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China ban sees UK plastic waste exports to Malaysia trebling

by . Original article posted here. Plastics are being recycled in Malaysia into pellets to be turned into other valuable items. PETALING JAYA: In the four months since China imposed a ban on plastics, UK waste being exported to Malaysia has more than trebled, making it the main destination for British plastics. Exports to Vietnam increased by 50% while the amount sent to Thailand shot up 50-fold, The Independent Online reported.

“All three countries have the unfortunate distinction of being in the top 10 for the quantity of plastic waste entering the ocean, with Vietnam, the highest-placed of the three, in fourth place,” the UK-based news portal stated. Until recently China had taken the bulk of the UK’s plastic waste. Plastic in the world’s oceans has emerged as a major problem and has proven harmful to marine life.
Much of the waste currently circulating in the world’s oceans is thought to originate from developing countries.
 
 
Southeast Asian nations have all imposed limits on the amount of plastic waste they will import from abroad. Independent Online said temporary bans have been brought in across Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia following backlogs of plastic imports at ports. Simon Ellin, chief executive of the UK Recycling Association, warned in December that the Chinese ban would be a “game changer for the UK”. Another news report said the UK had been sending 494,000 tonnes of plastics and 1.4 million tonnes of recovered paper to China every year. Reuters reported earlier this year that annual imports of plastic scrap into Malaysia jumped to 450,000-500,000 tonnes in 2017 from 288,000 tonnes in 2016. It reported that Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are among the Southeast Asian countries that have attracted Chinese investors in the plastics recycling sector over the past year, keen to fill the void left in China. It said the plastic waste was broken down, cleaned, separated into different plastic resins and finally made into pellets ready to be reshaped into new products. “I don’t believe there is a global plastics pollution problem — there is a global plastics ignorance problem. “It is a substance with a lot of hidden values,” Reuters quoted a recycling agent as saying. Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin had announced the government intended to introduce a nationwide ban on plastic bags within the span of a year and encourage the use of reusable bags.

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Virtuous Municipalities to Starbucks: please do not use disposable cups in Italy

This press release, produced by Comuni Virtuosi, was translated into English and published on the Zero Waste Europe website by Roberta Arbinolo

We call on Starbucks to say no to disposable cups and glasses in the new shop due to open in Milan in September, and make it a sustainability best practice in Europe and the whole world, while at the same time helping reduce waste management costs for municipalities.” The call, launched by the Italian Association of Virtuous Municipalities in view of Starbucks’ first opening in Italy, was signed and supported by national and international partners such as Greenpeace Italy, WWF ItalyZero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe and the Reloop Platform, a pan-European multi-stakeholder platform supporting circular economy.

In their letter to Howard Schultz the NGOs ask the outgoing Executive Director to pass “a green revolution of Starbucks” on to his successor Myron Ullman, and to kick this off right in Milan – the city that has inspired the creation of the popular coffee shop chain, as the same Schultz says.

The NGOs highlight how phasing out disposable cups and glasses would represent a step towards reducing impactful single-use items and curbing the plastic pollution crisis, in line with what environmental organisations, local and national governments, the European Commission and many citizens are asking for.

Every year about 600 billion paper and plastic cups are distributed globally, and UNEP extimates by 2003 we will need 40% more wood and cellulose fibers to support the demand for resources from the world’s population.

The NGOs are addressing Starbucks to leverage the potential of a powerful multinational group to influence market trends: “A company counting 28 thousand stores in 77 countries, serving millions of people every day, has a huge potential to make a difference and contribute to tackle the rising tide of coffee cups and other disposable tableware waste”.

Besides the engagement of willing local authorities represented by the Association of Virtuous Municipalities, reducing waste at source is key to make circular models come true: “Until waste production won’t be prevented at source by designing circular products and services, the efforts and economic resources invested by local and national governments will just alleviate a symptom of the problem, without affecting the causes. Waste management costs drains a significant part of the municipalities’ budgets (supported by tax payers), that we could instead allocate to other social and environmental projects needed by our communities”, says the letter.

The NGOs ackowledge Starbucks’ sustainability effort such as the promotion of its reusable coffee cup, the 5p levy applied in some coffee shops in London to disincentivise single-use cups, and the huge financial investment in the NextGen Cup Challenge project to develop disposable cups that can be recycled or composted. However, they remind that “a business policy that mainly promotes reycling rather than reuse fails to reduce the consumption of raw materials, the environmental impacts in terms of waste and emissions, and the financial burden of waste management for local governments.  

The letter also recalls the example of the British chain Boston Tea Party, which has been phasing out disposable cups and glasses in its shops since June 2018, thus confirming the feasibility of a shift to reusable cups and glasses.

The NGOs conclude by asking the mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala to “take up the call with his Council, in the interest of his citizens and the cleanliness of the city”.

Here’s the full letter in Italian and English

Press Contact:

Silvia Ricci

adesioni@comunivirtuosi.org

Cell. +39 347.9075399

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McDonald’s to phase out plastic straws in UK and Ireland, trial alternatives globally

This article was originally posted by Greenpeace USA and is available here. by Perry Wheeler June 15, 2018 Washington, DC – McDonald’s announced that it will phase out plastic straws in the UK and Ireland by 2019, and that it will trial alternatives to plastic straws in select restaurants in the U.S., France, Sweden, Norway and Australia later this year. In response to the phase out in the UK, Greenpeace UK Senior Oceans Campaigner Louise Edge said: “McDonald’s phasing out plastic straws in the UK is a small step ahead of an anticipated government ban, but the scale of the fast food giant means this move will have impact. However McDonald’s really needs to pick up the pace in reducing its massive global plastic footprint. That means ditching plastic straws globally, not just in the UK, and urgently eliminating all unnecessary or difficult to recycle plastic from its restaurants. It’s only this level of action that will get McDonald’s plastic waste off our beaches and out of our oceans.” In response to the news of a global trial of alternatives, Greenpeace Global Plastics Project Leader Graham Forbes said: “McDonald’s straw announcement is a step in the right direction, but the fast food giant must continue to scale up its ambition and move with urgency to rid its entire global operations of plastics straws and other single-use plastic that pollutes our oceans, waterways, and communities. Importantly, the alternatives that McDonald’s trials should not come at the expense of the world’s forests and the communities that depend on them, and must ensure that the disabled community continues to have access to the straws they need. It’s time for all corporations and retailers to show urgency by reducing their plastic footprints immediately.”

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Contact: Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications, Specialist, P: +1 301-675-8766 Alex Sedgwick, Greenpeace UK Press Officer, P: +44 (0) 7773 043 386

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G7 leaders release tepid plans for addressing climate change and ocean plastic pollution – Greenpeace response

Québec City, Canada – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the closure of what he described as “a successful G7 Summit with ambitious objectives” on the environmental front, including a status quo commitment on climate change and a G7 Ocean Plastics Charter endorsed by five nations.

In response to the climate announcement, Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said:

“The joint commitment to climate action forged in Paris remains at the top of the geopolitical agenda despite the US administration’s repeated attempts to demolish it. The ambition and resolve shown today by some leaders must now result in real, committed action to address the shared climate threat.

“We are the crossroads of our time and only through multilateral action that boldly accelerates the clean energy transition, provides jobs, and eradicates poverty can we meet the magnitude of the challenges ahead. There are no second chances. The Trump administration put the health of the planet at risk and is betting against markets, investors, and the action of millions of American sub-national and non-state actors.

“G6 leaders now have to demonstrate their commitment in practice by accelerating the decarbonisation of the economy, scaling up climate finance, responding to the findings of the upcoming IPCC 1.5°C special report, completing the Paris Rulebook at COP24, and actively engaging in the Talanoa Dialogue. The upcoming G20 in Argentina must ensure that all major emitters remain committed to the Climate and Energy Action Plan agreed last year and are fully engaged for a successful COP24.”

In addition, five countries and the European Commission — excluding the United States and Japan — endorsed a G7 Ocean Plastics Charter and “commonly resolved to eradicate plastic pollution and create a lifecycle economy by investing $100 million to protect coasts and oceans,” as stated by Prime Minister Trudeau. According to his announcement at the closure of the summit, the charter will encourage further recycling and repurposing of all single-use plastic.

In response to the announcement of the charter, Morgan said:

“While the leadership to outline a common blueprint is good news, voluntary charters focused on recycling and repurposing will not solve the problem at the source. It’s time for the world’s largest economies to recognise that we cannot simply recycle our way out of this problem while we keep churning out so much throwaway plastic in the first place. Governments must move beyond voluntary agreements to legislate binding reduction targets and bans on single-use plastics, invest in new and reuse delivery models for products, and hold corporations accountable for the problem they have created.

“The newly proposed European Union single-use plastics law clearly recognises that it’s necessary to go beyond recycling and move toward bans and producer responsibility. Today, five G7 leaders have acknowledged the crisis, which is an important step, but that must be met with significant legislative action building on the EU’s example.”

ENDS

Media contacts:

Perry Wheeler, Senior Communications Specialist, Greenpeace USA: +1 301-675-8766, perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org

Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 20 718 2470, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org (available 24 hours) (This article was posted by Greenpeace International and originally appeared in https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/17041/g7-leaders-release-tepid-plans-for-addressing-climate-change-and-ocean-plastic-pollution-greenpeace-response/)

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Global Leaders Enable Dangerous Waste Burning Practices in G7 Plastics Charter

June 13, 2018 – The G7 Ocean Plastics Charter, signed by five nations, has already been criticized as “tepid,” and inadequate to the scale of the plastic pollution problem. Despite advocates calling for governments to set clear, binding targets for reduction of virgin plastics,  the G7 charter embraces weak “end of pipe” waste management approaches. Advocates around the world are particularly concerned with a word hidden in the charter’s fine print: “recovery.” “The term ‘recovery’ is a euphemism for burning plastic waste; whether it be in an incinerator, cement kiln, gasification, pyrolysis or a thermal waste to energy plant. These options are one and the same and they will inevitably transform plastic waste into a toxic and greenhouse gas emissions nightmare,” says Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator for the #breakfreefromplastic movement. “Now is the time for world leaders to take bold and decisive action to cut plastic pollution off at the source by demanding that corporations cease producing throwaway plastic. By keeping incineration on the menu of disposal options, they’re allowing an escape valve for companies to continue churning out worthless single use plastic.” The Charter’s signatories aim to “recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030 and recover 100% of all plastics by 2040.” This commitment is in line with the American Chemistry Council’s strategy on plastic pollution, as outlined in a lackluster commitment to recycle or “recover” 100% of plastic packaging by 2040. “The plastic and fast-moving consumer goods industries have been relentlessly pushing incineration techno-fixes on countries in South East Asia, the very same places that they have flooded with polluting plastic packaging,” says Froilan Grate, Executive Director of GAIA Asia Pacific. “Instead of pushing for burning the waste they themselves are creating, why don’t they just stop producing it?” Incinerating plastic has been known to cause harmful emissions of heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, carbon emissions and other dangerous toxics. Waste-burning facilities are also extremely costly, and the municipalities who resort to this practice end up locked into long-term contracts and are fined when they do not send a large enough quantity of waste to the incinerator. “The use of incineration encourages us to waste more, not less,” says Monica Wilson, Research and Policy Coordinator at GAIA.  “If we rely on burning our waste we have no chance of getting to the root of the problem– eliminating the products and packaging that create the waste in the first place.” Press Contact: GAIA: Claire Arkin, claire@no-burn.org, +1-510-883-9490 (This post originally appeared in http://www.no-burn.org/global-leaders-enable-dangerous-waste-burning-practices-in-g7-plastics-charter/)

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Plastics crisis set to intensify as more countries look to restrict foreign waste

A man takes a break near at a plastics recycling mill in Wuhan, China back in 2008. China moved to dramatically reduce foreign plastic waste imports in January. Photo: China Photos/Getty Images

Data analysis reveals sharp rise in exports to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Poland amid concerns of countries being ‘flooded’ by waste imports.

More countries are restricting imports of foreign plastic waste, as new data shows a dramatic rise in exports of UK waste to a raft of countries following China’s decision to ban “foreign trash” in January.

An Unearthed analysis of official customs data reveals that UK plastic waste exports to countries as diverse as Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Poland shot up in the first three months of 2018, after which all countries introduced restrictions on imports.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in December that Britain had to “stop offshoring our dirt” and deal with its plastic waste at home. But he also said that in the short term, the country would continue sending its rubbish abroad.

Labour MP and member of the Environmental Audit Committee, Kerry McCarthy, told Unearthed that the government had failed to “come to its senses” since the China ban.

She said: “I thought the China ban would bring the government to its senses in demonstrating we could no long rely on exporting our plastic waste. But instead the minister… challenged the view of this as a crisis, and left it to the market to find alternative export markets.

“This shocking image of our waste stockpiling in ports overseas, with destination countries lacking the capacity to process often contaminated and low grade plastic must surely be the crunch-point for getting the policy action the industry has long called for.”

Fires in Poland, backlogs in Asia

Six months after the China ban came into effect, countries across the globe are feeling the impact.

In Poland, a series of highly polluting fires at waste dumps across the country forced the government to introduce new rules that will make it harder to import waste into the country. Announcing the restrictions, Interior minister Joachim Brudzinski blamed the China ban for causing an “increase in illegal imports to Poland of materials that should not be in our country”.

In the first four months of 2018, the UK exported 31% more waste to the country, a rise of  almost 3,000 tonnes to 11,899 tonnes, compared to the same period last year, our analysis shows.

Vietnam has also moved to make restrictions, announcing a temporary ban on plastic and paper waste imports from the middle of this month until October. Two of the country’s biggest ports – Tan Cang-Cai Mep International and Tan Cang-Cat Lai – have reportedly become overwhelmed with plastic and paper scrap since the China ban came into force in January.

Tan Cang-Cat Lai port is currently dealing with a backlog of 1,132 shipping containers due to plastic scrap imports, according to a letter sent by officials at Tan Cang-Cai Mep to shipping companies and to the US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

UK plastic waste exports to Vietnam increased by 51% in January to April 2018 – from 9,680 to 14,570 tonnes.

There is always a risk that other countries start to get flooded and close their doors

Other countries have also introduced temporary restrictions since January.

Citing “the escalating number of idle containers of recycled plastics” in Malaysia and Thailand, the shipping line APL wrote to its customers on April 19to announce a “temporary ban of plastic scrap shipments” from the US and Canada to both countries.

UK exports to Malaysia rose sharply in the first four months of 2018, compared to the same period last year, from 15,612 tonnes to 51,549 tonnes. Meanwhile, exports to Thailand increased dramatically, from just 123 tonnes in January to April 2017 to 6, 810 tonnes this year.

If more countries introduce restrictions, figures in the waste sector said that this could add to the crisis facing the UK recycling sector and put more pressure on local authorities.

Head of the Recycling Association, Simon Ellin, said his organisation had seen the restrictions from other countries coming after the China ban and warned that the UK recycling sector would continue “lurching from crisis to crisis” until it invested in processing capacity.

With exporting to China no longer an option there has been a modest reduction in waste being sent overseas. Our analysis shows that the UK exported 33,453 fewer tonnes of plastic waste in the first four months of 2018 compared to the same period last year, a drop of 17%.

According to Ellin, some recyclers are carrying more low grade material than they would normally as the industry waits for prices to recover. At the same time, low grade plastic waste – agricultural and industrial film and some varieties of pots, tubs and trays, for example – “currently either doesn’t have a market or is now uneconomic to recycle”.

Adam Read, external affairs director at waste firm Suez told Unearthed: “There is always a risk that other countries start to get flooded and close their doors. That’s an inevitability of moving millions of tonnes out of China and dumping it on the global market.

“We don’t know how much material is circling the globe. Everything in the supply chain has changed in the last 12 months. The risk to the UK is that low grade plastic (poorly sorted, contaminated, or degraded) could become hard to place anywhere.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), told Unearthed that the government’s ambition “was to handle more of our waste in the UK” and that “in the short term, alternative markets have been found in response to the China restrictions including Malaysia, Turkey and India.”

New markets

Before China decided to shut its doors to foreign plastic waste at the start of this year, the UK sent a huge amount of scrap to the country.

Unearthed reported late last year that nearly two-thirds of the UK’s total waste plastic exports went to China and Hong Kong from January 2012 to September 2017. Overall, British companies sent just under 88,000 tonnes of waste to China in the first four months of 2017. But that figure has dropped to less than 2,500 tonnes this year, with China now only accepting high-quality plastic scrap.

Today British companies have sought out other countries.

As well as Poland, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia: exports to Turkey also rose, up 166% from 10,598 tonnes to 28,219 tonnes.

Exports to Taiwan, which is not included in the China ban, increased by more than 1,200%.

Other countries experiencing significant increases include Pakistan (+78%), India (+37%) and Indonesia (+19%).

The UK is not alone in the crisis. New Zealand is reporting similar trends, while the China ban has reportedly put a major strain on US recyclers. One major waste company in the US warned that “material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go”.

According to a comprehensive rundown of the impact of the ban in the US on the site Waste Dive, in Florida there are reports of material being sent to landfill. In Boise, Idaho, the city is facing a $100,000 per month bill to recycle an estimated 640 tonnes of mixed paper due to rising processing costs. Meanwhile, Hawaii recyclers are scrambling to find alternative markets to ship plastic waste.

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EU Parliament backs microplastic bans to tackle plastic pollution

This press release was published by the Rethink Plastic alliance. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 10/07/2018 The European Parliament's environment committee today voted to strengthen the European Commission’s overall plans to cut plastic pollution, under the so-called Plastics Strategy. On behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance, Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “The environment committee has recognised that the Commission’s plans to tackle plastic pollution must be strengthened to protect our oceans. Today’s vote gives a strong signal that more can and must be done to cut off the flood of plastics at source, and national governments across Europe must rise to the challenge.” The environment committee called for a number of measures that go beyond the Commission’s original proposals, including:

  • A ban on microplastics in cosmetics, personal care, detergents and cleaning products by 2020, and minimum requirements to tackle other sources of microplastics
  • A complete ban on oxo-degradable plastics – a source of microplastic pollution – by 2020 [1]
  • A recognition that biodegradable and compostable plastics do not prevent plastic waste in our oceans and should not be an excuse to keep using single-use plastics
  • Any financial contribution from taxing plastics should go towards preventing plastic waste generation
  • The reduction of hazardous substances in plastics, to ensure that what is recycled is free from dangerous chemicals [2]
Bolger continued: “There's a lot of greenwashing going on to try and present bio-based and biodegradable plastics as a silver bullet – but this is a sideshow, distracting from the real solutions: reduction and reuse. Bio-based and biodegradable plastics pollute our beaches and seas just like conventional plastics, and should be treated as such. It is hugely positive that the Parliament acknowledges this.” However, the environment committee failed to back measures to tackle pollution from industrially-produced plastic pellets, which are melted down to make everyday plastic items.  It also failed to support stronger economic incentives to reduce plastic production and consumption. [3] The full European Parliament will vote in September on the environment committee’s response to the Commission’s proposal. ENDS NOTES: [1] Oxo-degradables plastics are supposedly biodegradable plastics, which in reality break down into small fragments and contribute to harmful microplastic pollution in the oceans and other ecosystems. [2] The Environment Committee also reminded the Commission of the EU commitment laid down in the 7th Environmental Action Programme (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013D1386) for the development of non-toxic material cycles. This is fundamental to ensure that the circular economy is a success for the environment. [3] Effective economic incentives would include Extended Producer Responsibility fees for all plastic and plastic containing items, not only for packaging as is in current law. PRESS CONTACTS: Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Officer, Rethink Plastic alliance: roberta@rethinkplasticalliance.eu / +32 (0) 491 14 31 97 Meadhbh Bolger, Resource Justice Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe: meadhbh.bolger@foeeurope.org / +32 483 65 9497

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‘PLANET INEOS’ : THE QUEST TO FRACK FOR PLASTICS THREATENS AIR, WATER, AND CLIMATE

Food & Water Watch / Food & Water Europe documents delivered to No 10 Downing Street by fashion icon Vivienne Westwood and her son Jon Corré London/Brussels/ — Dame Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré brought a vision of Armageddon today to No 10 on UN World Environment Day in a protest over pollution from fracking, and the government’s hypocrisy over plastics. Backed by research materials from Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe on the corporate profile and bad environmental record of secretive petrochemical company Ineos, they’ve delivered ‘Planet INEOS”, a representation of the harms caused by plastic pollution and climate change.

Petrochemical giant INEOS is Britain’s biggest private company, owned by UK’s richest man, controversial billionaire and fracking profiteer Jim Ratcliffe. Ineos owns more fracking licenses than any other energy company in the UK and already use fracked gas from the United States to manufacture plastics. The campaigners say that despite the government’s recently announced War on Plastic, its industrial policy gives plastic production a higher priority than energy. Corré, who is head of Talk Fracking, says: “It’s impossible to reconcile the Government’s War on Plastic with its policy on fracking when they’re clearly enabling the creation of yet more problem plastic. It’s sheer hypocrisy. “If INEOS get their way and fulfil their ambition to frack the length and breadth of the UK, they will be making a vast contribution to the already growing pile of cheap plastics in the world today.” INEOS have a horrendous environmental track record in Europe and have been responsible for toxic chemicals, leaks, fires and explosions that have endangered workers, communities and the environment. “Now they plan to bring those dangers to hundreds of communities across the UK, just to make more plastics that we don’t want,” Corré added. Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Watch Europe Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, said: “INEOS’s fracking dreams are a nightmare for communities on both sides of the Atlantic, and that’s why so many people are speaking up to stop them. Anyone who cares about the climate crisis, the increasing burden of global plastics pollution, and the air and water pollution associated with petrochemical manufacturing should get active in the fight to stop INEOS from fracking the UK.” This action is being supported by the#BreakFreeFromPlastic movement and Frack Free United.