Over 1 million people demand corporations reduce single-use plastics ahead of Earth Day
Washington, DC – More than one million people ahead of this year’s Earth Day (April 22) are demanding that the world’s largest corporations reduce their production of single-use plastic. Around the globe, over one million individuals have signed petitions, taken to stores and restaurants, and posted photos of ridiculous packaging on social media to call out corporations like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestlé, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, and Starbucks for their massive single-use plastic footprints. Greenpeace, as part of the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, is urging individuals worldwide to contribute to an additional “Million Acts of Blue”: escalating actions that push local businesses, corporations, restaurants, and retailers to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics. Ahead of Earth Day, artists have also created massive works of beach art throughout Europe calling attention to the issue of ocean plastic pollution. “We are reaching a tipping point on single-use plastics, and it is time for any corporation that cares about a healthy planet to go beyond recycling alone. Throwaway plastics continue to pour into our oceans, our waterways, and our communities at an alarming rate,” said Graham Forbes, a Plastics Campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “This Earth Day, it is time to confront the reality that we cannot simply recycle our way out of this mess. We must address the corporate addiction to single-use plastics and move in a better direction.” Greenpeace and activists around the world have taken action throughout the month of April to reject the single-use plastics that corporations sell consumers. Activities included:
Berkeley Legislation Aims to Curb Use of Disposable Foodware
New Investments in Plastic Deserve Greater Scrutiny
Industry is currently investing billions in capacity to expand plastic production. But as the world phases out fossil fuels and awareness of the dangers of plastics increases, it begs the question: Is plastic production a good long-term investment? Around the world, countries, cities, and individuals are ramping up efforts to phase out fossil fuels, but as they do so, the impacts of fossil fuel phase-out have gone largely unexamined for the plastics industry. Almost all plastics are formed from chemicals that begin as fossil fuels. As end products of the fossil fuel supply chain, plastics too will be profoundly disrupted by global efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and confront climate change. As the world grows more alarmed by the accelerating plastic pollution crisis and is taking steps to reduce — or eliminate — plastic pollution, the fossil fuel, petrochemical, and plastics companies are making huge investments in additional production capacity, especially in the United States. The shale gas boom has fueled a massive influx of investment in new and expanded plastic production capacity because it dramatically reduced the price of ethane, a by-product of natural gas production that is an important chemical for producing plastic. Investors in this plastics boom rely on two assumptions: first, that inexpensive supplies of ethane will remain readily available for the foreseeable future, and second, that demand for plastic products will continue to increase. Both of these assumptions reflect a belief that the business-as-usual scenario will continue into the future. However, they ignore the rapid pace of change in both global efforts to curb fossil fuel use and global attitudes towards plastic consumption. The predictable consequences of these changes — reduced production of fossil fuels and reduced demand for plastic products — affect the profitability (and viability) of these new proposed facilities. Even small changes in fossil fuel prices or supplies can have outsized impacts on plastic production. The changes that may occur in the fossil fuel industry, however, are far from small. Substantial evidence is accumulating that fossil fuel phase-out is already underway: The price of renewables is declining, the effectiveness of batteries and other storage options is improving, and nations, cities, corporations, and civil society organizations are making commitments to reduce emissions, produce low-carbon products, and shift their capital away from fossil fuels. These trends, among others, indicate that the transition away from fossil fuels is already happening, and those planning investment decisions over even moderate time horizons should take this transition into account. There is also growing awareness of the severity and urgency of the plastics crisis. Bans or taxes on plastic bags, microbeads, or buds (the stems of cotton swabs) are proliferating, including across nations in the Global South, where the plastics industry plans much of its future consumer growth. The United Kingdom and the European Union have both announced plans to eliminate all unnecessary single-use plastic waste over the next decades. On the international stage, the United Nations Environmental Assembly formed a working group to address marine plastic pollution, with the possibility of creating a binding, international treaty to tackle the problem on a global scale. These developments, among others, show the global community is taking the issue of plastic waste seriously, which challenges industry assumptions of unfettered growth in plastic consumption. Despite these social, political, and economic changes, the petrochemical industry has not changed course. These companies have promised shareholders and investors that these massive, expensive projects will yield high returns over the long term. They have promised local communities jobs and development. Yet the planned build-out of additional capacity may be not only unnecessary, but also financially imprudent. With these global changes underway, companies and investors should ask themselves: Does the plastics boom pose the same risks to assets that it poses to people and the planet? Originally posted by Steven Feit, Staff Attorney at CIEL. Originally appeared in http://www.ciel.org/new-investments-plastic-deserve-greater-scrutiny/
Photo Essay: Playgrounds and Pollution
ExxonMobil's Baytown Complex, as seen from a playground directly across the street.
But transforming ethane into plastics pollutes the environment and imposes public health risks on industry workers and nearby communities. Plants that convert natural gas into petrochemicals are known to emit massive amounts of air and climate pollutants, including ozone-creating volatile organic compounds (such as benzene and toluene) and nitrogen oxide. [caption id="attachment_2292" align="alignnone" width="830"] ExxonMobil in Houston[/caption]
New Report Warns of Hidden Economic Risks to Booming Plastics Investments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Washington, DC—A new report released today by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) raises new and significant questions about the economic rationale for the massive wave of new infrastructure investments in“ plastics and petrochemicals. Untested Assumptions and Unanswered Questions in the Plastics Boom highlights global changes that threaten to dramatically disrupt the plastic industry at both ends of its supply chain, fundamentally altering both the costs of plastics production and the demand for plastic products. As companies ramp up investments to create more plastic, they are banking on plastic infrastructure being profitable for decades to come. This assumes that demand for plastic will continue increasing and that plastics production will continue to be heavily subsidized by demand for the fossil fuels that supply chemicals critical to plastic production. However, the new report exposes changes in the economy, government regulations, and consumer attitudes worldwide that could make these investments much riskier than previously assumed. “The fossil fuel and plastic industries are both undergoing major disruptions but are continuing to operate under business-as-usual assumptions,” says Steven Feit, CIEL Attorney and lead author of the report. “Even as the phase-out of fossil fuels threatens to make plastics production more expensive, public pressure and government actions to limit plastic pollution are poised to reduce demand for disposable plastic in the years ahead. The industry will be increasingly squeezed from both sides: supply and demand. Investors (and communities) that don’t challenge these assumptions and demand clear answers about these projects are putting money — and livelihoods — at risk.” As fossil fuels provide the primary material for plastic production, the shale gas boom in the United States has fueled a massive influx of investment in new and expanded plastic production infrastructure. But to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement, governments around the world have agreed to phase out fossil fuels, which will make plastic production more expensive. At the same time, consumers are demanding an end to disposable plastics, governments are banning or taxing single-use plastic products, and the United Nations is undertaking an international campaign to reduce marine plastic pollution. These shifting attitudes — at every level — could mean decreased demand for plastic. “These changes raise serious questions about the industry’s mad dash to expand the fossil plastics industry when it is clear that both fossil fuel use and plastic use must rapidly decline,” says co-author and CIEL President Carroll Muffett. “We already know the planet can’t afford these new plants. The question is: Why do investors think they can?” Today’s report builds on CIEL’s Fueling Plastics research series that exposes the links between the fossil fuel and plastic industries, the massive wave of investments planned to expand plastic production infrastructure, and how long the plastics industry has known that their products pollute oceans. ### Contact: Amanda Kistler, Communications Director: firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.742.5832 Notes to editors:
“The plastic industry likes to tell a story about growing demand in Asia to justify the industry’s out of control plastic production. Far from demanding more plastic packaging, many Asian countries are instead demanding corporate accountability for the plastic pollution this industry creates, and developing innovative zero waste city solutions.”
Beyond Single Use Plastics – Rethink Plastic talkshow
Zero waste key to achieving circular economy of cities, experts say
BANDUNG, Indonesia (March 19, 2018) — Going Zero Waste is the way to go for cities. This has been the conclusion of experts and practitioners in the recently held International Zero Waste Cities Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. With the theme, “Breaking A ‘Linear’ City: Adopting Zero Waste Towards a Circular Economy,” the event gathered experts, local government leaders, and practitioners from key cities in Asia to discuss, learn, and share experiences in implementing Zero Waste programs. During the opening plenary, Flore Berlingen of Zero Waste France highlighted the importance for local governments to invest in Zero Waste programs in order to achieve circular economy. “In Europe, it is the municipalities, not the nations, that are leading the way to Zero Waste. Several hundreds of communities and cities in the EU have committed to Zero Waste and so they are moving very fast,” she said. Zero Waste is a people-centered solution to the issue of waste. It is an approach to the use of our resources which ensures resource efficiency, resource recovery, and protection of scarce natural resources. Berlingen also argued that incineration — or burning of waste — is not part of the solution to cities’ waste problems. “Incineration does not solve the problem of waste. We believe that the solution is moving towards circular economy—making our resources last longer,” she added. Jack Macy of SF Environment, City of San Francisco, USA, echoed the need for local governments to invest in Zero Waste, citing examples from his city. “Why do we have to go Zero Waste? Linear system is unsustainable; we need to move past beyond that. San Francisco has made a policy about Zero Waste. We need Zero Waste to manage waste on the landfill, to remove incineration, to promote the best use of waste management, and to increase the responsibility of consumers and producers,” Macy said. Likewise, local government leaders from the Global South like the Philippines also shared their experiences in implementing Zero Waste policies. Benedict Jasper Lagman, a city council member of the the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, Philippines, shared the experiences of his city in achieving a plastic bag ban. The city has been hailed as a model city in implementing Zero Waste programs. “We did baby steps to apply the policy on plastic bag ban. We educated people on radio and TV. We started with Plastic-Free Friday. Since 2015, we have totally banned the use of plastic bags. By now, 85% of the citizen are obeying the rules. Now we are aiming for plastic straw ban,” Lagman shared. Currently, GAIA Asia Pacific member organizations BaliFokus Foundation, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group, EcoWaste Coalition Philippines, Consumers Association of Penang, Health Care Without Harm Asia, Mother Earth Foundation, Yayasan Pengembangan Biosains dan Bioteknologi (YPBB), Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS), War on Waste Negros Oriental (WoW Negros Oriental), and Thanal are implementing Zero Waste programs in key cities in the Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Plastic Solutions Fund (PSF) is currently supporting this collaboration project - Building and Supporting Zero Waste Cities: Developing Asia Pacific Models for Leading with Solutions at the Frontlines of the Plastics Pollution Crisis - aimed at implementing Zero Waste practices in 16 cities; amplifying positive stories about Asian communities and activists involved in solutions-based organizing; and recognizing Zero Waste champions among partner city officials and waste workers. PSF is an international funders’ collaborative that aims to turn the tide on plastic pollution in our oceans, rivers, land, and air. The Fund promotes innovative collaboration among individuals and institutions, support results-oriented grant making, and provide a trusted platform for new philanthropic investment in order to prevent plastic pollution.
Global campaign challenges Starbucks to keep its promise to curb plastic pollution, create 100% recyclable cup
PRESS RELEASE, Monday, March 5, 2018
SEATTLE, WA — Today, more than a dozen leading environmental organizations announced the launch of “Starbucks: Break Free From Plastic” — a global campaign demanding that Starbucks take accountability for its contribution to the growing plastic pollution crisis. Sign the petition at:https://mobilize4change.org/st
The campaign formed ahead of Starbucks’ 2018 annual shareholder meeting, where the coffee giant is urging its shareholders to vote “no” on a sustainability proposal by As You Sow. The proposal asks Starbucks to address its plastic pollution problem by developing stronger efforts to move toward sustainable packaging. View As You Sow’s argument in favor of the proposal.
Starbucks fails on sustainability pledges
The campaign is being launched amidst a backdrop of corporate pledges to address plastic pollution, including from McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. The campaign is demanding firm commitments from Starbucks on how it will address its plastic pollution problem.
In 2008, Starbucks pledged to make a 100% recyclable paper cup and sell 25% of drinks in reusable cups by 2015. To date, Starbucks has failed to produce a 100% recyclable paper cup, and currently serves only 1.4% of drinks in reusable cups.
“Starbucks serves an astounding 4+ billion paper cups each year, most of which end up in the trash because their plastic lining makes them unrecyclable in most places. That’s a disgraceful amount of plastic pollution ending up in our local landfills. It’s time for Starbucks to start living up to its promises.” -Ross Hammond, Stand.earth
Starbucks plans massive global growth
Despite knowing its environmental impact, Starbucks has pledged to dramatically expand its presence in Asia in 2018 — with no plan to address its plastic waste. Because of this inaction, governments are being forced to step up. A parliamentary committee in the UK recently proposed a “latte levy” on single-use cups to help address the growing plastic pollution problem, and the City of Vancouver, BC is considering imposing a fee on unrecyclable, plastic-lined cups.
“Starbucks has pledged to open one store every 15 hours in China in 2018. CEO Kevin Johnson continues to turn a blind eye to his company’s contribution to our global plastic pollution problem even as the coffee giant continues to open stores at an astonishing pace.” -Sondhya Gupta, SumOfUs
Starbucks part of global plastic pollution problem
Starbucks cups, lids, and iconic green straws make up a visible portion of the catastrophic plastic pollution in our oceans. In the marine environment, plastics break down into small indigestible particles that birds and marine animals mistake for food, resulting in illness and death.
“Starbucks pioneered the global ‘to-go’ disposable coffee cup culture, and sends more than 4 billion plastic-lined cups to landfill every year — along with countless single-use plastic lids, straws, stirrers, and cutlery. We’re calling on Starbucks to make a commitment to reusability and stop contributing to our global plastic pollution catastrophe.” -Dianna Cohen, Plastic Pollution Coalition
“Americans use half a billion plastic straws every day. That’s an unfathomable amount. These plastic straws are consistently among the top items collected during beach cleanups. Starbucks’ green straws may be iconic, but this staggering amount of plastic pollution is simply unacceptable.” -Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, 5 Gyres Institute
“Each minute, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic ends up in the ocean, and by 2050, there is projected to be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. Starbucks needs to take immediate steps to #breakfreefromplastic before our global plastic pollution problem overwhelms our oceans and marine life.” -Von Hernandez, Break Free From Plastic
"Plastics are a symptom of our throw-away culture. Companies like Starbucks need to take responsibility for the harm to people and the environment that comes from irresponsible use of a material for minutes that is designed to last lifetimes. We need them to help build a culture of stewardship among consumers and businesses." -Jamie Rhodes, UPSTREAM
The campaign is calling on Starbucks to address its plastic pollution in 5 specific ways:
Create a 100% recyclable paper cup without a plastic lining.
Reduce plastic pollution by eliminating single-use plastics like straws.
Promote reusable cups and encourage customers to change their habits.
Recycle cups and food packaging in all stores worldwide.
Report publicly on the type and amount of plastics used in packaging.
The campaign includes 5 Gyres, Care2, Clean Water Action, CREDO, Greenpeace USA, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Stand.earth, The Story of Stuff Project, SumOfUs, Texas Campaign for the Environment, UPSTREAM, Hannah4Change, Captain Planet Foundation, Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, Plastik Diet Kantong, Heirs to Our Oceans, Wild at Heart Taiwan, and a variety of organizations participating under the Break Free From Plastic global movement.###