New Report Reveals How Plastic Polluters Have Avoided Regulation Worldwide for Decades
By Lisa Newcomb
Analysis released Thursday of the world's top 10 biggest plastic polluters in 15 countries reveals how major corporations hide behind the veneer of corporate responsibility while actively working to thwart regulatory legislation around the globe.
"This report is a damning exposé of the tactics employed by the plastics industry and shines a welcome light on the shadowy world of corporate lobbying," Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, which supported the research conducted by the Changing Markets Foundation, said in a statement.
"For too long," said Fee, "the true cost of plastic production has been externalized, meaning plastic producers continue to get away with ecocide while waste management companies, consumers and marginalized communities around the world are left to deal with millions of tonnes of toxic plastic waste."
Out now! 📢 Our ground-breaking new report reveals the hypocrisy of the world’s biggest #plasticpolluters, who claim… https://t.co/TWutruUlqA— Changing Markets Foundation (@Changing Markets Foundation)1600326412.0
The report—titled "Talking Trash: The Corporate Playbook of False Solutions,"—exposes how Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Perfetti Van Melle, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever deploy "tactics to undermine legislation in individual countries are in fact part of a global approach by Big Plastic to ensure that the corporations most responsible for the plastic crisis evade true accountability for their pollution."
According to Changing Markets Foundation Thursday, the investigations found:
- Big Plastic is a well-organized network of organizations that fight against proven solutions to the plastic pollution crisis through similar tactics across the world
- Voluntary commitments and group initiatives from the ten biggest plastic polluters are used to distract consumers and governments, enabling polluters to continue with business as usual
- Corporations work behind the scenes to delay and derail legislation and ensure they can continue flooding the world with cheap, disposable plastic packaging
- Plastic producers have co-opted the Covid-19 pandemic and capitalized on people's fear to call for regulatory rollbacks and delays on environmental legislation
DELAY, DISTRACT and DERAIL: 3 tactics that help Big Plastic fight plastic legislation behind the scenes across the… https://t.co/f29Pc86aMj— GAIA (@GAIA)1600326036.0
"This report exposes the two-faced hypocrisy of plastic polluters, which claim to be committed to solutions, but at the same time use a host of dirty tricks to ensure that they can continue pumping out cheap, disposable plastic, polluting the planet at a devastating rate," said Nusa Urbanic, campaigns director for the Changing Markets.
"Plastic is now pouring into the natural world at a rate of one garbage truck a minute, creating a crisis for wildlife, the climate and public health," Urbanic continued. "The responsibility for this disaster lies with Big Plastic—including major household brands—which have lobbied against progressive legislation for decades, greenwashed their environmental credentials, and blamed the public for littering, rather than assuming responsibility for their own actions."
Big Plastic jumped at the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic—which has caused a surge in single-use plastic consumption—to pressure lawmakers to roll back current regulations and prevent new ones, according to the report.
Additionally, Changing Markets noted that plastic pollution has devastating effects on the environment and is a key contributor to the climate crisis.
According to the group:
"The plastic pollution crisis is a deeply interconnected climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis, and a public health crisis all combined... Plastic saturates almost every surface of the planet—from the deepest abysses to the highest mountains and remotest islands—causing an unprecedented crisis for wildlife... Virgin-plastic production is a major contributor to climate change, generating enough emissions—from the moment they leave the ground as fossil fuels, and throughout their entire life cycle—to use up 10 to 15% of our entire carbon budget by 2050 at current rates of growth. Disposal of plastics through incineration and backyard burning also contributes to climate change and creates a toxic fallout undermining human and planetary health."
The industry's contribution to the global climate emergency is nothing new, but progressive legislators continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to regulating these powerful corporations.
President Donald Trump, for example, has called climate change a "hoax," and, despite pleas from environmental advocacy groups and progressive lawmakers, many Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—as well as presidential nominee Joe Biden—still do not support the Green New Deal.
Amount of federal government subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry every year: $15 billion. The amount it sh… https://t.co/NRWQWRiw5f— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1600284448.0
Urbanic urged lawmakers to act to protect the planet.
"The voluntary initiatives and commitments by the industry have failed," she said in a statement. "Policymakers should look past the industry smokescreen and adopt proven, progressive legislation globally to create the systemic change that this crisis so urgently needs."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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