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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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Teri Schultz
Europe is in a panic over the second wave of COVID-19, with infection rates sky-rocketing and GDP plummeting. Belgium has just announced it will no longer test asymptomatic people, even if they've been in contact with someone who has the disease, because the backlog in processing is overwhelming. Other European countries are also struggling to keep up testing and tracing.
Meanwhile in a small cabin in Helsinki airport, for his preferred payment of a morsel of cat food, rescue dog Kossi needs just a few seconds to tell whether someone has coronavirus.
<div id="bfda0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c60b1a0dedbedbe5e0ce44284aff852f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1308390775328251906" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Covid-19 dogs started their work today at the Helsinki Airport at arrival hall 2B. Dogs have been trained to detect… https://t.co/nw4mrw6eJM</div> — Helsinki Airport (@Helsinki Airport)<a href="https://twitter.com/HelsinkiAirport/statuses/1308390775328251906">1600779644.0</a></blockquote></div><p>If it were left to Kossi and his pals, crowds of potential virus carriers could be cleared in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost with none of the physical discomfort that accompanies the current nasal swab test based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method.</p>
No Human Nose Needed<p>A dog can sniff a cloth wiped on a wrist or neck and immediately identify if it comes from someone who has contracted the virus as much as five days before any symptoms appear which would lead a person to go into isolation. "A dog could easily save so so, so many lives," University of Helsinki veterinary researcher Anna Hielm-Bjorkman told DW, who says their testing has shown an accuracy level of nearly 100%.</p><p>It was originally her idea to see whether Kossi, a talented disease-detection dog, could redirect his skills in sniffing out mold, bedbugs and cancer to detecting the new virus just as it started to spread in Europe. "It took him seven minutes to figure out 'okay, this is what you want me to look out for," Hielm-Bjorkman said. "So that totally blew our minds."</p><p>Susanna Paavilainen, the executive director of the Wise Nose scent-detection foundation and the woman who saved Kossi from euthanasia in a Spanish shelter eight years ago, immediately started retraining her dogs to find the coronavirus.</p><p>Miina, who used to track a young girl's blood sugar levels by scent, quickly came on board, along with two others already working in disease detection. In all, they hope to train 15 dogs in the first phase.</p><p>Hielm-Bjorkman said once they discovered the new capabilities, while the normal academic procedure would be to test, publish and get peer-reviewed, their first instinct was to get the dogs into service. "[Researchers] who are actually publishing," she noted wryly, "are not at the airports."</p>
Wags, Not Wages<p>But for that, they needed permission and ideally, some funding. Vantaa Deputy Mayor Timo Aronkyto, who is also responsible for airport security, saw the benefit straight away. "It took me two minutes," he told DW.</p><p>However, his funding options were limited to about $390,000 total for the four-month pilot project aiming to prove that results from the dog tests are at least as accurate as the PCR test. Anyone who tests positive at the voluntary canine site is requested to go to the medical unit for confirmation.</p><p>The interest of Aronkyto, a trained physician, is rooted in both health and wealth. "Our testing at the airport costs more than 1 million [euros] (USD $1.2 million) a month at the moment," he said, explaining he expects that to go up to €3 million (USD. $3.5 million) per month in winter. "These dogs would be much cheaper," he pointed out.</p><p>He's optimistic support will grow as data from the current pilot project accumulates, explaining there is already work underway to change Finnish legislation so eventually sniffer dogs would have the same "authority" as customs dogs.</p><p>Aronkyto anticipates one animal performing both functions in the near future. He plans to continue this level of funding from his city budget into next year but that doesn't train new dogs nor expand the capacity beyond the four that split shifts currently at the airport, even as infection rates rise.</p>
Helsinki Hesitates<p>Notably, however, the Finnish government has not signaled it would like to pick up the program itself, despite a huge surge in publicity and, as Hielm-Bjorkman and Paavilainen emphasize, interest from other countries. Travelers have been eager to participate, waiting in line more than an hour at times.</p><p>Finnish ambassador in Ramallah, Palestine, Paivi Peltokoski, praised the experience after a recent trip but, apparently, her enthusiasm is not overly contagious.</p>
<div id="d9823" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61d382f115fe66a44eb793d9ebee3d94"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318564228450615299" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">I was tested negative by two #coronadogs upon arrival at the #Helsinki airport in #Finland. Later a medical test ve… https://t.co/cGlWQn8DJb</div> — Päivi Peltokoski (@Päivi Peltokoski)<a href="https://twitter.com/PaiviPeltokoski/statuses/1318564228450615299">1603205184.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"If the government would see this already as something that they would believe in," Hielm-Bjorkman said, she could envision training hundreds of dogs, stationing sniffers at concert halls or sports matches or elderly care homes. She adds there's a need for a "paradigm shift" for both medical professionals and the public.</p><p>Usually it's doctors telling patients if they're sick, she explained, and "here it's a dog handler."</p>
Little Political Will on German Project<p>This situation is not limited to Finland. In Germany researchers also <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-sniffer-dogs-show-promise-at-detecting-coronavirus/a-54300863" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced promising results</a> with canines <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-german-military-training-sniffer-dogs/a-54062180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">detecting COVID-19</a>, but no dogs have been used anywhere so far. And then, says Professor Holger Volk of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, there has been insufficient political will or funding to move the project forward, something he called "very troubling" especially with a resurgent infection rate.</p><p>"When we started this whole project, we we did it because we wanted to help to stop the pandemic," Volk told DW. "It's really has been a very frustrating ride. I have had a lot of naysayers in the whole process. If I wasn't a very determined person, having done a lot of research, I would have probably stopped it."</p><p>He agrees with Hielm-Bjorkman's assessment that "it's just not in the perception of doctors that dogs are able to do this precise work." But he also echoes her faith in the vast potential of their discovery. "If you had a dog who could sniff every day quickly your cohort of workers, for example," he said, "think about the impact. You could continue having a workplace."</p><p>Speaking of workplaces, Susanna Paavilainen is starting to think if Finland doesn't want to unleash the dogs' potential at home, she and Kossi might accept one of the many requests from all over the world to provide training. "We can move because Kossi likes warm weather," she says, petting her star sniffer.</p>
An annual comprehensive report on air pollution showed that it was responsible for 6.67 million deaths worldwide, including the premature death of 500,000 babies, with the worst health outcomes occurring in the developing world, according to the State of Global Air, which was released Wednesday.
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