World's Biggest Plastic Polluters Pledge to Cut Waste by 2025
The "New Plastics Economy Global Commitment," spearheaded by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was "cautiously welcomed" by some environmental groups, who say the initiative does not go far enough to halt the planet's mounting plastic crisis.
The pledge was signed by more than 250 businesses, governments and other organizations around the world, under a vision of eliminating unnecessary and problematic plastics, as well as building a circular economy for the material. It sets a 2025 target to make 100 percent of all plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable or compostable.
The announcement was officially unveiled at the start of the fifth-annual Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The signatories—which also include L'Oreal, Walmart, PepsiCo, SC Johnson, plastics producers Amcor and Novamont, the governments of Austin, Texas, the UK, Chile and more—will report on their progress annually. Their targets will be reviewed every 18 months and will become increasingly ambitious over time.
Today we announce the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Over 250 businesses, governments and other organisati… https://t.co/f7S0emusdY— New Plastics Economy (@New Plastics Economy)1540799271.0
In a press release, UNEP head Erik Solheim called the global commitment "the most ambitious set of targets we have seen yet in the fight to beat plastics pollution."
The commitment is supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and is endorsed by the World Economic Forum and The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents about 400 retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, and 40 universities, institutions and academics.
"This Global Commitment is a step-change we urgently need in order to move from a linear to a circular economy. We want to act and lead by example. We will do our part to ensure that none of our packaging, including plastics, ends up in the natural environment," Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch.
Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Danone were recently identified as some of the world's biggest producers of plastic trash in global cleanups and brand audits organized by Greenpeace and the Break Free From Plastic movement.
"While elements of the EMF Global Commitment are moving in the right direction, the problem is that companies are given the flexibility to continue prioritizing recycling over reduction and reuse," Greenpeace Indonesia global project leader Ahmad Ashov said in a statement provided to EcoWatch. "Corporations are not required to set actual targets to reduce the total amount of single-use plastics they are churning out. They can simply continue with business as usual after signing the commitment."
"Our recent report 'A Crisis of Convenience,' reveals that 11 of the largest consumer goods companies' current plans allow them to increase their use of single-use plastics and none have set clear elimination or reduction targets," Ashov added.
Greenpeace is calling on the signatories to deliver on all of the following actions:
- Set ambitious and accountable targets to reduce single-use plastics.
- Act immediately to eliminate excessive and problematic plastic packaging.
- Prioritize investment in reuse and alternative delivery systems.
- Embrace transparency and report annually on their plastic footprint.
Oceana similarly said that "recycling and vague promises are not enough to solve the plastics crisis."
"I hesitate to even call today's corporate announcements a step in the right direction. Plastic pollution has grown into a major global crisis for our oceans, and it threatens our health. To have an impact, these companies must reduce the amount of single-use plastic at the source—in the factory—before it gets to consumers," Oceana chief policy officer Jacqueline Savitz said in an emailed statement.
"It's not rocket science," Savitz continued. "Our grandparents lived without plastic and these companies must discontinue their unnecessary use of plastic. Every company that signed the declaration should commit to a meaningful, time-bound and specific percent-reduction of the amount of plastic it is putting into the market, and to find alternative ways to package and deliver its products. A circular economy is a nice utopian idea, but this crisis is unfolding today, and we need to see meaningful commitments to end the plastics crisis these companies have created."
Pavan Sukhdev, the president of WWF International, commented that "the plastics crisis can only be solved with the combined efforts of all key players in the system."
"WWF therefore endorses the The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment as we consider it an important step forward to join the efforts of businesses and governments around the world towards system-wide solutions," Sukhdev concluded.
The Complex and Frustrating Reality of #Recycling #Plastic https://t.co/biv2TMR4WI @PlasticPollutes @PlasticOceans— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1540616418.0
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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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