similar-to-household waste with local regulations. The Bali Government Regulation is a further description of the obligatory norm in the Waste Management Act and the Bali Local Regulation on Waste,” said Dr. Muhamad Ramdan Andri Gunawan Wibisana, S.H., LL.M., Lecturer at Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia.
The Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, Usman Hamid, disagrees with the association of the single-use plastics ban to a violation of the right of waste pickers and recyclers to a decent living.
“The ones filing a judicial review are industries and corporations. What affects the ups and downs of corporation income is market dynamics. Therefore, it is not a part of the human rights principle that must be guaranteed by the state. I see the single-use plastics ban as the manifestation of the state’s obligation to guarantee the right to a good and healthy environment.”, said Usman Hamid.
“There are two things in my argument to support single-use plastics ban, the first one is that single-use plastics ban is not a human rights violation, this is explained in Article 28D paragraph (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia 1945, Labor Act No. 13 of 2003, International Labor Office (ILO), and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The second one is that single-use plastics ban is a manifestation of the state’s obligation to achieve rights of good and healthy environment. This Bali Governor Regulation has an authority to limit rights in order to minimize or avoid threats on environmental pollution and/or destruction and always ensures the rights of good and healthy environment,” said Usman.
Waste activist also evaluates that the judicial review was false addressed and unconstructive. “Based on the public understanding, some studies said that only a few plastics are economically and technically recyclable. From the plastic production within 1950 to 2015, around 60% or 5 billion tons were thrown to the environment, 12 percent burned in incinerator and only 9 percent were recycled. In Indonesia, the data of Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that in 2016 only 11% plastic waste were recycled and only 67% of our waste that were transported. Classic obstacles in recycling single-use plastics in general is collection, plastic quality and steady quantity of supply in big amount that are needed by the factory to reach economic scale,” added Yuyun Ismawati Drwiega, M.Sc., Senior Advisor of BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation. “While still having a collection problem, there are additional imported waste that are managed by industry that also need control and monitoring so it won’t reverse to harm the environment and make Indonesia become the world trash can.” stated Yuyun.
According to Tiza Mafira, the Executive Director of Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik, ruling single-use plastics ban becomes an interesting option to attract the local government since there are already many alternative products in the market which are more environmentally-friendly. “Foldable bag as a substitute of plastic bag, reusable container as a substitute of styrofoam, and bamboo straw or stainless steel straw as a substitute of plastic straw, are sold everywhere nowadays. Regulations that ban single-use plastics are actually not proven to aim to burden or punish anyone, they are actually proven to encourage consumer behavioral change to become a more environmentally-friendly behavior.” said Tiza.
“Local government, in this matter is the City of Bogor, do a real effort in waste reduction that’s clearly stated in the Waste Management Act. Whoever sues, that thing won’t detain us because this is our own home.” stressed Elia Buntang, the Head of Environmental Agency of the City of Bogor.
It was confirmed by Koalisi Peduli Sampah Bali which consists of organizations and individuals that support the Government Regulation that bans single-use plastics on Bali. In the petition on Change.org (accessible at www.change.org/AdupiSpotGugatBali), this coalition questions and regrets the judicial review of Bali Governor Regulation.
“As a local from Kuta, I’m concerned that Kuta Beach has an annual international reputation as a Plastic Waste Beach. Since the Bali Governor Regulation of single-use plastics ban was issued, we’ve seen that the residents of Bali were enthusiastic to implement this regulation. Many supermarkets, restaurants, small stores and large retailers don’t give plastic bags anymore even before the regulation applies, and they have started to serve local crafts as the alternatives such as woven baskets, bamboo straws, and wrapping food with banana leaves. This also shows the pride of Balinese culture. It would be unfortunate if the Bali Governor Regulation annulled, this enthusiasm would decrease,” said Ni Wayan Ani Yulinda, one of the co-founders of PlasticDetox Bali and Manager in Yayasan Gelombang Udara Segar Bali.
Washington, DC – Greenpeace activists joined a 15-foot tall monster in a visit to Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, VA today (link to be updated with photo and video), delivering Nestlé plastic pollution gathered from streets, rivers, and beaches across the country and demanding that Nestlé take responsibility for the over 1.5 million metric tons of single-use plastic it produces annually. The delivery was part of a global day of action against the company, which includes activities in Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Canada, and the Philippines.
“It’s time for Nestlé to end its reliance on single-use plastics and move toward systems of reuse,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges, who helped return the plastics to the company. “Nestlé has created a monster by producing endless quantities of throwaway plastics that persist in our environment for lifetimes. It’s time for the company to own its mess and stop pushing false solutions that will never solve this crisis.”
At Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters, activists arrived at the building alongside the monster, and asked to speak with a company representative. The monster then repeatedly spewed Nestlé plastic pollution gathered from across the country. Activists left the building, leaving behind the plastic pollution for the company to take responsibility for.
Nestlé has started to acknowledge the impact of its throwaway plastics in recent months, but has failed to act with the urgency or ambition needed to address its role in the global plastic pollution crisis. Nestlé was named one of the worst three plastic polluters following 239 cleanups and brand audits in 42 countries last October. The company was also named the worst plastic polluter following 2017 and 2019waste and brand audits in the Philippines. Nestlé sells non-recyclable sachets throughout Southeast Asia that frequently end up polluting waterways and our oceans.
Earlier in the day, activists accompanied a 65-foot long and 20-foot high monster to Nestlé headquarters in Switzerland, demanding accountability for its global plastic pollution. The action in Switzerland followed a 7-week long Greenpeace ship tour from the Philippines to Unilever headquarters in the Netherlands, and then on to Nestlé. The tour has called attention to the impacts of companies like Unilever and Nestlé’s plastic pollution, particularly to communities in the Global South.
“The consequences of Nestlé’s heavy reliance on sachets and single-use plastic packaging, especially in the Global South, can no longer be denied,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. “It is unconscionable for a multibillion dollar company to be shifting the burden of what is essentially unmanageable waste to developing countries, and then argue that they are trying to help the poor. We never asked for this pollution, and we never wanted to see our oceans ravaged by throwaway plastic. We want Nestlé to be accountable and clean up its act by reducing its plastic footprint and investing in alternative delivery systems immediately.”
Greenpeace activists joined a 15-foot tall monster in a visit to Nestlés headquarters in Arlington, Virginia delivering Nestlé plastic pollution gathered from streets, rivers, and beaches across the country and demanding that Nestlé take responsibility for the over 1.5 million metric tons of single-use plastic it produces annually. Its time for Nestlé to end its reliance on single-use plastics and move toward systems of reuse, said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges, who helped return the plastics to the company. Nestlé has created a monster by producing endless quantities of throwaway plastics that persist in our environment for lifetimes. Its time for the company to own its mess and stop pushing false solutions that will never solve this crisis.
Last week, activists interrupted the company’s AGM by confronting executives with plastics found polluting the world’s oceans. Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan urged Nestlé executives and shareholders at the AGM to show true leadership to solve the plastic pollution crisis, stating:
“People can see with their own eyes the damage plastic pollution is doing to our oceans, waterways and communities. We’ve all witnessed the way plastic is contaminating our precious biodiversity and are only just beginning to understand how it is impacting us … It’s time for Nestlé to really take some responsibility for the magnitude of its contribution to the problem: it must be transparent and put forward a concrete action plan, with ambitious timelines, on how to reduce the production of throwaway packaging and invest in truly sustainable refill and reuse delivery systems.”
Additional information about Nestlé’s plastic pollution footprint can be found here: https://www.greenpeace.ch/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Nestle%CC%81-A-giant-plastic-problem.pdf
Photos from the action at Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceusa09/sets/72157708181133464
Additional photo and b-roll footage will be available here later today: https://www.media.greenpeace.org/shoot/27MZIFJWZW23G
Photo and video from actions on Nestlé around the globe are available here: https://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJWG2RA3
Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, +1 301 675 8766
For interviews on the ground in Virginia: Myriam Fallon, +1 708 546 9001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MANILA, Philippines (April 10, 2019) — A day before Nestlé’s Annual General Meeting, over a hundred activists belonging to the global #breakfreefromplastic movement trooped to Nestlé’s Philippine headquarters today to demand accountability for their role in abetting the country’s plastic pollution crisis.
Accompanied by four higantes (giant mascots) carrying a serpent-like plastic monster, the groups delivered a demand letter and “invoice from the Filipino people” outlining the costs of Nestlé’s single-use plastic packaging to human health impacts, environmental pollution, death of wildlife, damage to livelihoods and businesses, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management costs.
“For the longest time, companies like Nestlé have been passing on the costs and impacts of their plastic pollution to our people, communities, and environment. Their continuing reliance on single-use plastics for packaging their products has brought on terrible consequences for nature, marked by polluted beaches and suffering wildlife, not to mention potentially serious effects on our health,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chair of Mother Earth Foundation.
The Philippines, along with other Southeast Asian countries, are reeling from the impacts of plastic pollution brought about by the influx of products wrapped in sachets or smaller plastic packaging aimed at reaching lower income brackets in developing countries. However, communities and governments often bear the brunt of managing the disposal of these plastic packaging while multinational corporations’ continued production and use of single-use plastic packaging have been escaping scrutiny and accountability.
In brand audits conducted in coastal areas, as well as in cities and municipalities throughout the country, Nestlé’s throwaway plastic packaging outnumbered the amount of packaging from other manufacturers. In a five-year household waste assessment and brand audits conducted in seven cities and municipalities by MEF, Nestlé was found to be the top household plastic polluter, with Nestlé-branded packaging trash accounting for almost 15% of the total branded residual waste audited.
Further, waste and brand audits conducted in six Philippine and Indonesian hospitals in 2018 also found Nestle (along with Monde Nissin and Danone) as one of the top three biggest single-use plastic waste producers. Finally, in September 2017, #breakfreefromplastic member organizations in the Philippines conducted an unprecedented eight-day coastal cleanup, waste and brand audit on Freedom Island, a critical habitat for migratory birds off Manila Bay. The audit identified the top brands found to be polluting the island. Multinational corporations like Nestle led the top corporate plastic polluters ranking.
“It is totally unjust that Nestlé is passing the burden for managing what is essentially an unmanageable waste problem on our local governments and citizens. Why should taxpayers assume the pollution legacy of a multi-billion dollar company? Our government should start charging Nestlé and similar companies for their share of our waste management costs. Our taxes should be used to support educational, health and other social services for Filipinos, and not to cover up the pollution footprint of multinational companies,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the Ecowaste Coalition.
In a briefing paper released today, the groups have estimated that the cost for the management of residual wastes (which is mostly single-use plastics) is around PHP 5.8 to 7.2 million per day, or around PHP 2.1 to 2.6 billion per year.
“Corporations like Nestlé must redesign their production and start investing in alternative packaging materials and delivery systems that are ecologically sustainable for the people and the planet. We also want to see clear targets and timelines from the company on how they intend to reduce their plastic footprint. It is lamentable that instead of prioritizing reduction measures, the company is still fixated in promoting false and controversial solutions like chemical recycling and pyrolysis to respond to this crisis. The time for greenwashing is over, Nestlé, it’s time to clean up your act!” added Beau Baconguis, Regional Plastics Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Asia-Pacific coordinator of #breakfreefromplastic.
“We are here today because we have had enough. Nestlé claims to care about its plastic pollution, but has actually continued to increase its reliance on throwaway plastics. In 2018, the company produced 1.7 million metric tons of plastic packaging, which is a 13 percent increase from the 1.5 million metric tons they produced in 2017. While they claim to be taking this crisis seriously, their actions are not backing that up. As a major contributor to plastic pollution, Nestlé must take immediate action to reduce its production of throwaway packaging and invest in refill and reuse delivery systems for the sake of our planet,” added Abigail Aguilar, Greenpeace Campaigner.
Notes to the Editors:
Last year, brand audits led by Break Free From Plastic member organizations in 42 countries, found Nestlé as the third most frequent multinational brand collected in cleanups.
In the Philippines, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) estimated that waste generation in the country in 2016 is at 40,000 tons per day (tpd). If we assume that all this goes to landfill, the cost for managing this waste is around PHP 32 million to 40 million daily. The NSWMC data cites that residuals comprise 18% of waste generated.
Jed Alegado, Communications Officer for Asia Pacific, Break Free from Plastic
firstname.lastname@example.org | +63 917 607 0248
Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Asia Pacific
email@example.com | +63 917 596 9286
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.