European Plastic Pact: a positive gesture but NGOs unimpressed

European Plastic Pact: a positive gesture but NGOs unimpressed

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

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

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

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

#BreakFreeFromPlastic European Coordinator, Delphine Lévi Alvarès said:

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


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

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


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

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


Global Environmental Activists Ask UN to Support Worldwide Fracking Ban

Global Environmental Activists Ask UN to Support Worldwide Fracking Ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



In an aim to re-amplify the call to assess, reduce, and eliminate the use of harmful single-use plastics in healthcare, hospitals and medical institutions in the Philippines together with the bigger break free from plastic movement, pledge to uphold and promote sustainable waste management in order to protect the health of the planet and the people.

“As the only sector with healing as a mission, our hospitals and health organizations have an important leadership role to play in the bigger movement against plastics, because plastic pollution is also a public health issue,” Ramon San Pascual said; Executive Director of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Southeast Asia. He added that, “today, the hospitals where we conducted the first hospital waste and brand audits back in 2018, are already experiencing the impacts of the plastic reduction strategies we have recommended.”

For instance, during the Public Launch of the Break Free From Plastic Healthcare Network in Quezon City, pilot hospitals have shared their initial achievements like Alabang Medical Center where they have experienced reduction in infectious waste volume, and in single-use plastic bottles through installation of water fountains in hospital floors. St. Paul Hospital Cavite shared that they have stopped purchasing non-essential plastics by installing water stations in each hospital floor and providing brewed coffee instead of sachets. On the other hand, the St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo has engaged with their supplier in terms of the disposal of purchased goods, and lastly, Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo, are talking to possible suppliers of glass IV bottles to replace the plastic ones.

San Pascual finally expressed that, “through this project launch and network building, more hospitals are being called to help in the banning of single-use plastics in the health facility and in the communities, to continue in pushing for the right policies and fighting against false solutions like waste-to-energy, and especially in setting an example for other institutions, work places, and even campuses.” ###

Waste Management Agrees to Identify Gaps in Recycling Infrastructure as Step Toward Increasing Plastics Recycling

Waste Management Agrees to Identify Gaps in Recycling Infrastructure as Step Toward Increasing Plastics Recycling

Media contact: Stefanie Spear,, 216-387-1609

BERKELEY, CA—FEB. 25, 2020 — Following in-depth engagement by As You Sow and Trillium Asset Management, Waste Management, Inc. (WM) has committed to publishing a report that could help ease the recycling crisis that has developed in parts of the United States. The report will identify gaps in recycling infrastructure, and discuss how many of its processing facilities have been upgraded, which can boost material yield.

China’s 2018 ban on plastic waste imports exposed the fragility of parts of the U.S. recycling collection and processing system. In some areas, there is no market for collected recyclable plastics due to historical reliance on China for processing. To help address this situation, Trillium and As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal with WM for 2020, asking it to report on how it can increase the scale and pace of efforts to boost recycling rates, especially in relation to plastic pollution.

The company will provide a report to help identify basic gaps in plastic recycling infrastructure in the U.S. In addition, WM will provide overlay maps and data highlighting its marketing of three commonly recycled types of plastic — PET, HDPE, and polypropylene.  This data will show material flows between regions by polymer, and categories of current end market uses for these materials. WM will identify actions it believes will help address the gaps identified in the report — both possible company actions and broader recommendations.

One of the factors in low recycling rates are inefficient or outdated Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF), where collected recyclables are separated for processing. Outdated facilities can result in lower capture rates of recyclables. The company has agreed to disclose information on the number of its MRFs that are equipped with the latest processing equipment, as well as those that are slated for near-term upgrades that can improve recycling outputs and yields, and those that have not been upgraded.

The company will also provide an updated statement on its position on extended producer responsibility (EPR), a strategy that requires consumer goods producers to finance collection and recycling of their packaging, currently paid for by taxpayers. Trillium and As You Sow believe EPR policies are essential to provide adequate funding to collectors and processors to be able to take a range of actions needed to improve recycling rates.

As You Sow and Trillium have withdrawn their shareholder proposal in response to these commitments by the company.

“Less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled and the lack of export markets has put heavy strains on the domestic recycling market,” said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. “This report will provide deeper insight into plastic material flows once they leave consumers hands and should be an invaluable resource to stakeholders working to increase recycling rates.”

As You Sow believes more organized, concerted action is needed by producer brands, recyclers, processors, regulators, and advocacy groups to dramatically increase levels of recycling, both to capture the embedded value of these materials, as well as to provide feedstock for the recycled content many brands now promise to use. Without such action, more recyclable plastics will end up in landfills instead of being recycled.

“We are pleased to have been a driving force behind this new action from WM and we hope this report will provide a meaningful addition to the industry’s understanding of plastic recycling challenges in the U.S.,” said Allan Pearce, a shareholder advocate at Trillium.

To learn more about As You Sow’s work on ocean plastics, click here.

Originally posted in As you Sow.

Ground-Breaking Federal Legislation Tackles the Root of the Plastic Pollution Crisis

Ground-Breaking Federal Legislation Tackles the Root of the Plastic Pollution Crisis

For Immediate Release: February 11, 2020


Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic, +1 703 400 9986 or
Ned Adriance, Senator Udall’s Office,
Keith Higginbotham, Congressman Lowenthal’s Office,

Washington DC —  Today, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act – the first comprehensive bill in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis. Drawing on stakeholder input from over 200 individuals, environmental groups, businesses, trade associations, aquariums, academics, grassroots organizations, and state and local governments, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act reduces unnecessary plastic and reforms our broken waste management system.

Globally, the plastics industry produces over 335 million tons of plastic each year – and this volume is continuing to increase.  By 2050, global plastic production is projected to triple and will account for 20 percent of all oil consumption.  But nearly two-thirds of plastic produced becomes waste.  The materials in Americans’ blue bins are often landfilled, incinerated, or shipped overseas to countries that are unable to manage the burden of additional trash. What were once pristine agricultural communities in southeast Asia are now toxic dumpsites due to imported waste from wealthier nations like the United States.  Plastic waste finds its way into our water, soil, and air where it breaks down into microplastics that contaminate food and drinking water, consequently posing a risk to human health.

Break Free From Plastic members are supportive of the bill (learn what they are saying) as it addresses the root cause of the plastic pollution crisis.  Communities who live on the fenceline of the neighboring petrochemical facilities, in particular, face the brunt of toxic air emissions resulting in negative health impacts. In the United States, state and local governments are implementing policies to reduce unnecessary plastic products and shift the huge financial responsibility to producers for managing our waste. The Break Free From Plastic movement is calling for federal leadership to build on this momentum.



Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,800 organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision.


Plastic waste problems without a solution are still haunting the country

Plastic waste problems without a solution are still haunting the country


Despite Malaysia having sent a total of 3,737 metric tonnes of unwanted waste back to 13 countries as of January 2020, it is still saddled with tonnes of illegally disposed plastic waste across the country.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is concerned over such indiscriminate dumping of plastic wastes which poses environmental pollution and also a threat to public health. Between January and July 2019, Malaysia imported 754,000 tonnes of plastic valued at RM483 million and, according to Greenpeace’s estimation, only 9 per cent of the plastic waste comprising clean plastic could be recycled. Hence, most of the unrecyclable plastic would either be incinerated or dumped by the illegal operators.

In most situations the incineration of plastic waste was mostly at night to conceal the smoke, and residents in the affected area would complain about the acrid smell, and health effects such as respiratory problems, coughing, breathing difficulties, eye irritation and skin itchiness. However, on 20 January 2020, Sungai Petani’s 45ha Bedong landfill caught fire and raged on for days causing a haze that enveloped Penang as well. The fire was aggravated by the presence of plastic wastes beneath the landfill and this incident is just the tip of the iceberg.

We do not need illegal plastic recycling factories and there is a need to minimise the number of legal ones if the relevant authorities are unable to keep track of the existing legal operators. A lack of monitoring and enforcement by the authorities is compounding the problem.

In September 2018, it was reported in the media that out of an estimated 200 plastic processing facilities in Penang only 27 were legal. When Penang had a major crackdown on these facilities, operators of factories that were ordered to shut down moved their plastic waste to Kulim, Gurun, and Sungai Petani in Kedah. Such was their modus operandi.

It is known that the incineration of plastics produce highly toxic chemicals such as dioxins, furans, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Moreover, if polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is burned, it liberates hazardous halogens.

Dioxins are persistent organic pollutants. Its worst component 2,3,7,8 tetrachlodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), commonly known as Agent Orange, is a known carcinogen and causes damage to the nervous system. The effects of Agent Orange, used by the US as a defoliant during the Vietnam War, is still evident until today with as many as 3 million Vietnamese who suffered health problems (including physical deformity) associated with the chemical.

Environmental pollution and health are two important factors that the authorities cannot brush aside for economic gains because plastics may take up to 1,000 years to decompose. The health cost is immense for people suffering from poor health because of exposure to chemicals leached out or as a result of inhalation of smoke from burning plastics.

Under 29A. (2) of the ‘Prohibition on open burning’ of the Environmental Protection Act, it stated that:

“Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.”

We urge the authorities to impose the highest penalty as a deterrent on the offenders who would otherwise only see the lucrativeness of the billion Ringgit plastic recycling business.

Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers Association of Penang
10 Jalan Masjid Negeri
11600 Penang
Tel: 04-8299511/Fax: 04-8298109


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