Outrage Continues at Susan G. Komen's 'Frack for the Cure' Pinkwashing Campaign
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in what seems to be getting to be a regular occurrence, it's bringing unwanted awareness to the activities of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (SGK), the behemoth of breast cancer charities, founded in 1982.
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Charges of "pinkwashing"—slapping their pink-ribbon logo on hundreds of items manufactured in their signature hot pink—reached a whole new level earlier this month when a story came out that the foundation had made a deal with Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes to launch a "Doing Our Bit for the Cure" campaign. The centerpiece of the campaign is painting 1,000 fracking drill bits hot pink and packing them with information about breast cancer which presumably the mostly male oilfield workers will devour eagerly. "Baker Hughes supports Susan G. Komen's Mission to End Breast Cancer Forever," the campaign website proclaimed.
"For the second consecutive year, Baker Hughes is donating $100,000 to support Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization," said Baker Hughes. "The year-long partnership with Komen is an extension of the company’s participation each year in the Komen Houston Race for the Cure, where Baker Hughes sponsors the Survivor Pin Celebration. This year, the company will paint and distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide. The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening and education to help find the cures for this disease, which claims a life every 60 seconds."
Fracking, of course, pumps hundreds of chemicals, many of them known carcinogens, into the environment, so many would assert that ending fracking would be a giant step forward in the campaign to "end breast cancer forever."
This Sunday, Karuna Jaggar, executive director of breast cancer charity watchdog Breast Cancer Action (BCA), will be joining other breast cancer, health and environmental advocates in Pittsburgh where they'll rally outside the Pittsburgh Steelers game from 2-4 p.m. In a bizarre clash of constituencies and yet another example of SGK's tone-deafness, Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead is scheduled to present the $100,000 check to SGK founder Nancy Brinker during the game. What will the rowdy, beer-swilling, mostly male football fans make of that? At least they'll cheer loudly for the word "breast."
"Our health is not for sale, and we’ll be saying so loud and clear in Pittsburgh this weekend," said Jaggar. "With these pink drill bits Komen and Baker Hughes have taken pinkwashing to new depths—literally. By poisoning our water, food and air, Baker Hughes is doing more to cause breast cancer than to cure it. And with its poisonous partnerships, Komen provides the perfect pink cover.”
Breast cancer, health and environmental advocates have been collecting petitions and today they delivered more than 160,000 signatures, gathered in the last two weeks, to SGK executive director Judith Salerno, urging the foundation to refuse the check, end the partnership and fight fracking.
“It boggles the mind that the Susan G. Komen Foundation would agree to shill in public for a company whose toxic fracking practices can be linked to breast cancer," said Credo campaign manager Heidi Hess. "We stand with Breast Cancer Action in asking Susan G. Komen to refuse to accept the $100,000 it earned to pinkwash fracking and get back to its core mission of raising money and awareness to fight breast cancer.”
For an organization as big, high-profile and well-funded, Susan G. Komen has a knack for getting involved in things that don't further the goal to end breast cancer—or that even clash with it—and angering potential and current contributors. The highest profile debacle was early 2012 decision to end its funding to Planned Parenthood to support PP's breast cancer screening program, egged on by SGK vice president/anti-choice politician Karen Handel on the grounds that the group was "under investigation"—a political witch hunt by a single congressional Republican. That blew up in their face, causing donations to drop 22 percent in the following year and participation in their signature "3-Day" events plummeting so much that some had to be cancelled, with half as many of the events taking place in 2014 as before the controversy broke.
But those aren't the only times SGK has attracted attention for making partnership decisions that negatively impact women's health and their ability to survive breast cancer. In 2010, the foundation was called out for its partnership with fried chicken chain KFC. The chain offered pink "Buckets for the Cure" featuring breast cancer facts, survivor stories and a pledge to donate 50 cents for each bucket purchased. It aimed to raise $8.5 million for SGK.
Barbara Brenner, then-executive director of Breast Cancer Action, said, "KFC locates its stores in the poorest communities where people have limited access to healthy food. Komen for the Cure claims to care about low-income women. Yet they have partnered with a corporation on a campaign that will severely aggravate the condition of women’s health in these communities, not improve it.”
BCA, which sponsors the "Think Before you Pink" website, pointed out that the fatty, calorie-laden, inexpensive food KFC sells appeals heavily to low-income women with high rates of breast cancer as well as obesity, which has been linked to breast cancer. It said, "KFC is currently embroiled in a suit related to their chicken’s high levels of PhIP, a byproduct of the grilling process listed on the state of California’s list of carcinogens. While there is much that isn’t known about PhI—Komen’s representative acknowledged that the NCI has not established safe or unsafe levels for its consumption—it seems both ridiculous and unethical to frame the breast cancer epidemic as something 'curable' through repeated consumption of these ingredients."
The following year, the group again caught flak for its "Promise Me" perfume, which contained galaxolide, a hormone disrupter, and toluene, a neurotoxin banned by the International Fragrance Association. While SGK responded by discontinuing the manufacture of the perfume, they did not recall the existing stocks.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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