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Sweeping New Report on Global Environmental Impact of Plastics Reveals Severe Damage to Climate

Sweeping New Report on Global Environmental Impact of Plastics Reveals Severe Damage to Climate

Study Recommends Solutions, Including Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics

WASHINGTON, DC — In 2019 alone, the production and incineration of plastic will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere—equal to the pollution from 189 new coal-fired power plants, according to a new report, Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet. The rapid global growth of the plastic industry—fueled by cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing—is not only destroying the environment and endangering human health but also undermining efforts to reduce carbon pollution and prevent climate catastrophe.

This is the conclusion of a sweeping new study of the global environmental impact of the plastic industry by the Center for International Environmental Law, Environmental Integrity Project, FracTracker Alliance, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, 5 Gyres, and Break Free From Plastic.

The new report gathers research on the greenhouse gas emissions of plastic at each stage of the plastic lifecycle—from its birth as fossil fuels through refining and manufacture to the massive emissions at (and after) plastic’s useful life ends—to create the most comprehensive review to date of the climate impacts of plastic.

With the ongoing, rapid expansion of the plastic and petrochemical industries, the climate impacts of plastic are poised to accelerate dramatically in the coming decade, threatening the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C degrees. If plastic production and use grow as currently planned, by 2030, emissions could reach 1.34 gigatons per year—equivalent to the emissions released by more than 295 500-megawatt coal power plants. By 2050, the production and disposal of plastic could generate 56 gigatons of emissions, as much as 14 percent of the earth’s entire remaining carbon budget.

The rapid growth of the industry over the last decade, driven by cheap natural gas from the hydraulic fracturing boom, has been most dramatic in the United States, which is witnessing a dramatic buildout of new plastic infrastructure in the Gulf Coast and in the Ohio River Valley.

For example, in western Pennsylvania, a new Shell natural gas products processing plant being constructed to provide ingredients for the plastics industry (called an “ethane cracker”) could emit up to 2.25 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year (carbon dioxide equivalent tons). A new ethylene plant at ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery along the Texas Gulf Coast will release up to 1.4 million tons, according to the Plastic and Climate report. Annual emissions from just these two new facilities would be equal to adding almost 800,000 new cars to the road. Yet they are only two among more than 300 new petrochemical projects being built in the US alone, primarily for the production of plastic and plastic additives.

Plastic in the environment is one of the least studied sources of emissions—and a key missing piece from previous studies on plastic’s climate impacts. Oceans absorb a significant amount of the greenhouse gases produced on the planet—as much as 40 percent of all human-produced carbon dioxide since the beginning of the industrial era. Plastic & Climate highlights how a small but growing body of research suggests plastic discarded in the environment may be disrupting the ocean’s natural ability to absorb and sequester carbon dioxide.

Plastic & Climate uses conservative assumptions to create a projection of plastic’s climate impacts under a business-as-usual scenario, meaning that the actual climate impacts of plastic are likely to exceed these projections.

The report identifies a series of actions that can be taken to reduce these climate impacts, concluding that the most effective way to address the plastic crisis is to dramatically reduce the production of unnecessary plastic, beginning with national and global bans on nearly all single-use, disposable plastic.

The proposed solutions include:

  • ending the production and use of single-use, disposable plastic;
  • stopping development of new oil, gas, and petrochemical infrastructure;
  • fostering the transition to zero-waste communities;
  • implementing extended producer responsibility as a critical component of circular economies; and
  • adopting and enforcing ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including plastic production.

Quotes From the Authors

Carroll Muffett, President, CIEL:

“Humanity has less than twelve years to cut global greenhouse emissions in half and just three decades to eliminate them almost entirely. The massive and rapidly growing emissions from plastic production and disposal undermine that goal and jeopardize global efforts to keep climate change below 1.5 degrees of warming. It has long been clear that plastic threatens the global environment and puts human health at risk. This report demonstrates that plastic, like the rest of the fossil economy, is putting the climate at risk as well. Because the drivers of the climate crisis and the plastic crisis are closely linked, so to are their solutions: humanity must end its reliance on fossil fuels and on fossil plastics that the planet can no longer afford.”

Courtney Bernhardt, Director of Research, Environmental Integrity Project:

“Our world is drowning in plastic, and the plastics industry has been overlooked as a major source of greenhouse gases. But there are ways to solve this problem. We need to end the production of single use, disposable plastic containers and encourage a transition to a zero-waste future.”

Matt Kelso, Manager of Data and Technology, FracTracker Alliance:

“The overwhelming majority of plastics are produced from ethane, a component of natural gas and petroleum. The story of plastic’s contribution to climate change really begins at the wellhead, and we can therefore say that a portion of carbon emissions from oil and gas production is attributable to the creation of plastics. As gas travels from hundreds of thousands of wells through a network of millions of miles of pipelines on its way to downstream facilities, there are countless releases of carbon through leaks, venting, and flaring, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. But in order to get a full picture of these impacts, we have also examined emissions from trucks and heavy machinery that service this gigantic industry, as well as the removal of vast stretches of forested land, which can no longer ameliorate the carbon pollution of the industry.  At a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide is spiking dramatically, we need to take a hard look at the consequences of extracting carbon from the ground in the first place, including for the production of plastics.”

Doun Moon, Research Associate, GAIA:

There is no such thing as an “end-of-life” for plastic as it continues to pose a significant threat to the climate long after it reaches the final phase of its lifecycle. Waste incineration, also referred to as Waste-to-Energy, is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions from  plastic waste management, even after considering the electricity that can be generated during the process. The industry’s plans to massively expand both petrochemical production and waste incineration are incompatible with the urgent need for climate mitigation. Our analysis evidently shows that waste prevention coupled with reduced plastic production is by far the most effective way to reduce GHG emissions, and practically the only path forward in order to turn the tide on ever-intensifying climate change.”

Rachel Labbe-Bellas, Science Programs & Development Manager, 5 Gyres:

5 Gyres’ collaboration on the CIEL Plastics & GHGs report helps explain the possible GHG impacts of ocean plastics, including potentially accelerated GHG emissions from microplastics, and the impact of plastics on CO2 uptake by ocean ecosystems. This was a novel subject for 5 Gyres despite our expertise of ocean plastics, and given that only one scientific publication to this date has looked at ocean plastic greenhouse gas emissions. During the 10 years of research in ocean plastic pollution, we have observed the evolution of our understanding of this issue. Now more than ever, we have seen a shift in attention towards understanding the sources of ocean plastics before entering the ocean. The underlying belief of 5 Gyres is that we must stop the flow of plastic pollution from source to sea – which suggests that its time we start ranking today’s proposed solutions which can be found in this report. CIEL has courageously taken initiative to include us, bridging the conversation of the upstream plastic production impacts until its “end-of life” – from those floating at sea, sitting on our shorelines, or resting on the seafloor.

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic:

“Both the climate emergency and the plastic pollution crisis are driven by fossil fuel dependence. It is therefore not surprising that the continuing production, use, and disposal of plastics will further exacerbate the climate crisis. Simply put, more throwaway plastic translates to runaway climate change. The production of plastics must be significantly curtailed for humanity to have a real, fighting chance in averting catastrophic climate change while reversing the plastic pollution crisis at the same time.”

What Experts are Saying:

Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D. Economist, Sound Resource Management Group:

“There are at least three very problematic materials in our garbage – diapers, pet wastes and plastic packaging and films. Figuring out how to manage them keeps solid waste system managers up at night. In particular, plastic packaging and films cause severe problems at recycling sorting facilities, are the source of substantial fossil carbon emissions when burned at incineration waste-to-energy facilities, and are ubiquitous in environmental litters. Because plastics are relatively inefficient as a fuel source and also contain many additives that release pollutants harmful to human and ecosystems health, the solution to plastics littering our waters and landscapes does not lie with using waste plastics as energy sources. That will increase the harm waste plastics are already doing to our climate and health. Rather, effective solutions to our plastics crisis need to come from reductions in the generation of plastics waste by such actions as eliminating single use plastic packaging of all kinds, promoting compostable as well as reusable food carry out containers, and requiring true biodegradability in all items that currently are found on roadsides, in waterways and our oceans.”   

Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Project Leader, Greenpeace:

“This report is yet another example of why the corporate throwaway culture must end. Not only are plastics killing marine animals, endangering our health, and creating a global pollution crisis, they are contributing to catastrophic climate change. It is more clear than ever that companies and governments must take strong action to phase out single-use plastics immediately and move toward systems of reuse.”

Priscilla Villa, Earthworks’ South Texas Organizer, Earthworks:

“Plastics are fueling the climate catastrophe because they’re made from oil and gas, and oil and gas pollution is the main reason climate change is rapidly accelerating. Planned plastics production facilities in the Gulf Coast and Appalachia would worsen our global climate

crisis while also threatening vulnerable communities with more intense storms like Hurricane Harvey. We need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, including single-use plastics.”

Jacqueline Savitz, Chief Policy Officer of North America, Oceana:

“This report shows that the avalanche of plastics flowing into our oceans — equivalent to a dump truck-load every minute — is just the tip of the iceberg.  On top of the choking sea turtles, starving seabirds and dying whales, we can add plastic-driven melting ice caps, a rising sea level and devastating storms. Whether you are a coastal resident or a farmer, a marine mammal or a sea turtle, plastic is the enemy. We need to cap its production and then cut it down. Companies must give us better choices. Otherwise we are all going to drown in it — figuratively, if not literally.”

Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO, Plastic Pollution Coalition:

“We commend CIEL and partners’ new report Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet for demonstrating the alarming climate impacts of plastic. Plastic pollution is an urgent global crisis, and plastic pollutes at every stage: from extraction to disposal and incinerator. This is a decisive moment when we will no longer accept business as usual. Join us in demanding a shift in the system for the health of the Earth and all its living creatures.”

Authoring Organizations

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL seeks a world where the law reflects the interconnection between humans and the environment, respects the limits of the planet, protects the dignity and equality of each person, and encourages all of earth’s inhabitants to live in balance with each other.

Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that empowers communities and protects public health and the environment by investigating polluters, holding them accountable under the law, and strengthening public policy. (Chapter 5: Refining & Manufacture)

FracTracker Alliance is a nonprofit organization that studies, maps, and communicates the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation. (Chapter 4: Extraction & Transport)

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) 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. (Chapter 6: Waste Management)

Sound Resource Management Group, Inc. has been working to shrink pollution footprints, reduce waste and conserve resources throughout the US and Canada since 1987. We have experience working with hundreds of businesses, governments, and non-profit organizations. (Chapter 6: Waste Management)

5 Gyres is nonprofit organization focused on stopping the flow of plastic pollution through science, education, and adventure. We employ a science to solutions model to empower community action, engaging our global network in leveraging science to stop plastic pollution at the source. (Chapter 7: Plastic in the Environment)

#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution made up of nearly 1,500 organizations from across the world demanding massive reductions in single-use plastic and pushing for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.

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Contact:

UN Decides to Control Global Plastic  Waste Dumping

UN Decides to Control Global Plastic Waste Dumping

Major Plastic Waste Producers Must Get Consent Before Exporting their Toxic Trash to Global South

Also available in Bahasa Indonesia: PBB Memutuskan untuk Mengontrol Pembuangan Sampah Plastik Global

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAY 10, 2019

Geneva, Switzerland — Today, 187 countries took a major step forward in curbing the plastic waste crisis by adding plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that controls the movement of hazardous waste from one country to another. The amendments require exporters to obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste, providing an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.

After China banned imports of most plastic waste in 2018, developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, have received a huge influx of contaminated and mixed plastic wastes that are difficult or even impossible to recycle. Norway’s proposed amendments to the Basel Convention provides countries the right to refuse unwanted or unmanageable plastic waste.

The decision reflects a growing recognition around the world of the toxic impacts of plastic and the plastic waste trade. The majority of countries expressed their support for the proposal and over one million people globally signed two public petitions from Avaaz and SumOfUs. Yet even amidst this overwhelming support, there were a few vocal outliers who opposed listing plastic under Annex II of the Basel Convention. These included the United States, the largest exporter of plastic waste in the world; the American Chemistry Council, a prominent petrochemical industry lobbying group; and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a business association largely comprised of waste brokers. As the United States is not a party to the Basel Convention, it will be banned from trading plastic waste with developing countries that are Basel Parties but not part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “Today’s decision demonstrates that countries are finally catching up with the urgency and magnitude of the plastic pollution issue and shows what ambitious international leadership looks like. Plastic pollution in general and plastic waste in particular remain a major threat to people and the planet, but we are encouraged by the decision of the Basel Convention as we look to the future bold decisions that will be needed to tackle plastic pollution at its roots, starting with reducing production.”
Contact: David Azoulay, +41 78 75 78 756, dazoulay@ciel.org

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free from Plastic: “This is a crucial first step towards stopping the use of developing countries as a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, especially those coming from rich nations. 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. Recycling will not be enough, however.  Ultimately, production of plastics has to be significantly curtailed to effectively resolve the plastic pollution crisis.”
Contact: Von Hernandez, +63 9175263050, vonhernandez (Skype)

Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center: “Recycling is supposed to be part of the solution, this legislation will help prevent it from being a source of pollution. False claims by the plastic industry about plastic recycling resulted in a complete disaster for communities and ecosystems around the globe. This legislation raises the bar for plastic recycling which is good for people and the planet, and will help restore consumer confidence that recycling is still the right thing to do.”
Contact: Martin Bourque, martin@ecologycenter.org

Mageswari Sangaralingam, Research Officer, Friends of the Earth Malaysia: “Controls on the plastic waste trade are much needed now to curb dumping of waste in the Global South. The inclusion of prior informed consent is a step towards addressing the issues of the plastic waste trade and pollution crisis. Recycling is not enough, we need to break free from plastic.”
Contact: Mageswari Sangaralingam, +60128782706, magesling@gmail.com

Dr Tadesse Amera, CoChair, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) (Ethiopia): “Africa knows a lot about waste dumping due to our experience with e-waste. This decision will help prevent the continent from becoming the next target of plastic waste dumping after Asia closes its doors.”
Contact: Tadesse Amera, +251911243030 (phone/whatsapp), tadesseamera@ipen.org

Prigi Arisandi, Founder, Ecoton (Indonesia): “We hope these Convention amendments will reduce marine litter — but on the ground in Indonesia we will continue monitoring the waste trade, and pushing our government to properly manage imported plastics. We call on exporting countries to respect their obligation not to dump their rubbish in Global South countries and our government to strictly enforce restrictions and strengthen our custom controls.”
Contact: Prigi Arisandi, +62 8175033042, prigi@ecoton.or.id

Yuyun Ismawati, Co-founder, BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation: “This amendment could be a game changer and force every country to set a higher standard of responsible plastic waste management. Toxic plastics disposed by rich communities in other countries will no longer become the burden of poor communities.”
Contact: Yuyun Ismawati, +447583768707, yuyun@balifokus.asia

Sirine Rached, Global Policy Advocate, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA): “It’s only fair that countries should have the right to refuse plastic pollution shipped to their borders. China had raised the ambition, arguing for countries to have the right to refuse virtually all plastic waste imports, but the final result was a compromise. Since the onslaught of plastic dumping will continue for a year until the measures come into effect, GAIA calls on countries to protect themselves from global plastic waste dumping by banning dirty plastic imports in national law. Countries can tackle the plastic pollution problem while protecting the climate, by focusing on reducing plastics and shifting to Zero Waste systems free from dirty technologies like incineration or plastic-to-fuel.”
Contact: Sirine Rached, +33 6 76 90 02 80, sirine@no-burn.org

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network (BAN): “Today we have taken a major first step to stem the tide of plastic waste now flowing from the rich developed countries to developing countries in Africa and Asia, all in the name of “recycling,” but causing massive and harmful pollution, both on land and in the sea. A true circular economy was never meant to circulate pollution around the globe. It can only be achieved by eliminating negative externalities and not just pushing them off to developing countries.”
Contact: Jim Puckett, jpuckett@ban.org

Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA): “The Basel amendments are a critical pillar of an emerging global architecture to address plastic pollution. Other international bodies must now do their part, including ambitious measures under the IMO and ultimately a new legally binding UN treaty. The EU was a vocal and active supporter of the Basel amendments, proposing to increase ambition so that only the cleanest of clean plastic waste would not be subject to notification. The EU is not only leading by example but taking its Plastics Strategy to the international level.”
Contact: Tim Grabiel, +33 6 32 76 77 04, tgrabiel@gmail.com

 

Norway’s groundbreaking amendment to stop plastic dumping gains massive support

Norway’s groundbreaking amendment to stop plastic dumping gains massive support

04/05/19, 1330, GENEVA

Contact: Von Hernandez #breakfreefromplastic Global Coordinator, von@breakfreefromplastic.org, +63 917 526 3050

Today, at 14th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP14), discussions began on the amendment proposed by Norway and supported by more than 600,000 people around the world which would restrict the international trade of plastic waste.

If passed, this amendment would require exporting countries to get the prior informed consent of receiving countries—enabling developing countries to stop huge amounts of unmanageable waste arriving on their shores. The vast human impact of this waste was recently exposed in GAIA’s (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) latest report ‘Discarded: Communities on the Frontlines of the Global Plastic Pollution Crisis’

This amendment was strongly supported by the civil society movement including members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement such as IPEN, BAN, GAIA, Friends of the Earth, CIEL, EIA, and other groups including Avaaz and SumOfUs.

In a speech addressing the delegates, Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator for the #breakfreefromplastic movement, highlighted the injustice of the waste dumping in the recipient countries. “If you have seen what we have seen on the ground in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines—it would be a stretch to even refer to these local processing operations as “recycling.” It is waste dumping for all intents and purposes.”

The presentation of the petition of more than 700,000 people supporting the Norway amendment to the President of the Basel Convention by Mageswari Sangaralingam, Prigi Arisandi and Von Hernandez.

People gathered inside the convention calling for delegates to support the Norwegian Amendment, as the petition totalling more than 600,000 people was presented to the presidency of the Convention.

Mageswari Sangaralingam, speaking for the Consumers’ Association of Penang and for Friends of the Earth, Malaysia said: “While the Malaysian government has already issued restrictions on plastic waste imports, the pollution, disease, and economic burden of cleaning up will remain in our communities for decades. The rich countries cannot continue polluting Asia. They have to manage their own waste at home.”

Bert Wander, Campaign Director at Avaaz said: “It’s unbelievable that richer countries are dumping millions of tonnes of plastic waste on countries that don’t even have capacity to process it. Now negotiators must decide—turn a blind eye to the devastation we are causing the planet and choke off more coastlines and communities, or face this head-on and agree to a deal that will finally help end this outrageous plastic crisis.”

Eoin Dubsky, campaigner at SumOfUs said: “Fake plastic waste recycling stops here. In the past two decades, businesses in the EU, US, Japan, Mexico, and Canada have been exporting millions of tonnes of plastic waste overseas. That’s how European and North American plastic ends up choking the rivers and coasts of countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.”

Prigi Arisandi, Indonesian Environmental Activist, Goldman Prize winner, and founder of the Indonesian NGO, Ecoton said: We refuse to be bullied by rich countries any longer. We cannot be burdened by waste we did not produce in the first place. We demand that the rich countries clean up their act and take their waste back. We also call on the leaders gathered here today to stop allowing this injustice to continue. We can stop this merely by saying “enough!” and meaning it.

Picture of the demonstration in support of the Norway Amendment at the Basel Convention

ENDS

NOTES

  1. #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,500 organizations from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. Sign up at www.breakfreefromplastic.org.
  2. More than 600,000 people have signed petitions supporting the Norwegian Amendment across two petitions on the Avaaz and SumofUs websites.
Green groups to Nestlé: “Own up, pay up, clean up your act!”

Green groups to Nestlé: “Own up, pay up, clean up your act!”

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.

Contact:

Jed Alegado, Communications Officer for Asia Pacific, Break Free from Plastic

jed@breakfreefromplastic.org | +63 917 607 0248

Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Asia Pacific

sonia@no-burn.org | +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.

 

Tyranny of the Minority Slows International Progress on Addressing Plastic Pollution

Tyranny of the Minority Slows International Progress on Addressing Plastic Pollution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 15, 2019

UNEA-4 Agreement Does Not Deliver at Scale and Urgency Needed

Nairobi, Kenya – At the 4th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), member states of the UN Environment Programme failed to meet expectations to confront the ever-growing plastic-pollution crisis threatening our waterways, ecosystems, and health.

At UNEA-4, member states considered several resolutions designed to increase international action to halt plastic pollution. The first, proposed by Norway, Japan, and Sri Lanka, sought to strengthen international cooperation and coordination on marine plastic litter and microplastics, including through considering a possible new legally binding agreement. The second, proposed by India, sought to promote the phase-out single-use plastics worldwide.

Despite sweeping agreement by the majority of countries that urgent, ambitious, and global action is needed to address plastic across its lifecycle – from production to use to disposal – a small minority led by the United States (US) blocked ambitious text and delayed negotiations. Backed by a strong industry lobby with over $200 billion invested in petrochemical buildout to drastically expand plastic production, the US delegation was able to thwart progress and water down the resolutions, actions that were strongly opposed by many countries, including those most affected by plastic pollution, such as the Pacific Island States, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Senegal. Action-oriented member states did secure, however, the basic elements that will allow the building of future actions, based on the common vision that emerged among the vast majority of countries during the discussions. Most importantly, the mandate of the expert working group established at UNEA-3 was extended to continue its work, including by identifying technical and financial resources or mechanisms, and to report on its progress in considering response options at UNEA-5 in February 2021. The extension of this mandate keeps plastic on the international agenda and provides an opportunity to consider a future legally binding agreement.

Despite the overall disappointing outcome in not making progress at the speed and scale needed, countries remain committed to pursuing international cooperation and coordination to address the plastic-pollution crisis.

David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “At UNEA-4, the vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance. Seeing the US, guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening. But the growing appetite for better global plastic governance is evident, and this UNEA ensured the continuation of a process on which countries can build the future global framework to stop plastic pollution”

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic: “Corporations should hear the call coming out of UNEA-4: Requirements for reduction are coming. They should support community zero-waste systems around the world by reducing the production of unmanageable waste and reinventing delivery structures for products to eliminate plastic packaging. We have a lot of collaborative work to do in the coming years to create policies and markets that are healthy, responsive to local needs, and based on systems of refill and reuse.”

Christopher Chin, Executive Director of The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE): “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. While we are certainly disappointed that progress was stifled by industry-embracing obstacles imposed by a distinct few member states, we are encouraged by the otherwise near-universal support for forward action towards upstream solutions and discussions towards solutions considering the full lifecycle of plastics, including a potential new legally binding framework.”

Fabienne McLellan, Director International Relations, OceanCare: “One cannot help but note that we are heading for yet another failure by some governments to take real action due to nationalistic agendas. The problem is easy to understand, there is enough data, but the blockade of a few, powerful countries isn’t. We are leaving UNEA-4 without a strong decision and are sending a weak signal to the private sector. This is troubling as there should be clear guidance from international bodies towards a sustainable circular economy, a full lifecycle approach, and a call for a global governance architecture.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Zero Waste Europe: “The need to confront marine plastic pollution and single-use plastics are undeniably at the top of the global policy agenda, and Zero Waste initiatives at the local level have received recognition. The details of the final resolutions may be weak, but governments have real policy examples to follow, including the recently-adopted EU Directive on single-use plastics and bans on wasteful plastic products at the local and national level. These policies address the production and consumption drivers of plastic pollution. We salute the efforts of the countries and regions who stood strong in this debate in seeking equally ambitious action at the global level.”

Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA): “Future generations will confront many indescribable problems due to a lack of political will to tackle head on the environmental issues of our time. We do not need to add plastic pollution to that list. Although we regret the lack of urgency displayed by a few bad-faith actors, we are encouraged that the expert group will be reconvened and expect progressive countries to use it as a launch pad for meaningful action at the next UNEA in February 2021.”

Tadesse Amera, CoChair, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), Ethiopia:

“As the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries are gearing up to escalate plastic and chemical production, governments at UNEA-4 could not curb the power of these private interests. This is concerning as the volume of plastic pollution will grow too. Plastics are toxic. Toxic chemicals -linked to cancer and early puberty in children- are used to make plastics, yet this issue was neglected in the final UNEA-4 outcome. These toxic chemicals additives in plastic are released later, creating toxic liabilities for chemical and plastic producers. In Africa, imported plastic products and plastic waste should be returned back to the producers to protect us from the toxic chemicals in the plastic materials. The industries producing these harmful chemicals should have an extended producer responsibility, and they should pay the costs related to their toxic plastic waste mess. In the big picture, toxics in means toxics out. We can’t recycle toxic plastics and pretend that the marine litter chaos is a waste issues; it’s a toxic product issue.”

Jane Patton, Director, No Waste Louisiana: “Plastic is pollution the minute it is made. We must reduce the production and use of plastic across the board to protect communities and health. No people or places should be sacrificed to corporate profit or a culture of consumption, and we can avoid that by taking into account the full lifecycle impacts of plastics. We are optimistic about the ambitious steps our governments will take to prevent plastic pollution, including production reduction, phase out, and investment in zero-waste systems.”

David Sutasurya, Indonesian Zero Waste Alliance: “The plastic industry is polluting developing countries, where they have fewer options of non-plastic alternatives and are directly exposed to plastic pollution every day. Multinational corporations have systematically pushed out local industry that uses much less plastic, in addition to facilitating the import of waste into developing countries from the high-consumption Global North. It is unfair that developing countries are using taxpayers’ money to manage these wastes that can neither be recycled or composted. Framing marine litter as only a waste management problem is nonsense when it’s actually a reflection of the industry’s refusal to take responsibility on the plastic pollution crisis. Multinational companies, together with national plastic industries, are now actively blocking any government effort to hold them accountable and responsible for the waste of their product, including significant reduction of its uses. Developed countries and industries have to be responsible for the waste problem that they create in developing countries and should support legally binding measures on reduction of global plastic production and consumption.”

-//-

Media Inquiries:

Amanda Kistler, (Nairobi) WhatsApp +1 339 225 1623, akistler@ciel.org

Jane Patton, (Nairobi) WhatsApp +1 (225) 266-5534, jane@nowastela.org

Jed Alegado, (Philippines) WhatsApp +63 917 607 0248, jed@breakfreefromplastic.org

Background for editors:

Plastics have in been on the international policy agenda since UNEA-1, At UNEA-4, member states considered and approved four resolutions that either directly considered or referred to the global plastic crisis, especially in the form of marine litter. The preparation documents for UNEA-3 in December 2017 made clear that there are major gaps in the existing legal frameworks surrounding marine plastic litter, which have facilitated the growing crisis. Many countries and the UNEP Secretariat analyzed the failure of voluntary measures to meaningfully stop plastic pollution or marine litter in the long-term. Coming out of UNEA-3, states took a significant step to address those gaps by creating an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group to more clearly consider the state of knowledge, gaps, and mechanisms for addressing the marine plastic litter issue. Between UNEA-3 and UNEA-4, the Expert Group created a summary of options for monitoring and for international governance to prevent and solve marine plastic litter. The Expert Group did not make recommendations for action to UNEA-4, however, as that was no included in its mandate.

At UNEA-4, the four resolutions adopted by consensus on Friday, March 15 were as follows. Largely across the board, the resolutions are missing any calls for production reduction of plastics or other chemical materials, and they largely focus on the waste management end of the problem. This ignores the significant role the plastics producers and the consumer goods corporations will be required to play in preventing plastic pollution and marine litter.

  • Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics (a consolidated draft co-authored by Norway, Japan, and Sri Lanka): this was the main resolution proposing the creation of a Working Group to discuss options for action, including the creation of an international legally binding treaty with goals for both production reduction, policy change, and behavior change. Details on the scope of work, terms of reference, and meeting dates for this continued Expert Group are still lacking and will be determined by the UNEP Secretariat.
  • Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics Products (submitted by India): In a last-minute resolution submission, India took a bold step by proposing their planned national complete phase-out of single-use plastics by 2025 to become part of the international agenda. Chair put forward a significantly weakened compromise text that merely encouraged national action to address marine plastic litter, rather than the use and production of the plastic products themselves.
  • Environmentally Sound Management of Waste (submitted by League of Arab States): While again weakened from its original language, the adopted resolution calls on Member States to implement integrated waste management schemes, including zero waste, movement toward a circular economy, and minimization of packaging. As the resolution calls for significant investment and sharing of technology around waste management, there is concern that countries will adopt toxic and inefficient incineration (or waste-to-energy) schemes rather than taking preventative steps toward waste reduction.
  • Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste (submitted by the EU): This resolution mostly focused on strengthening international coordination on management of toxic chemicals (including Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and other agreements). The resolution reiterated the need for a minimization of plastic packaging as a preventative measure and called for action on eliminating planned obsolescence of technology products, which often contain a significant amount of plastic.

 

 

Year’s worth of sachet use in the Philippines can cover entire Metro Manila 1 foot deep in plastic waste

Year’s worth of sachet use in the Philippines can cover entire Metro Manila 1 foot deep in plastic waste

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New quantitative evidence reveals the extent of plastic pollution in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines (March 7, 2019) —Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million sando bags and 45 million labo bags daily. These numbers were revealed in a new report released today by environmental organization Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). The group contends that single-use disposable plastic is the greatest obstacle to sound waste and resource management, and is calling on governments and manufacturers to regulate, and stop producing, single-use plastics.

The report, Plastics exposed: How waste assessments and brand audits are helping Philippine cities fight plastic pollution, uses data from household waste assessments and brand audits (WABA)[1] conducted by Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) in six cities and seven municipalities[2] across the country in the past five years. GAIA extrapolated the data to calculate daily and yearly plastic usage throughout the country in order to provide new quantitative evidence about plastic pollution in the Philippines. The report is being launched ahead of the UN Environment Assembly meeting next week, where plastic pollution will be discussed.

“Sa aming barangay, ginagawa namin ang lahat para sa maayos na pangangasiwa ng panapon, pero problema talaga ang plastic,” said Mercy Sumilang, a kagawad from Barangay Talayan in Quezon City. “Kung lahat ng pangunahing bilihin ay naka-sachet o plastic napipilitan kami maging bahagi ng pollution. Dapat masolusyonan ito.”

The findings in the report show how cities and municipalities around the Philippines are struggling against plastic residuals. Despite efforts on the part of many localities to institute Zero Waste programs, they still struggle with plastics which prevent them from achieving Zero Waste goals. With the projected increase in plastic production worldwide, including in the Philippines, national governments, as well as local government authorities need robust data and effective strategies to address the looming plastic pollution crisis.

“Cities and municipalities can fight back against plastic pollution using data from waste assessments and brand audits,” said Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation. “Cities can strengthen regulations, improve waste management services, and reduce waste volume and corresponding management costs. They can also use the data to pursue plastic bans or regulations, and to compel companies to acknowledge their liability for plastic pollution.”

According to GAIA, the figures show that the sheer volume of plastic waste generated daily is beyond the capacity of barangays, cities and municipalities to manage, and that the only way to manage single-use plastic is to make less of it. “The problem is the huge amount of single-use plastics being produced—not just the way waste is managed,” said Froilan Grate, executive director of GAIA Asia-Pacific. “Plastic is a pollution problem, and it starts as soon as the plastic is made. Clean-up is left to cities and municipalities who use taxpayers’ money to deal with the waste. Companies create the waste inthe form of plastic sachets, and profit from these, in the millions. They must be made accountable for the pollution.”

According to the report, cities and municipalities deal with a greater number of branded plastic waste (at least 54% of total residual waste) than unbranded waste. Ten companies are responsible for 60%, and four multinational companies are responsible for 36%, of all branded waste collected in the sample sites.

With the absence of a national policy on plastics, some local governments in the Philippines have instituted plastic bag regulations. However, branded plastics that include sachets and other primary packaging used by some of the world’s largest manufacturing companies are not covered by bans. GAIA states that if manufacturers were mandated at the national level to reduce production of throwaway plastic packaging, for example through innovations such as alternative delivery systems or reusable packaging, this would address a large part of the country’s plastic waste problem, including plastic waste leakage to rivers and seas.

“The Philippine case is merely a snapshot of what’s happening in other parts of the world,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement. “This is a global crisis that needs global interventions. We need policies and strong regulations that would ban single use plastics and hold corporations accountable for their role in perpetuating decades of plastic pollution”

The report lays out several recommendations for the Philippine government to effectively address plastic pollution, including: standardizing disaggregated data on plastic packaging in waste assessments, as well as including brand information; instituting comprehensive national plastic bag ban and the regulation of other single-use plastic products; mandating companies to redesign products, packaging and delivery systems; and strengthening the ban on waste incineration. GAIA is additionally calling on manufacturing corporations to be transparent about the plastic packaging they produce, assume accountability and liability for their packaging, and immediately stop producing throwaway plastic packaging. //ends

The report can be downloaded at: http://www.no-burn.org/waba2019

Contact: Sherma Benosa, 0917-815-7570, sherma@no-burn.org

Notes to editors:

[1] Developed by Mother Earth Foundation, WABA is a tool used to obtain detailed information about the types, volume, and number of plastic waste in an area, in order to support strategies to help cities and municipalities deal effectively with solid waste.

[2]  Quezon City, Navotas City, Malabon City, City of San Fernando (Pampanga), Batangas City, Tacloban City, and seven municipalities in the province of Nueva Vizcaya.

Headline explanation: Filipinos discard 163 million plastic sachet packets daily. If each packet were 5cm x 6cm in size and 1mm in thickness, they can be arranged side by side and stacked 312 times (around 1 foot high), covering an area equivalent to the land area of Metro Manila.

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

About MEFMother Earth Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit organization actively engaged in addressing waste and toxic pollution, climate change, and other health, and environmental justice issues in the Philippines. It is best known for its advocacy of Zero Waste through the systematic reduction and proper waste management. www.motherearthphil.org

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.

 

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