Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation South Texas shrimper who took on a multi-billion dollar corporate polluter in court and won, has received a 2023 Goldman Prize for environmental activism. Wilson’s $50 million settlement with Formosa Plastics Corp. – for illegal pollution of the bays surrounding its Point Comfort, Texas plant – is the largest monetary settlement to date in a lawsuit brought by a private individual under the Clean Water Act, according to Texas RioGrande Aid, the legal aid agency that represented Wilson. The prize money is helping fund local community efforts to slow coastal erosion, build a park, and send kids to camp.
Hundreds of activists from across Guatemala walked along the shores of the majestic Lake Atitlán in the country’s western highlands in commemoration of World Water Day on March 22. In their hands they carried white flowers, which they left floating along the shores as an offering. The ceremony was held as part of the regional meeting of water activists to mark the international day meant to bring awareness to the water crisis around the world. This meeting was hosted by the local collective Comunidad Tz’unun Ya’, which has become one of the most active water rights defenders in the Central American country.
Representatives of almost 200 nations began a meeting in Uruguay on 28 November to address the scourge of plastic pollution. At the five day-long talks, delegates in the seaside city of Punta Del Este are charting a path to the first global plastics treaty. Plastics are implicated in the multiple environmental crises the world faces. They are proving deeply damaging to marine and terrestrial life, meaning they are contributing to both the biodiversity and ocean crises. Moreover, plastics are made from fossil fuels and generate greenhouse gases throughout their life cycles. So as Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said at the start of the Uruguay talks: A plastic crisis is also a climate crisis. Plastic has a heavy carbon footprint and a heavy chemical footprint.
Plastic pollution is an international problem, as trillions of pieces of plastic have made their way into the ocean from commercial and household waste, blown from landfills and trash cans into sewers and rivers and out to sea. Marine animals can ingest and become entangled in ocean plastic, leading to sickness, starvation and death. Plastic leaches toxic chemicals and doesn’t biodegrade naturally in the environment. An inordinate amount of plastic waste has been dumped in the Pacific Islands (Te Moananui) in what is referred to as waste colonization or waste colonialism — where a disproportionate amount of plastic pollution is dumped in a region, leading to threats to the livelihoods and health of its people, a press release from The University of Newcastle, Australia, said.
New York City, New York - At Maison Jar – a new grocery store located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in New York City – silos of dry goods line one wall. Dried beans, grains, pasta, nuts, and coffee are beside bins of cooking staples like flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. A refrigerator on the wall opposite holds industrial-sized jars of olives, racks of eggs, and metal trays of fresh produce, and a freezer is stocked with plastic bins of frozen fruit and vegetables. Prepared snacks like dried mangos, wasabi peas, gummy bears, and chocolate-covered nuts fill glass jugs on the center tables. The back of the store has shelves of metal dispensers filled with oil and liquid condiments – like soy sauce and vinegar – glass jars of loose spices, and a table of multi-gallon pump bottles of laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, and other personal care products.
If you’ve ever tossed a plastic water bottle in a trash can and felt a wave of guilt wash over you, well, judging by its marketing campaigns, that’s exactly how the packaging industry planned it. Consider this recent public service announcement, where two uncanny squirrel puppets sit in a tree, watching passerby on the sidewalk and cheering when they put plastic bottles in the recycling bin. A man nearly throws a bottle in the trash (gasp!), but at the last moment, puts it away in his bag to “recycle later.” “Way to go, Mr. Brown Shoes!” one squirrel says. Then a message pops up on the screen: “Recycle your bottles like everyone’s watching.” This ad is from Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit backed by big corporations (think Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Nestlé) that’s been delivering versions of that message for more than half a century.
Toronto, Canada - This Plastic-Free July, Canadian environmental groups are calling out the top three producers of plastic in Canada: NOVA Chemicals, Dow Chemical and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil. These three companies are suing the federal government in an effort to stop the federal action plan to reduce plastic pollution. This trashy tactic is aimed at protecting Big Plastic's bottom line. "Big Plastic likes to pretend that plastic waste is someone else's fault: consumers, litterers and municipal waste management," said Karen Wirsig, Program Manager for Plastics at Environmental Defence. "But the real issue is that there's already too much plastic and the industry wants to prevent the government from doing anything about it. That's why our #1 tip to Canadians this Plastic-Free July is to tell Big Plastic to drop its lawsuit."
Plastic pollution isn't just a threat to non-human life like turtles and whales. It's also a major environmental justice problem. That's the conclusion of a new report released Tuesday from the UN Environment Program and ocean justice non-profit Azul, titled Neglected: Environmental Justice Impacts of Plastic Pollution. "Plastic pollution is a social justice issue," report coauthor and Azul founder and executive director Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš said in a press release. "Current efforts, limited to managing and decreasing plastic pollution, are inadequate to address the whole scope of problems plastic creates, especially the disparate impacts on communities affected by the harmful effects of plastic at every point from production to waste."
The new administration of US president-elect Joe Biden must resist pressure from US oil and chemical companies to use Kenya as a dumping ground for plastic waste. In April, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), members of which include Shell, Exxon, Total, DuPont and Dow, proposed investments in recycling in Kenya, provided that the recipient country accepts US plastic waste. Kenya would get about 500 million tonnes of plastic waste exports from the US per year. Until January 2018, most of the world’s plastic waste was sent to China. Beijing decided that the environmental risks were not worth it and refused to continue.
A dead manatee in Florida was found to have swallowed so many plastic bags they formed a cantaloupe-sized ball in its stomach, while a baby turtle had its intestines perforated by tiny plastic fragments. They are some of 1,800 marine mammals and turtles found to have ingested or been entangled by plastic along American coastlines since 2009, according to a report from conservation NGO Oceana published Thursday. The group's report attempts to describe the cumulative impact of plastic pollution on marine fauna in the United States in the last decade, despite growing recycling practices.
For many years, even decades, before the current global pandemic, environmental advocates have waged a war against single-use plastic. We’ve been winning that war. More and more consumers are carrying reusable bags for groceries and other shopping items, asking restaurants to use more sustainable materials for take-out containers, and using fewer plastic straws. Homeowners are even rethinking and replacing plastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in everything from home siding to piping. As with so many other things in 2020, the full-out war against plastic has abated.
In 2003 the small Japanese town of Kamikatsu set an ambitious zero-waste declaration, aiming to be 100% waste-free by 2020. The goal was to produce no trash, meaning everything from food packaging to unwanted clothing to yesterday’s newspaper should be reused, repurposed into new goods, or recycled. Now that 2020 has arrived, we can see the result: In the 17 years since establishing its goal, Kamikatsu transitioned from openly incinerating all its trash to reusing and recycling 80% of its waste. While the town made incredible progress, it ultimately fell short of its 100% goal. Its main issue? Unrecyclable plastic packaging and mixed materials still end up in the trash. As one resident explained to the AFP news agency last year, “Our lifestyle depends mainly on plastic. Consumers can reduce plastic waste to a certain extent, but we’ll still have waste if producers keep making plastic products.” The truth is, some materials simply aren’t recyclable, and only 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled.
Two Louisiana environmental activists, Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh, were taken in handcuffs and leg irons from a Baton Rouge police station to jail after they voluntarily surrendered themselves on felony charges after months' earlier delivering plastic pollution pulled from Texas waters to fossil fuel lobbyists' homes. The two posted bond and were released later the same day. “The women are accused of terrorizing oil and gas lobbyists by giving them a file box full of plastic pellets found in Texas bays near a plastic manufacturing facility owned by Formosa Plastics,” NOLA.com reports. Rolfes and McIntosh are being charged with felony “terrorizing” under Louisiana Revised Statute 14:40.1, according to their attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pam Spees. The charges carry sentences of up to 15 years imprisonment.
PENZANCE, ENGLAND – As waves crash against the art deco wall of Jubilee Pool in the one of the country’s most westerly coastal towns, Sam Dean is talking about single-use plastics. Specifically, how to wean people off them. Dean is the food and beverage manager of the Jubilee Pool Café, which calls itself a ”single use plastic free venue.” Customers will find no plastic straws, cups or cutlery here.
‘David-and-Goliath Story’ As Texas Environmental Activist Diane Wilson Wins $50 Million Judgment Against Plastics Giant Formosa
Environmental activist Diane Wilson on Tuesday celebrated the approval of a settlement with plastics giant Formosa Plastics Corp. that will see the company devote $50 million to remediating areas of the Texas Gulf Coast it polluted. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt approved the settlement (pdf), which was reached in October. "If this isn't a David-and-Goliath story, I don't know what is," tweeted Texas Tribune reporter Kiah Collier.