An explosive new report finds that the plastics industry has misled the public for decades about the viability of recycling plastic, promoting reuse despite the fact that mechanical recycling was not feasible – perpetuating the plastic waste crisis the world faces today. “The plastics industry has ‘sold’ plastic recycling to the American public to sell plastic,” according to the report by the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), a nonprofit organization that advocates for legal action to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. In a statement, CCI claims the study, called “The Fraud of Plastic Recycling: How Big Oil and the plastics industry deceived the public for decades and caused the plastic waste crisis,” includes “evidence that could provide the foundation for legal efforts to hold fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies accountable for their lies and deception.”
Fishers, organizers, and concerned citizens in Texas, Vietnam, and Louisiana — areas that are home to existing or proposed Formosa plants — have supported each other’s efforts to mobilize against the Taiwan-based firm, forming the organization International Monitor Formosa Alliance (IMFA). Now the alliance is launching a hunger strike to demand that the victims of a 2016 environmental disaster in central Vietnam caused by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, a subsidiary of the Formosa Plastics Group, be compensated for their losses, that the polluted area be restored, and that those who have been jailed for protesting be released.
Food systems are responsible for at least 15 percent of all global fossil fuel consumption, according to a major report launched ahead of the COP28 climate summit. The analysis shows that the production, transport, and storage of food are driving greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of the EU and Russia combined. Ultra processed foods like snacks, drinks and ready meals, along with chemical fertilisers made from natural gas, are singled out as major sources of pollution. Published today (Thursday), the research comes weeks before global leaders gather in Dubai to discuss ways to limit catastrophic global heating.
In England, the government has announced plans to ban single-use plastic dinnerware, including closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam trays (commonly referred to as the brand name Styrofoam), plastic utensils and plastic plates. The announcement follows similar bans in Scotland and Wales. Scotland’s ban on single-use plastics took effect in August 2022, and Wales recently passed a single-use plastics ban in December 2022 that will take effect in fall of this year. England’s Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey confirmed the ban, noting that it would preserve the environment for future generations, as reported by the BBC. The announcement follows a consultation that ran from November 2021 to February 2022 on single-use plastics by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with results expected to be shared on January 14, 2023.
Could countries come together to find a solution to the plastic pollution crisis? International collaboration on environmental issues has a mixed track record. The Montreal Protocol successfully reduced the refrigerants and other chemicals burning a hole in the ozone layer, but the efforts of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are still not on track to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions enough to stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Now, nations are trying again with an international treaty on plastic pollution. The first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to draft what the UN is calling “an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment” took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, last week, from November 28 to December 2.
Washington, DC - Most plastic simply cannot be recycled, a new Greenpeace USA report concludes. Circular Claims Fall Flat Again, released today, finds that U.S. households generated an estimated 51 million tons of plastic waste in 2021, only 2.4 million tons of which was recycled. The report also finds that no type of plastic packaging in the U.S. meets the definition of recyclable used by either the Federal Trade Commission or the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy (EMF NPE) Initiative. Plastic recycling was estimated to have declined to about 5–6% in 2021, down from a high of 9.5% in 2014 and 8.7% in 2018. At that time, the U.S. exported millions of tons of plastic waste to China and counted it as recycled even though much of it was burned or dumped.
Louisiana - A years-long battle to stop the chemical company Formosa from building a massive petrochemical complex along the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana swung in favor of residents on Wednesday when a state district judge withdrew the air permits that the company needs to operate. The Taiwan-based chemical giant first announced its plans to build the $9.4 billion petrochemical complex on a sprawling 2,400-acre site in St. James Parish in April 2018. If approved, the so-called “Sunshine Project” would have been one of the largest and most expensive industrial projects in the state’s history. Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, celebrated it as a boon for economic development that would bring 1,200 new jobs to the region. But the project encountered swift opposition from the local community.
Of the 8.3 metric tons of plastic produced in this world to date, 6.3 billion tons of that is trash, and less than 10% of it is recycled, which has created a global crisis, not just with the environment, but our health. Microplastics — tiny pieces of plastic debris, which result from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste — are now ever-present pollutants now found to be in most places in the world, from marine life to the top of Mt. Everest, and now our bloodstreams. Plastic pollution also disproportionately affects marginalized communities and communities living near plastic waste sites. According to a report from the United Nations, polluting facilities and industries — particularly the companies drilling for the oil that helps make plastic — are often placed in vulnerable communities, who are now subject to toxins from plastic incineration as well as other hazards from disposal.
The flares started last December, an event Errol Summerlin, a former legal-aid lawyer, and his neighbors had been bracing for since 2017. After the flames, nipping at the night sky like lashes from a heavenly monster, came the odor, a gnarled concoction of steamed laundry and burned tires. Thus did the Saudi royal family mark the expansion of its far-flung petrochemical empire to San Patricio County, Texas, a once-rural stretch of flatlands across Nueces Bay from Corpus Christi. It arrived in the form of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV), a plant that sprawls over 16 acres between the towns of Portland and Gregory. The complex contains a circuit board of pipes and steel tanks that cough out steam, flames and toxic substances as it creates the building blocks for plastic from natural gas liquids.
The Earth has remained remarkably stable since the dawn of civilisation 10,000 years ago. In 2009, experts outlined nine boundaries that keep us within the limits of this steady state. They include greenhouse gas emissions, forests, biodiversity, fresh water and the ozone layer. While we have already estimated the limits for global warming or CO2 levels, scientists have not looked at chemical pollution. The wide range of different polluting sources means that, before now, experts have not been able to reach a conclusion on the state of this particular boundary. There are reportedly around 350,000 different types of manufactured chemicals - or “novel entities” as they are known - on the global market.
Bennington, VT - Plastics are on track to contribute more climate change emissions than coal plants by 2030, a new report finds. As fossil fuel companies seek to recoup falling profits, they are increasing plastics production and cancelling out greenhouse gas reductions gained from the recent closures of 65 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants. The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change by Beyond Plastics at Bennington College analyzes never-before-compiled data of ten stages of plastics production, usage, and disposal and finds that the U.S. plastics industry is releasing at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of 116 average-sized coal-fired power plants. And that number is growing quickly.
The US government has placed further delays on a proposed multibillion dollar plastics plant in south Louisiana, marking a major victory for environmental activists and members of the majority Black community who have campaigned for years against construction. The planned $9.4bn petrochemical facility, owned by Formosa Plastics, would roughly double toxic emissions in its local area and, according to environmentalists, release up to 13m tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of three coal-fired power plants, to become one of the largest pollution-causing plastics facilities in the world. The 14 separate plastic plants, spread over a gargantuan 2,300 acres of land in St James Parish, could also emit up to 15,400 pounds of the cancer causing chemical ethylene oxide.
More knowledge is being gained about and more attention is being given to the harm caused to our health and the planet by plastics, from the start of their production to their disposal as waste that doesn't ever go away. Clearing the FOG speaks with Yvette Arellano, the founder and director of Fenceline Watch, an environmental justice organization based in Houston, Texas. Yvette explains that the Gulf Coast is not only the home of the oil and gas industries, but also the plastic industries that use petroleum, and how they impact mostly Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking communities. They describe the global effects of plastics, how we can best stop them and the work to create alternatives. Once you know about the problems with plastics, you will understand that stopping their production is imperative for a livable future.
Among all the chemicals and debris that fell into our waters, what drew the most attention was the billions of Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) and Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) pellets that coated the beaches. Being lightweight and buoyant, the pellets have inundated the western and southern coasts of Sri Lanka. In due course, a regional problem of nurdles is bound to happen as ocean currents and winds speeds will continue the disperse.
All too often, the issue of plastic pollution is reduced to plastic straw bans led by clipboard-carrying college students, VSCO girls, and bracelets made with a promise of saving turtles. It conjures images of a wad of plastic grocery bags or perhaps a garbage island floating in the middle of the ocean somewhere. The problem is that plastic pollution isn’t just an issue of waste accumulation—plastics are also manufactured and often incinerated in communities where poor people and people of color are rarely consulted or alerted to the risks. Our communities are living this pollution every day and understand the connections between air, water, land, ocean, and human health in very personal and concrete ways.