by: Anouk Van De Beek
Imagine being on a sailing ship, only seeing the ocean’s vastness, working with the elements, no other distractions whatsoever. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 2014 Dutch sailor Thomas van Thiel was already ten days out on the open sea when he suddenly saw a plastic bottle floating around. He was shocked, seeing something man-made that far from civilization. He started to see plastic everywhere and decided to take action. By the ocean we unite was born – a foundation that contributes to research worldwide, creates awareness and educates and activates people, organisations and governments to make much needed changes. It only takes one decision to start a whole movement.
The Mediterranean is one of the most polluted seas of the world. If on this tiny piece of the earth along the coast we easily fill up a bag with garbage that big that we literally have to push it through the door of our campervan, we can only feel confronted with our own behaviour; this is how we are treating the earth. It is not them, it is all of us, it is everywhere. 80% of all the waste in our oceans comes from land. Start cleaning your environment whenever you can! It is not THE solution. Letting the plastics go through your own hands does make you feel part of the problem, it makes you feel responsible. You’ll start to think of solutions, preventing more plastic from ending up in the ocean by reducing it at source.
You can see the whole documentary online, for free! www.anoukvandebeek.com
In 2016 it all came together: my love for the ocean, my desire to experience filmmaking and the need I felt to communicate a message about humans and the ocean. Thomas from By The Ocean We Unite asked me to join him and tell the world about the ocean. One subject stayed with us, it was tangible, we could not neglect it: plastic. This planet is a blue planet, seen from space. What happens when the biggest part of our planet is filled up with plastic in the form of bigger plastics, micro plastics and nano plastics? Our journey had started, we gathered a team for our first sailing expedition ‘Up to Norway’. By now, so many awesome people have joined us on our mission, Ziggy Alberts being one of them. His song ‘The Ocean Song’ immediately came to my mind when I started to make ‘By the Ocean we Unite – an awareness journey into plastic pollution’.
Throwing away is something we do naturally, it is part of the cycle of life. The problem is that ‘away’ is not ‘away’ when we talk about plastic. It can easily take more than a lifetime for it to disappear. By that time it will have killed animals and polluted our environment. Even many biodegradable products will only degrade under certain circumstances and not in the open environment, let alone in the ocean, where most of the waste from land ends up anyway. On the contrary, throwing away a piece of apple or carrot will contribute to a nice compost for our plants and trees, building a healthy soil. These days I am enjoying throwing away organic material and compost it. . Start throwing away more things that benefit the earth! Grow your own food, start to plant trees and buy more plastic free products.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Recyclers and Zero-Waste Advocates Debunk Starbucks’ Claims that New Lid Will Be “Recycled”
The #breakfreefromplastic global movement invites Starbucks CEO Kevin Thompson to see where Starbucks trash ends up: much of it across South East Asia.
In an effort to quell growing concerns about Starbucks wasteful packaging, the company just announced to much fanfare that it would phase out plastic straws and replace them with “recyclable” plastic lids. In fact, the same type of plastic Starbucks claims is “recyclable” is being sent to landfills across the nation, or shipped to countries like Malaysia or Vietnam– where it becomes pollution. “Starbucks’ claims about the ability of #5 plastics to be ‘widely recycled’ are bankrupt,” says Stiv Wilson, Director of Campaigns at the Story of Stuff Project. “This incredible attention to a single product isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t quite a good thing either if it doesn’t lead to broader, systemic change in how the world makes, uses, and disposes of the most ubiquitous material in commerce today—plastic,” he added.
As companies like Starbucks are increasingly under fire for their contribution to the plastic pollution crisis, they have primarily relied on recycling as the solution to their wasteful packaging, despite its many flaws. As a result, the US has been sending even larger quantities of “recyclable” plastic to China, causing the tremendous environmental damage that led the country to close its doors. Now the US has started sending its plastic waste to other countries in Asia, sparking these countries to enact similar bans and restrictions.
“Recycling alone is not going to solve the plastic pollution crisis,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges. “In fact, relying on a recycling system that is failing in the U.S. and facing bans overseas will make the problem worse. To date, only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled. It is time for companies to move beyond flashy PR moves and start significantly reducing their production of plastic and investing in reuse alternatives.”
In many of the countries Starbuck has stores, there is little to no recycling infrastructure. Not only do Starbucks’ branded straws, hot cups, cold cups, and lids show up in beach cleanups, according to the global trash app, Litterati, Starbucks branded products are easily in the top three of brands identified globally if not number one.
With that in mind, the #breakfreefromplastic movement invites Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to visit the communities in Southeast Asia most impacted by the plastic waste created by companies headquartered in the global north.
“The type of plastic pollution we’re seeing in Southeast Asia are produced by global corporations headquartered in North America and Europe,” said Break Free From Plastic’s Global Coordinator Von Hernandez. “While these are the countries that are being blamed for plastic pollution, the ones that are really pushing production are companies located in the global north. They need to bear the responsibility for this waste.”
The deceptiveness of industry’s recycling pledges has hampered progress towards real solutions to the plastic crisis. Monica Wilson, Research and Policy Director at GAIA, states, “We call on Starbucks to be responsible for its own products and packaging and to stop pretending the plastic flooding the market is actually getting recycled.”
For press inquiries, please contact:
Shilpi Chhotray, #breakfreefromplastic, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-400-9986
Claire Arkin, GAIA, email@example.com, 510-883-9490 ext. 111
Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-675-8766
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From May 16 to 26, ten GAIA member organizations and partners conducted clean-up and waste and brand audits in 18 states in India. Photo courtesy of V Recycle, Goa.
As the Indian government hosts this year’s World Environment Day under the banner, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” 10 environmental groups across different cities and regions of India—Bengaluru, Chennai, Darjeeling, Dehradun, Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kolkata, Leh, Mumbai, Nagaland, Pune, Sikkim, and Trivandrum—conducted unprecedented and coordinated waste and brand audits as a critical first step in identifying top corporate polluters and holding them accountable.
The results of these audits are remarkably similar to audits done in Indonesia and the Philippines, which showed that multilayered plastics accounted for nearly half of branded plastics audited. Across the three countries, a total of 72,721 pieces of branded plastic waste were picked and analyzed, close to 75% of which was food packaging. The rest was household and personal care packaging.
After the 21-day brand audit in India, PepsiCo was found to be the top multinational polluter. Perfetti van Melle and Unilever came in as second and third, respectively. Other multinational corporations in the top 10 list are Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, and Ferrero SpA. Among Indian companies, Amul, Britannia, ITC, Parle, and Haldiram are in the top 10 list. In audits conducted in multiple cities in the Philippines and Indonesia, Unilever, Procter and Gamble, Nestle, PT Torabika, Colgate-Palmolive, and Coca-Cola are among the top 10 multinational polluters.
“For far too long, multinational companies have been making billions of dollars from selling products that come in single-use low-value plastic packaging with no regard to how the resulting waste is managed,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the #breakfreefromplastic movement. “The corporations responsible for the proliferation of these single-use, zero-value, and non-recyclable plastics need to own up to the massive pollution associated with their brands and products. They must clean up their act and start investing in alternative packaging materials and delivery systems that are ecologically sustainable for the people and the planet,” he added.
While clean-ups tend to be a feel-good activity that help raise awareness about plastic pollution, they fail to stop plastic pollution or identify and hold accountable those responsible for pollution. “We’re sick and tired of being blamed and of cleaning up the mess produced by corporations. By identifying who’s behind the waste that’s polluting our countries and demanding change, we aim to make clean-ups a thing of the past,” said Pratibha Sharma, GAIA’s India Coordinator.
Waste and brand audit in Delhi. Photo courtesy of Chintan.
Many of the multinational brands identified to be most responsible for plastic pollution through clean-up and audit activities have announced commitments to make their packaging more recyclable. However,recycling alone is not enough to staunch the steady flow of new plastic. Since the 1950s, only 9% of plastic ever made has been recycled, while plastic production is slated to increase by 40% in the next decade.
The plastic recycling trade has allowed countries in the global north to export these problem plastics to poorer countries unequipped to deal with this plastic tsunami, where most end up in landfills or the surrounding environment. “In addition to dealing with huge volumes of disposable plastics, we have to fight unsustainable incineration technologies that are being peddled to us as solutions,” said David Sutasurya, Executive Director of Yayasan Pengembangan Biosains dan Bioteknologi (YPBB).
“We can’t recycle our way out of this problem. Much of the plastic packaging currently on the market contains toxic additives that put recycling workers’ and waste pickers’ health at risk. The only way forward is for major consumer-facing corporations to stop producing single-use products and packaging that are used for seconds and then lead to pollution forever,” Sharma added.
In stark contrast to corporations’ inadequacy in addressing the plastic pollution problem, communities across Asia are demonstrating Zero Waste solutions that can be adopted by cities and regions throughout the world. In San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines, 95% of waste is diverted from landfill through broad community participation, recycling, and composting programs. In Pune, India, a women’s waste-picker collective of over 3,000 recycled 50,000 tons of waste from 600,000 households in 2016. These Zero Waste systems are rooted in social justice and environmental protection.
As corporations continue to show their disregard for public health and the environment by refusing to take accountability for the pollution they cause, communities across Asia are working together to implement solutions that not only reduce pollution, but also develop systems that create jobs, protect public health, the environment, and the climate. They demand that governments and corporates heed the evidence, and step up to their roles, too.
- To view the pan India waste and brand audit report, click here.
- To learn why brand audits are better than clean-ups and what a brand audit looks like, click here.
- Sherma E. Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific | email@example.com | +63 9178157570
- Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic Asia Pacific | firstname.lastname@example.org
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Brown Pelican juvenile tossing plastic spoon up in the air. Photo: Sebastian Kennerknecht/Minden Pictures
By doing so, you’ll be helping birds and other wildlife.
If there’s one material we can’t seem to live without, it’s plastic. And there’s a reason for that: It’s cheap, durable, and lightweight, making it perfect for everything from iPhones to eyewear.
But what makes plastic so useful for humans is exactly what makes it a nasty environmental contaminate—it spreads easily and takes forever to degrade, finding its way to our lands and oceans where it wreaks havoc on wildlife. To date, at least 700 species of marine animals, including shorebirds, have been entangled by plastic or mistaken it for food. The result is often suffocation or starvation.
Since the 1950s, we’ve generated 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff, of which a scant nine percent has been recycled. And by 2050, scientists predict the oceans will stock more plastic than fish.
But as problematic and worrisome as all of this is, completely cutting plastic from our lives is impossible at this point. Reducing your plastic use, however, is surprisingly easy and pain-free. You’re not going to end the problem overnight, but here are some simple tricks to waste less.
1. Cut Out Plastic Cutlery—Especially When Ordering In
Have you ever tried to cut a piece of broccoli with a plastic fork? Yeah, not fun. And yet Americans use 100 million plastic utensils everyday, much of which comes wrapped in even more plastic.
When ordering food online, opt out of receiving plastic utensils—it’s often as easy as just checking (or unchecking) a box. That’s it. And if you’re ordering takeout in person or over the phone, ask the restaurant to skip the plastic flatware.
Better yet: Try cooking for yourself. Although the idea is radical, home-cooked food is often healthier and it produces way less waste.
2. Party Plastic-Free
Let’s be honest, no post-college party needs those red Solo cups, which may take 450 years to decompose. So why not use real cups?
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or bridal shower, one great way to reduce plastic waste is to simply use real tableware. If you don’t have enough, ask friends to bring extras (people tend to care more about food than whether or not the plates match).
The downside, of course, is cleanup, but there are even guides for that! And if you’ve got a dishwasher, well, you’ve really got no excuses.
If you still feel that the burden of cleanup is too great (or you’re serving booze, which might lead to wobbly hands), avoid the plastic tableware and at least opt for sustainable products instead.
3. Say Bye Bye to Balloons
Many balloons are made of plastic, and when they get away, they can travel for thousands of miles before touching down. Some birds mistake them for food, and others mistake them (or their ribbons) for nesting material.
“We see this all of the time,” says Steve Kress, executive director of Audubon Project Puffin. “One time, I found a ribbon tangled around a puffin in its burrow. It said on the balloon, ‘Angry Birds.’”
Birds aren’t the only animals that balloons harm either; they pose dangers to all other manners of wildlife. So go ahead and ditch the balloons at your next big celebration. And if you’re worried about deflating the fun, try some other options. If you’re feeling crafty, make tissue garlands or paper lanterns. And if you’re feeling lazy, just buy a banner instead—non-plastic, of course.
4. Take Advantage of Tap Water
Evian. Fuji. Smart Water. They all sound special—but are they really any healthier or tastier than tap?
Not really. In most parts of the world with public, potable water, tap is just as safe to drink as the stuff that comes in plastic. It’s also often as tasty—or tastier. Globally, we spend more than $100 billion each year on bottled water, a sharp contrast to the pennies you pay to turn on a faucet. Yet another reason to love tap.
So how can you take advantage of this incredible public resource? Find a reusable bottle that you love, and don’t let it leave your side. If you have trouble finding a place to refill it, check out WeTap or Dopper, Smartphone tap maps.
If you still occasionally fall victim to Big Water’s advertising ploys—who doesn’t want Jennifer Aniston’s Smart Water glow?—try to reuse the bottles as much as possible. No one will ever know.
5. Skip the Plastic Straws
Ah, the humble straw: American staple, transporter of sodas and iced coffee, an entertaining bubble machine—and also a major threat to wildlife, as anyone who’s seen an impaled sea turtle can attest.
Ridding straws from your life is no easy feat. Americans alone use 500 million of them each day, after all. Most of the time they are provided without consent and thrown out thoughtlessly. But they can also be necessary—especially if you suffer from certain medical conditions.
If you don’t need these suckers, don’t use them. Tell your server to skip the straws as soon as you sit down at a restaurant, or use a refillable cup at your local coffee shop. And if you do need to use a straw, try a sustainable alternative. There are straws made of bamboo and paper, stainless steel and titanium. Heck, there are even straws made of straw!
But my personal favorite is pasta straws. Bloody Mary, anyone?
6. Buy Bulk Foods
Food and packaging containers account for nearly half of all trash in landfills, according to the EPA, and buying bulk can help stem that stream.
So go ahead, instead of picking up that small jar of peanut butter, spring for five pounds of the salty goodness. If you do, you’ll save money, trips to the grocery store, and plastic waste. According to NC State University, buying peanut butter in bulk, for example, can save families seven pounds of landfill waste per year. Other items that will yield large savings in plastic waste when bought in bulk include staples such as noodles, rice, and beans, according to One Green Planet.
7. Get Better at Recycling
While everyone knows they should be recycling by now, even the best of us still don’t always get it right.
Turns out, we recycle only a fraction of the plastic waste we produce, and that’s partly due to poor recycling techniques. You do, in fact, need to rinse out your containers, for example. Otherwise they might contaminate plastics around them and end up in a landfill. Also, avoid tossing out recycling in a used plastic bag. What might seem like a smart twofer turns out to be potentially damaging to recycling machinery.
And now that China stopped accepting our recycling, try to avoid buying plastics numbered 3-7, which include common food products like single-serving yogurt cups (another reason to buy bulk!). Many U.S. municipalities can no longer recycle them.
“People think that they’ve done their good deed for the day by throwing plastic in the blue bin,” says Shilpi Chhotray, the senior communications officer for Break Free From Plastic. But in reality, she says, much of that “recycling” just ends up as trash due to human error.
8. Actually Remember Your Reusable Bag
Look, you probably already have plenty of reusable bags, but the tricky part is remembering to take them anywhere.
“Bringing your own bags is a no-brainer, but a lot of people don’t do it,” Kress says. “And those little plastic bags are a big problem.”
Here’s your solve: Store one in everything you take with you—your purse, backpack, gym bag—and if you drive to the store, in your car. You want bags everywhere. There’s just one hard part: When you return from home, don’t forget to put them back.
And if you’re still worried you’ll forget them, just add “reusable bag” to your shopping list.
Take It to the Next Level
If you’ve already mastered these tips, it might be time to up your plastic-free game. Chhotray calls this the culture of “leveling up.”
These tips are “a good place to start,” she says, “but a terrible place to stop.”
If your favorite restaurant gives out single-use plastics, for example, ask them to switch to sustainable alternatives. If that doesn’t work, try circulating a petition in your community. The next step is to engage at the civil level to put local laws on the books that reduce plastic waste. (In July, for example, Seattle will enact a ban on plastic straws and cutlery.)
“Take your practice and get people involved in your cause,” she says. “The idea is that we have to move away from individual change to this culture of leveling up.”
Written by Benji Jones. Article originally appeared at https://www.asyousow.org/blog/2018/5/10/resin-industry-takes-first-tentative-step-to-deal-with-plastic-pollution.
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Women from plastics-polluted Asian communities visit oil & gas impacted U.S. communities to support global efforts to Break Free From Plastic
HOUSTON, Texas (May 14, 2018) — To show the negative impacts of plastics production throughout its supply chain, two grassroots women activists impacted by plastic end-use waste in India and the Philippines today started an unprecedented tour of U.S. communities harmed at the start of the supply chain where plastic feedstocks are created and the oil and gas it requires are extracted.
Organized by #breakfreefromplastic member organization Earthworks, the “Stopping Plastic Where It Starts” speaking tour features Lakshmi Narayan from Pune, India and Myrna Dominguez from Manila, Philippines. They will visit communities fighting petrochemical production in Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C from May 14-25, 2018.
Myrna Dominguez, a food sovereignty activist from the Philippines said, “I’m here visiting communities in the U.S. threatened by plastics production in order to bring voices from our coastal communities halfway around the world that are harmed by plastics too. Plastic trash pollutes our waters and destroys fish sanctuaries, harming our fisherfolk whose livelihoods depend upon clean water and healthy seabed.”
Lakshmi Narayan, a representative of waste pickers in India added, “Waste pickers, who make a living dealing with with plastic waste every day, would support the fight against increasing production of plastics, especially single-use plastics which have little or no economic value. The environment is already suffocating from the pollution wrought by too much disposable plastic packaging, and waste pickers who are efficient in recovering materials, know that recycling alone will not solve this problem!”
A recent report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) reveals that “99% of plastics are produced from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels”. U.S. plastics production is located in regions near fossil fuel extraction especially in the Gulf Coast, and Appalachia where communities are fighting proposed expansion of the extraction and infrastructure necessary to ramp up plastics production for export.
Jennifer Krill, executive director of the nonprofit Earthworks which works to protect communities harmed by resource extraction, said, “Plastic pollution begins with the climate and community health impacts from fracking and petrochemical manufacturing. The U.S. is the largest producer in the world of oil and gas, thanks to fracking, and now, the industry wants us to be the world’s supplier of plastic. On this tour, U.S. grassroots community leaders threatened by oil and gas are joining their voices with communities around the world fighting to break free from plastic.”
Priscilla Villa, the Houston, Texas-based organizer for Earthworks added, “Here in Houston, along the Gulf Coast, and in Appalachia, we are facing an unprecedented boom in plastic production fed by fracking, that will put even more vulnerable communities in harm’s way.”
Follow Lakshmi and Myrna as they visit communities in Texas, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. Updates will be posted at @earthworks and in the #breakfreefromplastic social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.//ends
#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,100 groups 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.
Earthworks is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions. Earthworks partners with local affected communities, national and international advocates to respond to and solve the growing threats to the earth’s natural resources, clean water, biodiversity, special places and communities from irresponsible mining, drilling, and digging. Earthworks is a member of the #breakfreefromplastic global movement.
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