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Hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging: an initial analysis

This blog was originally published by #breakfreefromplastic member ChemTrust on their website and was written by Anna Watson CHEM Trust has joined an important collaboration of NGOs and academic scientists looking at the topical and crucial issue of hazardous chemicals in plastic packaging. As we all know, use of plastic packaging is increasing globally, causing environmental and human health concerns. In 2015 annual plastic production was 380Mt, of which about 40 per cent was used in packaging, with the majority being used in food packaging. Plastic packaging is a source of chemical exposure to consumers and workers, as chemicals used in the packaging can migrate into foods and the environment during manufacturing, use, disposal and recycling. It is therefore vital for us to know what chemicals are present in plastic packaging and what the associated risks are. Our colleagues at the Food Packaging ForumChemSec, the University of Gothenburg and The Vrije University in Amsterdam started by trawling through data to establish a list of the chemicals used in plastic packaging, and identified over 4000 chemicals that are potentially present in plastic packaging. Of the 908 chemicals that were identified as likely to be present in plastic packaging, 68 chemicals were identified as being most hazardous for the environment and 64 were identified as being most hazardous for human health. However, for many other chemicals there was no harmonised toxicity classification available, so this will not be a complete list of the most hazardous chemicals. Dr Jane Muncke, the Managing Director of the Food Packaging Forum said

“We were surprised at how difficult it has been to get hold of the data on which chemicals are used in plastic packaging. There is no single registry and often we faced barriers imposed by commercial confidentially. There is therefore a massive gap in our knowledge relating to the presence of chemicals in plastic packaging, which is hampering our ability to protect human health and the environment from chemicals of concern.”
Dr Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust said:
“This project is demonstrating the lack of openness about the chemicals used in everyday products, and the lack of adequate safety information for many chemicals. It’s shocking that regulators and companies have not yet addressed these issues. Even the EU, with its sophisticated REACH chemicals regulatory system, is not yet properly addressing the twin problems of secrecy and lack of good safety data”
The first results of the research project were presented at the SETAC Europe conference on May 15, 2018. During the next 12 months the project will continue to investigate which chemicals in plastic packaging are most concerning for human health and the environment and look at potential alternatives.

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Holding businesses accountable for plastic pollution: Clean-up and brand audits take place in key cities in India

MUMBAI, India (May 16, 2018) --- As a lead-up to World Environment Day on June 5, environmental justice  groups are launching today an unprecedented coordinated waste and brand audits in key cities in India. Scheduled to happen from May 16 to May 30 in the cities of Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bengaluru along with various cities in Goa, Kerala, and 12 Himalayan States, the  audits seek to highlight the role of corporations in the global plastic waste crisis, results of which will be published o 4th June. “Through these audits, we want to put the spotlight on corporations who have been responsible for the manufacturing, distribution, and proliferation of non-recyclable and single-use plastic packaging that ends up in our landfills, oceans and waterways,” Pratibha Sharma, India Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, said. “The activity aims to gather important data to call for innovations in product packaging and delivery systems to ensure that plastic waste is drastically reduced and that NOTHING ends up in our oceans, landfills, and other disposal facilities,” she added. India produces a whopping 62 million tonnes of waste every year. A staggering 43 million tonnes of solid waste is collected annually, out of which only 11.9 million or 22-28% is treated, while about 31 million tonnes of waste is left untreated and dumped in landfill sites. The waste and particularly plastic menace for Indian cities is compounded because of the poor state of solid waste management and the inadequate infrastructure for sewerage and stormwater drainage. India’s Plastics Waste Management Rules 2016 emphasizes the phase-out of non-recyclable multi-layered plastics by March 2018, and requires manufacturers, producers, and users of non-recyclable packaging to either pay municipalities for the cost of managing such waste, or arrange to take it back and manage its disposal themselves. While there have been attempts by local governments to ban plastic bags and single-use plastic in various cities of India, the move has received backlash from the plastic industry. As a a result, the Plastic Waste Management Rules were amended to benefit businesses manufacturing and using plastic especially Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies. The current amendment gives plastic producers a scope to argue that their products can be put to some other use, if not recycled. This move tantamounts to revoking a complete ban, which it had implied earlier. This type of plastic was supposed to be banned by March 2018, but it is nowhere near a phase-out. According to Sherma Benosa, GAIA Asia Pacific Communications Officer, corporations have unfairly placed the blame on consumers for the waste problem when it is them who have been putting out and profiting from the problematic products. Satyarupa Shekhar, Director for Research and Advocacy at Chennai-based Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG),  said, “the burden of managing poorly designed and manufactured products falls on the city governments and its people and it is about time the businesses are made accountable for their unsustainable business practices.” June 5 is celebrated annually as World Environment Day as declared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). India is the global host for this year’s celebrations with the theme, Beat Plastic Pollution, chosen “to combat one of the great challenges of our time.” Through this concerted effort, nine organizations in India, namely CAG, Chintan, SWaCH, Stree Mukti Sanghatana,, Thanal, V-recycle, Hasiru Dala, SWMRT, Zero Waste Himalayas--all members of GAIA--and Integrated Mountain Initiative, are coming together to question the preparedness and commitment of  businesses to beat plastic pollution. These organizations have been working to implement Zero Waste solutions to combat problems around poor solid waste management. The organizations, together with the Break Free From Plastic movement, are waging war against plastic pollution to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. //ends.   For details, please contact: Pratibha Sharma India Coordinator, GAIA Asia Pacific Phone: +91-8411008973 Email: pratibha@no-burn.org Kripa Ramachandran Researcher, CAG Phone: +91-8939107923 Email: kripa.ramachandran@cag.org.in  

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Resin Industry Takes First Tentative Step to Deal with Plastic Pollution

The plastic pollution crisis has finally resulted in a wakeup call, albeit weak and tentative, by U.S. plastic resin producers. The American Chemistry Council’s plastics division issued a press release May 9 pledging to alter production of plastic packaging to make it all recyclable or recoverable by 2030, and to work to actually recycle or recover it by 2040.  Members include resin makers like Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., DowDupont, ExxonMobil Chemical Co., and Shell Chemical LP.  Until now, commitments on recycling and recovery have come largely from end user brands of plastic packaging like P&G and Unilever. The commitments are an initial response to an issue that has exploded in recent months, especially in the United Kingdom, threatening to slow projected demand for plastic packaging. In December, nearly 200 countries called for an end to plastic pollution at a UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.  In January, McDonald’s Corp. committed to As You Sow to phase out use of polystyrene foam and to recycle packaging in all stores globally, and the European Commission released a plastics policystrategy that could require all packaging in the EC marketplace to be recyclable by 2030; it is also mulling a tax on plastic production.  European supermarkets are introducing plastic-free aisles. UK retailer Iceland went even further, pledging to stop using all plastic packaging by 2023. As the Wall Street Journal noted last year, big oil and its petrochemical subsidiaries like those cited above, are making a risky bet that demand for consumer plastics will remain strong even as it cools for fossil based fuels. As much as 60% of new demand for oil between now and 2050 is projected to be for the petrochemical sector, which produces plastic resins. But clearly scientists, consumers, activists, and governments are sounding alarm bells about the huge amounts of plastics ending up in world oceans, harming marine animals and fouling beaches and rivers, and the inability of current collection and recycling systems to adequately capture plastic waste. Since 2012, As You Sow has been asking consumer goods companies to study the impact of continued use of non-recyclable plastic packaging and make plans to phase it out. The ACC action is a welcome if belated acknowledgement of responsibility from an industry that has promoted plastic for packaging with little consideration for the ability of end users to recycle it or at least keep it out of harm’s way.  A 2011 assessmentof marine debris by the UN Global Environment Facility concluded that one cause of debris entering oceans is “design and marketing of products internationally without appropriate regard to their environmental fate or ability to be recycled…” The goals are a small step in the right direction but are far from adequate.  It is positive that the industry will take action to ensure that the plastic it puts into commerce will be recyclable or recoverable, but a 12-year timeline is far too long and suggests a lack of urgency to develop sustainable solutions. End users like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive committed in 2014 to As You Sow to make most of their packaging recyclable by 2020. The commitment does not address the crucial question of how the industry intends to ensure that plastic is recycled or recovered in all markets globally, an enormously complex and ambitious undertaking. Another concern is inclusion of the option of recoverability, which could undermine a badly needed laser focus on improvements in collection and recycling systems. Recoverability includes pyrolysis, gasification systems, and plastics-to-fuel technologies, which have yet to demonstrate their economic viability.  It is questionable whether these technologies have a place in developing a circular economy. Waste-to-energy schemes lose the embedded material value that went into the original creation of plastic. Toxic pollutants can be emitted during some energy recovery processes if they lack strict pollution controls and some result in toxic ash that requires special disposal. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy study notes that recycling one ton of plastic collected for recycling avoids emission of a ton of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas compared with a mix of landfill and incineration with energy recovery, with an estimated societal value of more than $100 per ton of plastic collected for recycling. The final commitment involves requiring all ACC plastics division members to get its manufacturing sites to participate in the next four years in Operation Clean Sweep, a long-standing industry initiative to avoid and clean up spills of resin pellets onto land and waterways during production and transport. The fact that after 25 years of operation, there are still members who do not participate, and that there’s little to no reporting of what has been accomplished over that time period, says a lot about the seriousness of this effort. If the industry wants to show real leadership to get a handle on the plastic waste engulfing our oceans and waterways, it should:

  • Remove the recoverability option from its commitment so the focus is squarely on circular economies and recycling;
  • Set aggressive recycled content goals for resin production. There’s no mention of committing to research technological barriers to including far more collected post-consumer plastics in new resin production.  If the industry wants to support recycling, it will find ways to use high levels of waste plastic in future production and then seal long-term contracts with processors, which could help provide long-term financial stability to recyclers and promote a more circular approach to plastics production;
  • Set far more aggressive timelines for making plastic recyclable and ensuring it get recycled by providing a transparent and detailed blueprint on how it intends to get there. Most importantly, this means dealing with the bottom line issue of who pays the tens of billions of dollars needed to modernize and supercharge performance of recycling systems globally. It should mean full-throated promotion (not just endorsement) of extended producer responsibility laws, whereby producers pick up most or all of the tab to make recycling systems work, or similar alternatives that are scalable and can be fully realized;
  • Pursue alternatives to “cheap” single use plastics. Plastic may not be appropriate for uses involving a 20-minute meal or drink and then waste that ends up in a landfill for longer than any of us will live.  Virgin plastic use is often promoted because it is “cheaper” to produce than recycled plastic or other materials; but these valuations rarely include the billions of dollars of annual subsidies to the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry or the cost of plastic when it degrades and becomes harmful to marine animals. The chemical industry acknowledges that the environmental cost to society of consumer plastic products and packaging was $139 billion in 2015, and is expected to grow to $209 billion by 2025 if current trends persist. So plastic is not really that cheap, is it?
The estimated plastic packaging rate is 14%; until the industry can demonstrate it can responsibly process 80% or more of the plastic packaging it and end users produce globally, it should work first with end user brands to prioritize reusable containers and alternative delivery systems that can greatly reduce the volume of single use plastics placed into commerce.   Written by Conrad Mackerron. Blog 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

Press Release

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 ____________________________________________________________________________ About #breakfreefromplastic #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. About Earthworks 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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Every Day is Earth Day: Plastic Waste Q&A with Mao Da

Plastics. From the devastating effects of plastic pollution on our oceans, to the news that plastic bottles likely pollute the drinking water they contain, plastic pollution—the theme of this year’s Earth Day—has been a highly visible issue, and we’ve seen some notable progress on fighting the plastic battle.   Pushed by NGOs and government regulations, some companies are changing the way they produce and dispose of their plastic waste. But to really begin reducing the impact of plastics on our environment and health, these efforts will have to grow across the globe. China, which is estimated to be the source of approximately 1/3 of the plastic pollutionclogging our oceans, has taken steps towards remedying its significant impact through a combination of policies and citizen-based action. The China Environment Forum talked to Mao Da, founder of China Zero Waste Alliance and co-founder of Rock Environment and Energy Institute, to learn more about how fighting plastic pollution fits in to China’s plan to be an ecological civilization. China Environment Forum: What are the largest challenges China faces in regards to plastic pollution, and what approach is China taking to overcome them? Mao Da: The problem of plastic pollution is huge—it’s not only a waste problem; it’s a natural resource problem, a production and consumption problem, and lifestyle problem. It is a comprehensive issue, and within China the scale of it is huge. It is impossible to face a problem of this scale without adequate high-level national policies that adopt a comprehensive and integrated perspective. We do have some laws and policies related to plastic pollution [the 2008 restrictions on ultra-thin plastic bags, the 2018 plastic waste import ban, the 2017 plan for mandatory garbage sorting in 46 Chinese cities, and developing plans to ban other forms of plastic waste in 2018]. However, these laws are fragmented and they haven’t managed the solid waste problem well, much less plastic waste. I think China can learn from the European Union, which is currently discussing a general policy on plastic waste. Since plastic is a cross-boundary and cross-sector issue, there is no single law, policy, or regulation pointed at one facet that can cope with this huge problem, so we similarly need a national, high-level, general policy to deal with plastic pollution. Such a policy needs to contain basic principles for dealing with plastic pollution, and these principles should be similar to those of the EU, which has a hierarchy principle system that has been adopted by many other countries as well as the UN system. 550px-Waste_hierarchy.svg This hierarchy puts source prevention as a priority, which means we need to avoid unnecessary production of plastic products. Following that is separation and recycling, and finally disposal at the bottom. In addition to a hierarchy, China needs an overall goal—that by a certain year we will reduce our plastic waste generation and use of natural resources to produce plastic by a certain amount. China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) just started the process to create a national plastic waste pollution control policy in January 2018. They established three main principles for the future policies, including:

  1. Limiting or banning some types of plastic products;
  2. Substituting some plastic products with more sustainable products; and,
  3. Regulating plastic waste recycling and disposal.
They reached out to the public for recommendations on this process, and China Zero Waste Alliance contributed advice. To a large extent, China Zero Waste Alliance agrees with NDRC’s strategy, but we also emphasize eco-design of products that are better suited for recycling and pose less harm to environmental health. We had five main suggestions regarding China’s policy planning, including:
  • the need for a comprehensive national policy;
  • a phase-out of problematic plastic products (such as plastic bags, Styrofoam, microbeads, and plastic straws);
  • a cautious approach towards integrating biomass-based plastics;
  • more financial support or incentives to support recycling; and,
  • we opposed the current renewable energy subsidy that supports burning plastic waste; this should be limited to biomass burning, not plastics.
CEF: China recently banned plastic waste imports, why? How do you think this will impact plastic waste around the world? MD: We see the plastic ban as a positive because the basic rationale behind it is to protect the environment and peoples’ health. We have suffered many years from importing the dirtiest plastic waste. The government wants to promote domestic plastic recycling and waste separation, but if the recycling industry relies on imports there’s no incentive for them to recycle domestic waste. I know there is a global impact in the short term, creating some problem such as piles of plastic waste that cannot be shipped elsewhere to be taken care of, and China’s plastic recycling industry is struggling to do business. However, the immediate benefit is that we reduce our pollution from secondary waste recycling. Beyond this, in the long term this policy pushes every country and region to create their own recycling capacity, and only when they have their own capacity will they implement stricter regulations on the generation of plastic waste, separation, and control of the recycling process. There will no longer be a way to ship waste away and these countries will now need to care more about their environment when they have to handle the recycling themselves. CEF: How can international coalitions come together to work towards reducing plastic pollution? MD: There are many things to be done across three levels—the government, corporate, and NGOs. On the government level, the most important thing is to discuss an international legally binding treaty on curbing plastic pollution. Additionally, governments should share more information and data on plastic pollution, and based on that, discuss effective ways to address the problem. On the corporate level there need to be initiatives to get multinational corporations that are plastic producers or users of plastic packaging to work together to standardize plastic material use and plastic separation and recycling. Finally, NGOs are already working together to push the government and companies to do their job, while also approaching normal citizens to be more aware of this issue. For example, China Zero Waste Alliance is part of an international network, Break Free From Plastic, and we have thus developed our three pillars of action:
  1. Change the narrative.
  2. Build zero waste city models globally.
  3. Target major “fast consumer” products to reduce their plastic waste.
Mao Da is the founder of China Zero Waste Alliance and co-founder of Rock Environment and Energy Institute. Sources: BBC, Break Free From Plastic, CCICED, China Daily, China Zero Waste Alliance, European Commission, Orb Media, Rock Environment and Energy Institute, Straits Times, South China Morning Post, WTO, Zero Waste Europe Image Credit: Waste Hierarchy courtesy of Wikimedia. Waste Container courtesy of Pixabay. Written by By . Interview originally appeared at https://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2018/04/default-post-3/

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‘Disposable-Free Dining’: Berkeley mayor proposes legislation to reduce plastic waste

Mayor Jesse Arreguín hosted an event Tuesday at Berkeley Recycling Yard to introduce legislation that deters city restaurants and cafés from using single-use plastics and foodware. About 20 community members gathered to listen to Arreguín speak in front of several mounds of plastic recyclables. The plastic in the background of the talk represented the volume of a day’s worth of single-use disposables collected in Berkeley, according to Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center, who also spoke at the event. Disposable-Free Dining, the new legislation, would require that Berkeley restaurants use reusable dishes and takeout foodware from a preapproved list of recyclables, according to a press release. In addition, vendors will charge 25 cents for every disposable beverage cup or food container provided. Other disposable utensils, straws and napkins will be provided only upon request or at self-serve stations. While there are waste-reducing legislations concerning disposable straws in Sacramento and a plastic bag ban in Alameda County, Disposable-Free Dining is the first of its kind to prohibit all types of disposable plastic materials, Arreguín said during his speech. “Many dining establishments continue to use single-use cups, plates, boxes, straws and cutlery,” Arreguín said to the crowd. “That’s why we feel it’s essential that we must create a mandate for businesses in our city to do the right thing.” Other speakers included Shilpi Chhotray, senior communications officer of Break Free From Plastic; Samantha Sommer, the waste prevention program manager for Clean Water Action; Jackie Omania, a third-grade teacher from Oxford Elementary School; and Mabel Athanasiou, Brazil Fisher-Johnson and Sam Felix Domingo, three of Omania’s students. “Most disposables are used for just a few minutes before becoming waste that lasts forever,” Chhotray said to the audience. “We are drowning in plastic.” According to Bourque, it is expensive to handle plastics because of food contamination and the sorting process. He noted that since 2013, the tonnage of plastics has risen while their prices have continued to drop. Sommer noted in her speech that she believed businesses will not lose profit through this legislation, using the ReThink Disposable campaign, which assists food establishments in implementing cost-saving practices that eliminate waste, as an example. Through this campaign, businesses saved between $1,000 to $22,000 a year, while eliminating 85,000 to 150,000 disposable pieces of plastic packaging, according to Sommer. Over the past three years, Omania’s class has reduced its waste from five four-gallon bags of waste in the span of a year to a one-quart jar. “If we 21 nine-year-olds can have a zero-waste classroom, then Berkeley can be a zero-waste community, too,” Athanasiou, one of Omania’s students, said to the crowd. Berkeley City Council referred the legislation to the Zero Waste Commission, which will continue to hold public meetings to obtain additional input. Bourque hopes that the legislation will be enacted as early as July 2019.

Contact Andreana Chou at achou@dailycal.org and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.

Written by By Andreana Chou. This article originally appeared on The Daily Californian on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at http://www.dailycal.org/2018/04/25/disposable-free-dining-berkeley-mayor-proposes-legislation-reduce-plastic-waste/

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This Earth Day, It’s Time to #EndPlasticPollution

Our oceans, river systems, marine animals, and health are being threatened by a pollutant that’s all around us, yet sometimes invisible to the eye: plastics. Whether it’s an empty bag of chips floating in a nearby stream or microplastics ingested by both humans and marine animals, plastics have become a ubiquitous and destructive commodity. As our plastics production and consumption continues to increase, the world is now faced with the growing question of what to do with our plastics problem. Scientists became aware of the damage of plastics—particularly marine plastics—in the 1950s. While our understanding of plastics’ impact has expanded since then, there have been few policy measures implemented to deal with the issue. But this year could change that. In addition to dedicating Earth Day to ending plastic pollution, the environmental community is also pressuring global and policy leaders to seriously address the plastics crisis. After agreeing in December to spearhead the fight against marine plastic pollution, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) will be organizing its first-ever meeting to discuss marine litter and microplastics at a global level. An expert group tasked with examining options for combating marine plastic litter and microplastics will meet for the first time next month, providing a policy window that could finally address the global issue of marine plastics pollution. But, as a joint statement written by the Women’s Major Group, the Worker’s Major Group, the NGO Major Group, and other organizations notes, true solutions need to be global undertakings that not only remove existing plastic pollution from our environment, but also significantly reduce plastic production and consumption. As such, we call on the expert group to consider a legally binding global framework to manage the full lifecycle of plastics. Up to 12 million metric tons of plastic leak into the oceans each year, and this rate could double by 2050 if our waste management systems aren’t improved. On top of that, more than half of microplastics remain on land, eventually flowing into land and freshwater ecosystems. Plastics also harm the health of both marine animals and humans, exposing us to toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, among other health hazards. Despite this, annual plastic production reached about 311 million tons in 2014 and continues to rise rapidly due to new developments in cheap shale gas. Given these statistics, its not enough to simply expand recycling. There needs to be a global effort to cut back on our production and consumption of plastics altogether. Right now, our waste management systems are not equipped to solve the plastics problem alone. Currently, there are no waste management mechanisms in place that could outcompete the overproduction of plastic or even clean up the amount of plastic that goes into the environment. As a matter of fact, most plastic doesn’t even end up at these waste management systems in the first place. Only nine percent of all plastic ever discarded since 1950 has been recycled, leaving the rest to get stuck in our environment for millennia. One of the major contributors to plastic pollution is packaging, especially those designed for single use. Only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. Other existing solutions like incineration, “waste-to-energy,” and “plastic-to-fuel” methods only deal with plastic at the end of their lifecycle. Our management systems are not equipped to solve the environmental impact of ever-expanding production of plastic, an equally problematic aspect of plastic’s lifecycle. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels, accounting for 20 percent of total oil consumption and 15 percent of the global annual carbon budget by 2050. And plastics expend carbon from the time they’re made to when they’re thrown away, from extraction, pipeline and refinery operations, production and conversion, to end-of-life treatment like incineration. Because of this, CIEL and our partners are pushing for a holistic approach to solving plastics—one that accounts for waste management, reverses the trend of increasing plastics in the environment, and reduces toxic exposure to humans from plastics. Tackling marine litter isn’t enough. It’s time to take true action to #EndPlasticPollution. Written by By Madeleine Simon, Communications Intern of CIEL. Blog originally appeared at http://www.ciel.org/earth-day-end-plastic-pollution/

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Global Movement Demands Elimination of  Single-use, Disposable Plastics

On Earth Day 2018

Global Movement Demands Elimination of  Single-use, Disposable Plastics

Calls on Corporations and Governments to Break Free from Plastic

Manila, Philippines (April 20, 2018) —As part of this year’s Earth Day celebrations, #breakfreefromplastic, a global movement backed up by more than 1,100 organizations, is urging  governments worldwide to restrict or eliminate the use of single-use plastics (SUPs), stressing that the unrestrained production and consumption of disposable plastics is bringing on a plastic flood of crisis proportions. Citing the lead of 36 countries and hundreds of  cities and local government units around the world that have already imposed prohibitions or levies on the use of  single-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, bottles, cups and cutlery, movement leaders pointed out that more countries and institutions are expected to follow suit as consumer attitudes change and public revulsion over plastic pollution intensifies. “The good news is that more and more countries and cities are starting to take concrete measures to move their constituencies  away from the nightmare of plastic pollution. We expect that increasing public awareness and anger on this issue will help galvanize  other governments to do the right thing by restricting or prohibiting the use and proliferation of disposable plastics, especially when practical and ecological alternatives exist. Corporations that continue to dispense single-use plastics should start seeing the handwriting on the wall and respond by designing  waste out of their products, ” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of #breakfreefromplastic. Taxing or putting levies on the use of SUPs like plastic bags or  banning them outright have proven effective in encouraging  consumers to shift to alternatives. Such policies are also compelling corporations and institutions to innovate and invest more in research on sustainable alternatives. To commemorate Earth Day, #breakfreefromplastic  member organizations around the world have initiated various activities asking corporations and governments to break free from plastic. Groups are taking “cleanups” a step further by identifying the brands responsible for plastic waste found on our beaches and beyond. The #breakfreefromplastic  Brand Audit Toolkit is now available for those who plan to conduct a cleanup and brand audit in their respective areas. Last April 18, Greenpeace International also  launched A Million Acts of Blue Toolkit which encourages individuals to push businesses, corporations, restaurants, and retailers to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics. For his part, Froilan Grate, Regional Coordinator of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific  stated that local governments must also enact more holistic, ecological, and sustainable policies that complement prohibitions on single-use plastics. “Aside from banning the use of non-essential single-use plastic items, governments should also enact complementary policies  that promote waste reduction and optimize recycling systems. In our experience, Asian cities that have embraced zero waste systems and programs have been able to demonstrate time and again the superiority of such strategies over the conventional dumping and disposal approaches,” Grate said. Earlier this year, the  European Union (EU) also adopted an EU-wide strategy on plastics as  part of the union’s transition towards a more circular economy. Under this strategy, there are plans to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030 and reduce the consumption of single-use plastics  while spurring innovations in the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. “Previous EU legislation on plastic bags has been successful in reducing plastic pollution where it has been implemented. The potential to replicate this for other products and applications is huge and should be promoted.  With the newly adopted strategy on plastics, we hope to see member states enact more policies that will curb the use of SUPs,“ said Delphine Levi Alvares, European Coordinator of #breakfreefromplastic . In the United States, Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Berkeley-based Ecology Center, said that China’s ban on plastic scrap is forcing West coast cities to find alternate solutions. He shared his organization’s experience in proposing an ordinance which will reduce use of disposable foodware in Berkeley, California. In Berkeley, we are proposing a Disposable-Free Dining ordinance to dramatically reduce our use of disposable foodware rather than trying to find new destinations for this problematic and hard-to-recycle material," Burque said. The Ecology Center runs the first curbside recycling program in the US, providing service to Berkeley residents since 1973. About #breakfreefromplastic #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. Resources: GP Press Release on Earth Day Stemming the Plastic Flood BFFP report BFFP Brand Audit Toolkit: https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/brandaudittoolkit/ Greenpeace International A Million Acts of Blue: http://www.greenpeace.org/MillionActsOfBlue Press release template: