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Reuse Revolution: Overcoming Barriers in Southeast Asia

Wed, 02/01/2023 - 01:50

What is going to replace single-use plastics?

This is a question that Tiza Mafira, Executive Director of Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik (Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement) posed during a panel discussion at the International Zero Waste Cities Conference in Manila, Philippines in the last week of January 2023.

Talking about overcoming barriers to mainstream reuse as a norm, Mafira emphasized the importance of showing that reuse is an already existing solution to plastic pollution and the emissions that exacerbate the climate crisis.

“If our vision is for reuse to become mainstream, we need to visualize reuse as an entire infrastructure whereby it's a circular infrastructure and the existing infrastructure is entirely used and modified and adjusted to accommodate for a reuse system," said Mafira.

Amid conversations on curbing the climate crisis and commitments on capping carbon emissions, industries have also been presenting various schemes and technologies which they claim as “solutions” to the continuous plastic pollution. Waste-to-energy technologies, waste burning, chemical recycling, and other false solutions do not address the root of the problem: unnecessary production of plastics. Simply replacing single-use plastics with other single-use materials such as paper or other bioplastics will not address the problem at source and will only perpetuate ‘throwaway culture’ thus contributing to waste pollution.

 

Reuse as a solution to plastic pollution

Reuse is not only about reusable cups and canvas bags, but entire systems that require standards, infrastructure, political will, financing, and promoting behavioral change.

Reuse systems address single-use plastics pollution by reducing the demand for single-use plastics (SUPs) and in the longer term, reducing the production of SUPs. This removes some of the responsibility from end-of-pipe waste management, to reduction of upstream use of raw materials.

If we are to conserve materials and make better use of our natural resources without wasting and causing damage to the environment, redesigning product delivery and reuse should be of high priority before resorting to recycling and waste remediation.

Source: Zero Waste International Alliance

"Reuse generates less emissions— less material extraction from the beginning and less emissions and pollution at the disposal end,” said Mafira.

 

Creating an enabling environment for Reuse Revolution

Reuse is a system and it is not a new one.

One of the common means to reuse is the refill system where consumers bring their own containers to the store then purchase products using their own reusable containers or packaging like glass bottles, jars, and reusable bags among others. Another system is returning containers to the producer through which the producer will reuse the containers to package their products.

Source: Tiza Mafira, GIDKP Presentation, January 2023

In the Philippines, Greenpeace Southeast Asia started a project “Kuha sa Tingi'' (roughly translated: taken at retail) which created a reuse and refill system in a community, bringing it closer and accessible to consumers. The project was created in partnership with the local government of San Juan city, a private company specializing in business models and scaling, a product supplier, and ten sari-sari stores  (small mom-and-pop variety stores). Product dispensers are placed in the stores and consumers bring their own containers to refill. The supplier then collects the dispensers, sanitizes them, and refills them for the stores. This makes refilling accessible to the community at price points that are more affordable than other brands sold in plastic packaging.

"Reuse and refill will apply in different contexts but what we found is that in order to scale, we need investments and that should come from the corporations that are producing these wastes and causing plastic pollution,” said Marian Ledesma, Zero Waste Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines. “At the same time, governments have to enable them, compel these polluters to invest and shift to refill and reuse."

In Indonesia, Enviu’s Zero Waste Living Lab partners with restaurants and provides them with returnable food and beverage packaging through Allas, a returnable packaging service. Customers can get their meals in returnable packaging and these containers are collected from the customer, sanitized, and reused. Meanwhile, Koinpack partners with fast moving consumer goods companies to provide consumers with the products in returnable packaging. Consumers enjoy a cash back incentive each time they return a Koinpack packaging. These ventures keep the packaging in the loop through reuse and refill systems.

"The demand of the customers is there and consumers are receiving and accepting the system when it is accessible,” said Darina Maulana, Program Lead at Enviu. “Behavior change is [affected] in two ways—in the operation's feasibility and also the market. The operation needs to be available for the market to use and also convenient and contextual [for the market] to use.”

Reuse is already part of the culture in zero waste cities and communities. We are seeing that incentives can shift behaviors towards reuse. However, industry regulations, enabling policies, and public-private partnerships must work together to truly enable a reuse revolution to happen. Collaboration among the government, private sector, and communities can provide models for solutions and scale the existing samples of reuse systems which further demonstrate that Asia is a home of solutions.

How reuse systems would look like may not be the same everywhere in the world but the result of reuse systems will be felt through a significant reduction in single use plastics production and waste.

The "Reuse Revolution: Breaking Down Barriers in Southeast Asia" panel discussion is part of the International Zero Waste Cities Conference 2023 organized by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Asia Pacific on 26-27 January, 2023 in Quezon City, Philippines. The conference gathered Zero Waste experts, practitioners, government officials, and community leaders to share expertise and experiences for impactful solutions to plastic pollution and the climate crisis. 

 

COY 17 - Reddy for climate action!

Fri, 01/13/2023 - 05:08

The 17th U.N. Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY 17) - held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, is the youth precursor event to COP27, organised by YOUNGO, the official Children and Youth Constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This event aimed to serve as a capacity building forum for knowledge and cultural exchange to prepare youth for inclusion and participation at COP 27.

I am Taylen Reddy, a 22-year-old intersectional climate activist from Durban, South Africa. In May 2020, right at the dawn of the covid-era, I founded Zero Waste Durban. We are a non-profit organization working towards establishing sustainable solutions to the plastics and waste crisis in Durban with the inclusion of pushing for corporate accountability and implementation of regulatory policies. I am also a 2022 Global Youth Ambassador for Break Free From Plastic, having attended COY 17 with support from the amazing people at BFFP. Zero Waste Durban was recently registered as a core-member of Break Free From Plastic!

I had high expectations for COY, expecting to learn a lot about sustainable solutions and ways that we, as public citizens, can do our part towards meeting the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). I was also, however, cautious of Greenwashing that could take place, as it does happen so often at large events such as this – especially with Coca-Cola, the number one plastic polluter in the world as a sponsor of COP 27. My main aim was combating false solutions to the plastic crisis such as sessions held at the conference by a recycling company with the largest facilities in the MENA region – promoting recycling as the main solution while boasting about their sales of recycled bottles to the world’s biggest plastic polluters. My greatest experiences at COY 17 came from networking and meeting new people from all over the world, many of whom were familiar with BFFP and the work we do to call out the top polluters. I feel that I gained a lot of experience at public speaking and interacting with like-minded people, as well as people with a different outlook on certain issues. I was interviewed by a professor at a Swedish university as part of a research project where I detailed INC-1 and the Global Plastics Treaty, highlighting the importance of it and the link between plastic production and climate change – from the extraction of fossil fuels to produce the plastics, right until challenges with the disposal of most plastics.

Participants engaging in a session titled “Why is plastic a concern?”

One of the biggest issues I had with the event was the prominence of plastics – found everywhere, from the food that was sold to attendees (sandwiches, wraps and salads) all packaged in single use plastics, to beverages sold in PET bottles and coffee in cups with plastic lids. There were also a few planning issues, where some sessions were cancelled or postponed and the new venues were not made clear to participants, causing confusion.

Overall, the conference was great for getting groups of young leaders from all over the world actively engaged in discussions regarding the climate crisis. It also brought people from many different cultures together, giving them a space to share their experiences and knowledge so we can all fight towards the same goal – climate justice!

Young leaders engaging in discussions on the COY 17 main stage

Upon arriving back in Durban, I was thrown into the chaos of preparing for the BFFP Global Day of Action and release of the 2022 Brand Audit Report. COY17 gave me a fair outlook of what to do (and more importantly, what not to do) when planning a large event as Zero Waste Durban hosted a ‘Trashiversary’ Party and return to sender action for Coca-Cola – who were about to be named the world’s top plastic polluter for the 5th year in a row. You can read more about our event in an upcoming blog post by BFFP Senior Ambassador, Rafael Eudes.

Member in the Spotlight: Friends of the Earth Georgia

Fri, 12/30/2022 - 08:58

Hello! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your organisation? 

My name is Davit Sidamonidze, and since 2011 I have represented the Greens Movement of Georgia/Friends of the Earth-Georgia, based in Georgia (Caucasus - not the United States). The Greens Movement of Georgia is an organisation aiming to protect the environment, human and ethno-cultural surroundings according to the principles of sustainable development; to end the technocratic and utilitarian treatment attitude towards nature; to establish ecologically safe technologies; to build solidarity and peace between people, and in particular to build an ecologically and socially sustainable society.

We are a non-profit organisation that deals with a broad range of environmental issues and we implement our mission through campaigns and practical activities, public information and involvement, policy making and lobbying. Established in 1989, the Greens Movement of Georgia is one of the largest and oldest environmental organisations in Georgia with 41 local groups throughout the country and more than 1200 members!

Why are you working on the topic of plastic pollution? 

Plastic pollution is really problematic in Georgia, it is a serious challenge. With the absence of effective local legislation, the state has only managed to pass regulations that affect cellophane. Despite numerous initiatives, Georgia still doesn't have infrastructure for separate waste collection. Unfortunately, an extended producers responsibility scheme (EPR) on packaging materials (of which 80% is plastic) has not yet been introduced, so companies do not have to take responsibility for the costs of managing the waste associated with their products or packaging. Because of this, there is plenty of reason to be motivated to fight for better legislation on plastics in Georgia!

 

Tell us about your ongoing campaigns and what you focus on in your work. 

Since 2010, we have carried out several campaigns, such as "Let's clean up Georgia"; "Keep Georgia Tidy"; "Blue Stream"; and "Clean Region". And we have learnt so much through our membership with Break Free From Plastic.

You were part of the delegation at COP27 in Egypt. What were your impressions? 

Despite the fact that almost everything in the venue was wrapped or contained in plastic and many big plastic polluters were financing the event such as Coca-Cola, COP27 did end with a significant breakthrough for developing nations. A special Loss and Damage fund in which countries responsible for high carbon emissions compensate countries suffering from climate impacts was established. This was a milestone which we greatly celebrated! Yet it should not detract from the many other climate issues that further entrench losses and damages in developing nations.

The fact that the outcome only talks about the ‘phasedown of unabated coal power’ is a disaster for Africa and for the climate. For a possibility of a just and rapid energy transition, oil and gas must also be phased out, swiftly and fairly. This small word, ‘unabated’, creates a huge loophole, opening the door to new fossil-based hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects, which will allow emissions to continue to rise. We wish to see more actions and, at the very least, discussions about plastic during future COPs.

 

The negotiations for a binding Global Plastics Treaty are kicking off. How have you been involved so far? Why should the BFFP/its members put a particular focus on it?

Though we were not yet fully involved in the preparation of the first Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, with support from BFFP members, European Investigation Agency, we did succeed in pushing our government to take an active role in the process. Break Free From Plastic has paid particular attention to it because the nature of the treaty provides a unique opportunity to push for ambitious measures that actually prevent further plastic pollution. And it is with the action of civil society such as Break Free From Plastic, that puts pressure on governments to ensure we can't achieve ambitious goals.

 

What is the most outlandish statement, argument or activity you have seen or heard of in connection to plastic that you think everybody should know about? 

There is a strange saying that has been established in Georgia for years: "you have to put garbage in the river and the water will take it away". This coupled with a strange Georgian tradition established during the Soviet era where all landfills were placed on the banks of the river, has created and still creates a serious problem. We have been fighting these norms very effectively in recent years with our campaigns and will continue to do so!

 

Nature’s Buddy and the 300+ volunteers against plastic pollution in Himalayan region of Uttarakhand

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 23:44

One who thinks about the Himalayas will have a pristine image of snow mountains, meandering streams, vast green alpine meadows with dotted pine trees. But due to the increase in their tourism industry, the immense beauty of nature and biodiversity is affected slowly.

A study published in The Journal for Nature Conservation reported an alarming presence of plastics and other materials were found in elephant dung from the forests of the state of Uttarakhand¹. This is the first documentation that provides proof that elephants in that region of India are ingesting non-biodegradable, toxic anthropogenic plastic wrapped in discarded food waste, which is moving to their digestive systems. Additionally, According to the main author of the study, the dung samples collected in the protected areas contained nearly twice as many plastic particles compared to the samples from the forest edge. It proves that along with ingesting plastic waste, it is carried deep in the forest and can be a danger to other animals from the food chain.

In this Member Story, we're featuring Abhishek Rawat, a BFFP Youth Ambassador, who is the founder of youth based NGO Nature's Buddy. The organization is working to protect the environment, wildlife, and bring socio-economic changes in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand. They are a team of 12 core members and 300+ volunteers which are called Buddies across Uttarakhand. The goal of the organization is to work on environmental and socio-economic issues and communicate results. To promote public education, awareness, and actions on environmental aspects and sustainable development.

“We all youth are born and brought up in mountains and witness the immense beauty since childhood, but due to rapid increase of plastic waste we are losing our mountains and environment. So, our main objective is to target brands who are responsible for polluting our pristine mountains through brand audit and urge them to collect their waste from mountains through grassroot mechanisms and redesign alternative eco-friendly packaging for their products.” explains Abhishek.

Photo credit: Nature’s Buddy

Key results from Nature’s Buddy activities are: 1) Make our volunteers and local people aware about the negative impact of plastic in our environment and lifestyle. 2) Explain about the false solutions of brands, what they say and what they actually do. 3) Elucidate about new EPR law policy which is implemented on 1 July 2022 in India. 4) Guarantee that the top polluter brand got in pressure after knowing about the actions campaign of brand audit conducted by volunteers through active participation.

In August 2021, the Indian federal government amended the ban on manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items that are considered low utility and have high littering potential. In February 2022, the Indian federal government also released guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which is the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life. Both these amendments are effective July 1, 2022.

This 2022 is Nature’s Buddy second Brand Audit campaign year with Break Free From Plastic. With the help of 238 youth volunteers, the organization audited more than 7000 items across Himalayan region of Uttarakhand. According to the survey, the most common type of waste were plastic wrappers, small plastic sachets, plastic bottles, straws and many more. PepsiCo and Haldirams were the top-polluted brands. The team was able to collect, manage, and personally handover the waste to their respective headquarters after traveling 350 km distance. The organization stated, “We urge the brands to collect their waste from mountains and also to redesign alternative eco-friendly packaging”.

Abhishek shared his visions on the participation of youth to protect the environment: “for us volunteers are Youth who are our future generations. They are aware of how plastic is harmful for the environment and how it is directly affecting our lifestyle. Engage them in different activities, provide them leadership, encourage them through advocacy, education, research and action programs”. Regarding how the volunteers feel about participating in the brand audit, Abshishek says: “They feel great. For them, it was something new. Love to see how dedicatedly they work in each and every campaign.”

Photo credit: Nature’s Buddy

To keep updated about the Brand Audit campaigns Himalayan region of Uttarakhand, follow Nature’s Buddy on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Are you a teacher and want to learn more about how to integrate Plastic-free Education Curriculum into your own lesson plans? Break Free From Plastic is launching their first ever training program for educators.

Learn more about the map for science-integrated Plastics Education for Teachers.

Young people aged from 15 to 24 represent 16% percent of the global population, and are dealing with a plastics crisis that they did not create. To learn more about how the youth are taking action towards lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, check the BFFP Youth page.

 

Sources:

¹Gitanjali Katlam, et al, Plastic ingestion in Asian elephants in the forested landscapes of Uttarakhand, India, Journal for Nature Conservation, Volume 68, 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2022.126196.

²Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Ban on identified Single Use Plastic Items from 1st July 2022. Available on: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1837518. Accessed on 07 December 2022.

 

Youth Ambassador from Brazil face off two biggest brand audit polluters

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 18:34

With an industry that produces 500 billion single-use plastic items annually in the country, the need to transition into new distribution models is urgent¹.

During an event in São Paulo, Brazil, that took place on June 10th, 2022, one of the Break Free From Plastic Senior Youth Ambassadors, Maria Eduarda, was invited to represent BFFP visions and the impacts of the companies related to the plastic waste. Procter & Gamble and Nestle, two of the biggest top polluters – the fourth and fifth according to the 2021 Brand Audit report – were present.

Recently, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation released the Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report, showing that companies responsible for 20% of all plastic packaging produced annually will “almost certainly” not meet their own voluntary target of using plastic packaging that is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable by the year 2025. It was also reported that there is an overall increase of virgin plastic use in 2018². Wrapping up their products with disposable plastic, the top polluter companies need to be accountable for all of the waste created.

Marcelo Rocha was also one of the panelists to represent the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a core member of BFFP. Their report, “Plastic Atlas” indicates that at least 70% of all items in the beaches of Brazil are plastics.³

Photo credit: @milamaluhy / @encontrolixozerosp

Procter & Gamble presented their target of changing 100% of their packaging products to be recyclable or reusable by 2030, and reducing 50% of the virgin petroleum plastic in consumer packaging. The company's virgin petroleum consumption has increased 3% since 20174. To be up to date with the National Solid Waste Policy in Brazil, the company offsets the generated waste through extra remuneration of local cooperatives. From the possibilities presented, none of them specify targets to implement reduction and replacement systems.

Nestlé also presented their targets: 100% of every package to be reusable or recycled until 2025. The presented goals of the company were: redesigning packaging, supporting circular infrastructure, and raising awareness of consumers. However, they did not show any percentage of progress to achieve the target of effective reusable or recyclable packaging in the market, and the amount of investment in the circular infrastructure. Although raising awareness of consumers is important, achieving a circular economy in packaging materials should be prioritized. The company also takes advantage of plastics credits, offsetting the waste for every package produced in Brazil. Plastics credits certificates do not guarantee that the companies’ products are effectively recycled. Also, the company slogan uses the term “regeneration”, but no evidence was shown to prove that the company’s economic activity might produce a positive impact in the environment rather than a negative impact.

Photo credit: @milamaluhy / @encontrolixozerosp

Maria, a young activist from the city of Florianópolis, presented her reality of plastic pollution since childhood: “My generation was born in placenta that contains plastics, and we used diapers based on plastic, our toys were based on plastic, our food used cutlery based on plastic, the first birthdays parties and gifts were based on plastics, and when we grew up, the sanitary pad was made of plastic”. “It is a responsibility of mine and the other generations to rethink about how we can remediate the problem and redesign the whole system, taking into consideration all the impact of plastics on the environment.

Maria expressed her frustration after the event, saying, “If corporations have been doing sustainable practices for a long time, then why are we here now? Why do we have this problem? It is difficult to scale up solutions but if they have been doing it for a long time, why haven’t they come up with a solution yet?”

Looking at Nestlé's global updates on the Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report, the company declared that only 1% of all products or packaging are designed for reuse models, which is far from the 2025 target of 25%. P&G is not a signatory of the global commitment. Since it is observed that companies are failing to achieve their own commitments, there is an urgent demand for governments to ensure a global plastic treaty to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at a global scale.

Photo credit: @milamaluhy / @encontrolixozerosp

If you want to learn more about the panel, check the recording of the presentation (in portuguese).

 

Are you a teacher and want to learn more about how to integrate Plastic-free Education Curriculum into your own lesson plans? Break Free From Plastic is launching their first ever training program for educators.

Learn more about the map for science-integrated Plastics Education for Teachers.

 

Sources:

¹ Iwanicki, Lara. Um oceano livre de plástico: desafios para reduzir a poluição marinha no Brasil. 1. ed. Oceana Brasil. 2020. Available at: https://brasil.oceana.org/relatorios/um-oceano-livre-de-plastico/

² Global Commitment 2022. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Available at: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/global-commitment-2022/overview.

³ ATLAS DO PLÁSTICO. Fatos e números sobre o mundo dos polímeros sintéticos. Fundação Heinrich Böll. November 2020. Available at:https://br.boell.org/pt-br/atlasdoplastico.

4 Proctor & Gamble. Sustainability. Available at: https://www.pginvestor.com/esg/environmental/plastic-packaging/default.aspx#plastic_packaging_goals.

 

Break Free From Plastic Youth and BFFP Plastic-free Campuses is supported by:

 

 

How Can the Chinese Retail E-Commerce Industry Undergo Green Transformation?

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 18:16

On August 18, 2022, at the launch of the Green E-Commerce Initiative in Hangzhou, China, BFFP member organization Plastic Free China released the "Green E-Commerce Action Guide: Addressing the Environmental Impacts of Retail E-Commerce in China," together with Hangzhou E-Commerce Association (HZECA), SEE Foundation, Alxa SEE Jiangnan Project Center, Toxics-Free Corps, Naturefields, All-China Environment Federation, SynTao-Sustainablity Solutions, Return Wild, Carbon Stop and Mio Tech. This report systematically presents alternative paths for retail e-commerce companies to participate in green initiatives.

Green E-Commerce Action Guide: Addressing the Environmental Impacts of Retail E-Commerce in China

The report analyses the environmental impact of e-commerce retailers and offers corporate action recommendations for multiple environmental impact dimensions by incorporating domestic and foreign policy trends and best practices. The report presents several solutions for corporations to enhance environmental responsibility and play a more active role in China’s low-carbon green transformation.

Details of the report shared by Zheng Xue, Director of Plastic Free China

Firstly, the report suggests that e-commerce retailers set carbon emission reduction and neutrality goals encompassing Scope 1 to Scope 3, starting from data centers, office buildings, logistics and transport, packaging, and warehouses. Retailers should work out the pathways and timetables for emissions reduction, given that Scope 3 emissions represent the largest part of the overall carbon emission of the retail e-commerce sector.

 

Overview of GHG Protocol scopes and emissions across the value chain. Source: WRI/WBCSD Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard (PDF)

Secondly, e-commerce retailers should reduce packaging waste and develop business models and operations based on reusable packaging.

Thirdly, the report recommends that e-commerce retailers take a two-stage approach to chemicals management. In the first stage, they should ensure that the products sold on the platform meet relevant national standards. In the second stage, they should exceed beyond regulatory compliance toward better protection of consumers’ rights and interests.

In addition, e-commerce retailers ought to develop internal governance mechanisms to remove all wild animals and plants protected by national regulations in their products, in addition to medicines, wildlife equipment, invasive species, and other products that threaten biodiversity.

Lastly, e-commerce retailers must fulfill their primary responsibility for environmental governance by taking initiative to remind consumers to prevent food waste and provide the means to assist them in doing so.

 

It is necessary for Chinese e-commerce corporations to take action.

In the past 20 years, China's e-commerce industry has experienced rapid development. China's online shopping has reached 782 million users, accounting for 79.1% of the overall Internet users. By 2020, China's online retail sales of goods had accounted for about a quarter of the total retail sales of public consumption goods. Online shopping has become an important channel for Chinese residents' consumption.

 

China's e-commerce industry emits huge amounts of carbon.

However, the rapid development of e-commerce has created significant carbon emission and environmental degradation problems. The total carbon emissions of Chinese e-commerce companies were 53.26 million tons in 2019, or 2.5% of the tertiary (service) industry's overall emissions, according to the Research Report on Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Chinese E-Commerce Enterprises. Additionally, the total carbon emissions from e-commerce are expected to rapidly expand over the next five years, reaching 116 million tons in 2025 at a growth rate of 73%. Without significant action, by 2025, China's emissions from the e-commerce industry will comprise one-fourth of the country's total emissions.

Source: Statistia

Chinese e-commerce industry still falls short in addressing action to reduce carbon emissions.

Compared to other e-commerce fields such as education, health, and so on, the retail field, as the largest total value e-commerce sector, should exert industry leadership and lead the e-commerce industry's green transformation. Chinese e-commerce retailers have launched some carbon emission reduction or green transformation initiatives addressing various environmental issues in recent years. This includes data center energy conservation and emissions reduction, renewable energy procurement, and advocacy by online delivery companies to reduce single-use utensils, e-commerce packaging reduction, and the trial of reusable boxes.

However, these actions are scattered, taken by individual companies on various issues, and they need more target guidance for an industry-wide green transformation. When faced with climate change, resource extraction, and biodiversity loss in our time, current e-commerce retailers' strategies and actions are insufficient to meet the long-term requirements and demands of national regulations, capital markets, and consumers.

 

It is time for e-commerce corporations to take significant actions to respond to these challenges. Hopefully, Chinese e-commerce corporations will follow the recommendations of the report to undergo green transformation.

 

We are now plastic farmers

Fri, 12/09/2022 - 16:45

Plastic waste exports can have catastrophic impacts on the environment and human rights, especially the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Plastic waste ends up polluting water, contaminating air, and harming the health of people already facing poverty and marginalization. This is a terrible environmental injustice!”

~ Dr David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

 

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was passed - a milestone document which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being, irrespective of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

In 2022, 74 years later, 161 countries at the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a human right.

Yet, vulnerable communities globally continue to face injustice as a result of plastic waste mismanagement and pollution.

Millions of tonnes of plastic waste are traded globally every year. Several reports show that exported plastic waste often ends up in landfills, is burnt or incinerated as fuel, or is discarded into waterways. This has serious implications for the health and wellbeing of communities living at the fringes of dumpsites or factories, workers in unauthorised plastic waste recycling facilities, as well as the environment.

Here are personal stories of individuals and communities, the disproportionate costs they bear due to waste colonialism, and how their rights to health and a healthy environment have been violated.

 

Malaysia

In January 2018, China implemented its National Sword Policy to stop most plastic waste imports. Between January and July that year, Malaysia, a tiny country flanking the South China Sea, imported nearly half a million tonnes of plastic waste. What happened, and who is bearing the true costs of this reckless economic move?

 

Quote Source: The Recycling Myth report, Greenpeace Malaysia, 2018. Quote Source: Lay Peng Pua, Kuala Langat Environmental Action Association.

 

Indonesia

Rural communities in Indonesia who worked in lush-green maize and paddy fields not so long ago, have turned to waste work today. Places like Kragilan and Bangun village in East Java have become dumpsites, where plastic scraps shipped along with waste paper imports are discarded or incinerated.

Sifting through plastic scrap has become a community-level cottage industry. Waste pickers and communities living around recycling factories constantly breathe in toxic fumes generated by burning plastic. These images are from Bangun, East Java, Indonesia.

 

Quote source: DISCARDED: Communities on the Frontlines of the Global Plastic Crisis report, by GAIA. Image credits: Fully Syafi/ECOTON.

 

Image credits: ECOTON.

 

Turkey

As awareness increases in some countries across Southeast Asia and restrictions on plastic waste imports are implemented, Turkey has become Europe’s plastic waste destination.

This resulted in a surge in illegal disposal methods: dumping and burning of imported garbage has been reported in İzmir and İstanbul, with much of the activity centred in Adana. The recent influx of EU plastic waste imports also contributed to the growth of the plastic recycling sector, harming the health of workers and nearby communities.

In the past 16 years, there has been a 241-fold increase in plastic waste importation to Turkey - the soil, air and water around dumping sites bear testimony to the chemical poisoning caused by burning plastic waste.

 

Image credits: Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace (via Basel Action Network on Flickr - CC BY-SA-NC), Human Rights Watch. Quote source: “It’s as if they’re poisoning us”: the health impacts of plastic recycling in Turkey, Human Rights Watch.

 

The Philippines

In 2014,  the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a “Fifteen-Point Human Rights Agenda” to uphold “the people’s right to chemical safety” which “acknowledges that trade of toxic wastes, products and technologies, collectively toxic trade, also forms a disincentive towards attaining Zero Waste resource management.”

Human rights defenders have organised protest rallies to defend their right to a healthy environment, drawing attention to the fate of mixed plastic trash being dumped in the country, and even ensuring the repatriation of more than 100 shipping containers back to Canada in 2019 and South Korea in 2020.

Image 1 credits: courtesy Greenpeace Philippines and EcoWaste Coalition, first published in the report: Waste trade in the Philippines: How local and global policy instruments can stop the tide of foreign waste dumping in the country, March 2020.

 

Image 2 and 3, and quotes: Chinkie Peliño-Golle

 

Who is responsible?

Perpetrators of waste colonialism must be held accountable for these human rights abuses. The adverse impacts of waste trade on human rights is faced disproportionately by developing countries - to better protect these communities, PLASTIC WASTE TRADE MUST STOP!

"We are in the midst of a worldwide plastics crisis. International waste trade creates an illusion of proper recycling, when there is actually a geographical shifting of the plastic waste problem, affecting the rights of the most vulnerable.

A human rights-based approach calls for a vision of plastics policy that aligns with scientific evidence, centres on principles of non-discrimination, accountability and informed participation and gives special attention to the needs of people in vulnerable situations.

Strict controls must be instituted to prevent further pollution and to hold plastics and chemical producers accountable for the damage already caused, including remediation and compensation.Safeguarding the human rights of present and future generations that are compromised by the growing toxification of the planet demands that the international community reverse the plastics crisis.”

Dr Marcos A. Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights.

 

What can we do?

This World Human Rights Day, there are glimmers of hope.

Communities impacted by the negative impact of plastic waste imports from Asia, Africa and Latin America have called for an end to the practice. Countries have tightened controls in attempts to stem pollution from plastic waste imports, while Thailand plans to phase out all imports by 2025.

On December 1, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted to set a ban on EU plastic waste exports to OECD and non-OECD countries, as part of the revision of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. The European Parliament Plenary will have to confirm these measures in another vote, followed by the Council.

Keep up the pressure to ensure the export ban gets confirmed, and that the final decision includes stronger measures against waste dumping within the EU - send this letter to European embassies in your country!

You can also help raise awareness about what’s wrong with plastic waste exports, or better still, sign our #StopShippingPlasticWaste petition!

 

FURTHER READING/RESOURCES:

THAILAND, MALAYSIA & INDONESIA

Discarded - Communities on the frontlines of the global plastic crisis - Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

MALAYSIA

The Recycling Myth: Malaysia and the Broken Global Recycling System - Greenpeace Southeast Asia

THE RECYCLING MYTH 2.0: The Toxic After-Effects of Imported Plastic Waste in Malaysia - Greenpeace Southeast Asia

INDONESIA

Plastic Waste Flooding Indonesia Leads to Toxic Chemical Contamination of the Food Chain, IPEN, Nexus3 Foundation, Arnika Association and ECOTON

PHILIPPINES

Waste trade in the Philippines: How local and global policy instruments can stop the tide of foreign waste dumping in the country, Greenpeace Philippines and EcoWaste Coalition, March 2020

TURKEY

“It’s as if they’re poisoning us”: the health impacts of plastic recycling in Turkey, Human Rights Watch

Game of Waste, Greenpeace Mediterranean

First Global Plastics Treaty Intergovernmental Meeting Concludes With a Mix of High and Low Points

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 15:41

Punta del Este, Uruguay – The first intergovernmental committee meeting (INC-1) for an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded today with a mix of high and low moments, setting the stage for a two-year-long process that could result in one of the most significant multilateral environmental agreements in history. 

Positive outcomes included demands calling for reductions in plastic production and use, eliminating toxic substances associated with the plastic life cycle, protecting human health, and need for a just transition, backed by many member States and even two of the worst plastic polluters, Nestle and Unilever. The participation from member States from Latin American, the Caribbean, African, and Pacific nations–especially small island developing states–was particularly notable, bringing a strong voice for urgency and high ambition in these treaty negotiations. 

Additionally, a diverse coalition of civil society members and rights-holders provided vital expertise and typically underrepresented perspectives across the full plastics lifecycle. In particular, the leadership of waste pickers resulted in the launch of the Just Transition Initiative (building upon its earlier iteration as the Group of Friends of Wastepickers), which will ensure their representation at future INCs and bring visibility to more than 20 million people who work as waste pickers worldwide.

Unfortunately, one of the most contentious topics, the adoption of the Rules of Procedure, a document that will determine how States and organizations can engage in future negotiations, has yet to be finalized and was moved to INC-2 in May, 2023. The outstanding issues include whether EU Member States will each have a vote or whether they will be treated as a single bloc during voting, and whether decisions should only be arrived at via consensus. To many observers, the latter seems to be a ploy to weaken strong measures that could be adopted to reduce plastic production. 

Additionally, precious negotiation time was spent discussing the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, a roundtable discussion organized a day before the start of the negotiations to deliver a report to the INC, despite the fact that it is not included in the mandate to develop the treaty and the entire enterprise appears to be an effort to divert and prevent the voices of civil society and rightsholders from direct and more meaningful forms of participation in the treaty development process. As a result, BFFP members demanded that the INC design a negotiation process that facilitates meaningful access for rightsholders and recognizes the critical role of civil society groups such as Indigenous Peoples, scientists, workers from formal and informal sectors, trade unions, and climate-vulnerable and frontline communities in bringing valuable experiences to all aspects of the process and the future instrument. 

During the first few days of negotiation, advocates expressed concerns about the presence of leading corporate polluters  in the negotiation process and the lack of transparency from UNEP on how many of them are hiding behind NGO badges. Stakeholders who participated in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control advocated strongly for the exclusion of the plastics industry in negotiations, building   from their success in excluding perpetrators from tobacco negotiations, which resulted in a stronger and more effective framework.

In terms of future INC venues, country delegates agreed to host the next INC-2 exclusively in-person in Paris, the week of May 22nd, 2023 as long as visas can be issued to all negotiators of  Member State delegations  at least two weeks in advance of the meetings. Otherwise, the meeting will be moved to Nairobi. 

Today after the conclusion of INC-1, the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement launched a global petition which includes essential elements for the treaty to effectively reverse the plastic pollution crisis.

Break Free From Plastic members react to the end of the Plastics Treaty INC-1:

Maddie Koena, the South African member of the delegation of International Alliance of Waste Pickers (South Africa), said: 

“It’s been good this week to see such widespread recognition of the vital role we waste pickers play. Now countries need to design the treaty with our livelihoods and human rights in mind.  Personally I’m very pleased to see my country of South Africa leading the way on this, alongside Kenya, by launching the Just Transition Initiative as a joint initiative with the International Alliance of Waste Pickers and other stakeholders.”

Alejandra Parra, Co-Founder, Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA, and GAIA Advisor (Chile), said:

"As organizations working with local communities most impacted by pollution, we know the urgency of achieving a treaty to reduce the production of plastics to stop the flood of microplastics in our water, in our air, in our food, and in our bodies. We can't remove all of these microplastics from the environment but we can stop them from entering now.”

Jane Patton, Plastics and Petrochemicals Campaign Manager, Center for International Environmental Law (USA and Switzerland), said: 

“This week, an incredible coalition of over 100 civil society and rights-holder organizations came together to say "No más plasticos!" on the global stage. These dedicated advocates pushed for solutions to plastic pollution on the scale of the crisis we are facing. The planet cannot handle the plastics that have already been produced, let alone an onslaught of new production. Only through dedicated inclusion of these voices can we negotiate an effective treaty to truly end plastic pollution.”

Joan Marc, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe (Belgium), said:

“It is encouraging to see how the majority of countries participating in the first session of the Global Plastic Treaty in Uruguay spoke in favour of ambitious goals to change the way we use plastic, from tackling production to addressing health impacts. Unfortunately, for as long as the system continues to allow a few oil and plastic producing countries to veto the decisions of the majority, the fate of this plastic treaty can only resemble that of the climate treaties and lead to the lowest ambition. The negotiations didn’t start well, let’s redouble efforts to show the impact of plastic pollution so that taking action is inexcusable!”

Ana Rocha, Executive Director, Nipe Fagio (Tanzania), said:

“Vulnerable communities have consistently played a major role in plastic waste management despite being historically neglected in waste management systems and is significantly affected by plastic production. Working with waste pickers and waste cooperatives that lead zero waste models in Tanzania, we witness the impact of plastic in our communities. Companies with revenue higher than our GDP produce plastic that we don’t have the capacity to manage, neither should it be our responsibility, and flood our markets. These products do not make goods available to people unless they can afford them, so we face the contradiction of people drinking untreated water while their environment and waterways are filled with plastic bottles.”

Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Project Lead, Greenpeace USA (USA), said: 

“We cannot let oil producing countries, at the behest of big oil and petrochemical companies, dominate and slow down the treaty discussions and weaken its ambition. If the plastics industry has its way, plastic production could double within the next 10-15 years, and triple by 2050 - with catastrophic impacts on our planet and its people. The High Ambition Coalition must show leadership by pushing the negotiations forward and calling for more ambitious measures which protect our health, our climate and our communities from the plastics crisis.” 

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic (Philippines), said:

"It was extremely gratifying to hear some of the world's worst plastic polluters like Nestle and Unilever call for a cap on virgin plastic production and the need for a global plastic treaty based on mandatory policy. Both companies also expressed the need to eliminate problematic plastics. Now they should lead by example and change their own business models to match their statements. Consumer goods companies have played a huge role in perpetuating the plastic crisis, they can also help solve it. Companies must invest in reuse systems instead of single-use, eliminate problematic packaging types like sachets, and drastically reduce their plastic use."

Additional reactions from BFFP members and allies are available here.

###

Notes to the editor

  • Coalition members and country delegates photo available here (Photo Credit: John Chweya)
  • BFFP members with INC Chair, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, available here (Photo Credit: GAIA)
  • INC-1 Cartoons available here
  • Images of Fenceline Watch and Greenpeace projections in Punta del Este

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

Global Press Contacts: 

Regional Press Contact: 

First Global Plastics Treaty Intergovernmental Meeting Concludes With a Mix of High and Low Points

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 15:41

Break Free From Plastic members worldwide respond to the main high and low points after a week of negotiations

Punta del Este, Uruguay – The first intergovernmental committee meeting (INC-1) for an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded today with a mix of high and low moments, setting the stage for a two-year-long process that could result in one of the most significant multilateral environmental agreements in history. 

Positive outcomes included demands calling for reductions in plastic production and use, eliminating toxic substances associated with the plastic life cycle, protecting human health, and need for a just transition, backed by many member States and even two of the worst plastic polluters, Nestle and Unilever. The participation from member States from Latin American, the Caribbean, African, and Pacific nations–especially small island developing states–was particularly notable, bringing a strong voice for urgency and high ambition in these treaty negotiations. 

Additionally, a diverse coalition of civil society members and rights-holders provided vital expertise and typically underrepresented perspectives across the full plastics lifecycle. In particular, the leadership of waste pickers resulted in the launch of the Just Transition Initiative (building upon its earlier iteration as the Group of Friends of Wastepickers), which will ensure their representation at future INCs and bring visibility to more than 20 million people who work as waste pickers worldwide.

Unfortunately, one of the most contentious topics, the adoption of the Rules of Procedure, a document that will determine how States and organizations can engage in future negotiations, has yet to be finalized and was moved to INC-2 in May, 2023. The outstanding issues include whether EU Member States will each have a vote or whether they will be treated as a single bloc during voting, and whether decisions should only be arrived at via consensus. To many observers, the latter seems to be a ploy to weaken strong measures that could be adopted to reduce plastic production. 

Additionally, precious negotiation time was spent discussing the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, a roundtable discussion organized a day before the start of the negotiations to deliver a report to the INC, despite the fact that it is not included in the mandate to develop the treaty and the entire enterprise appears to be an effort to divert and prevent the voices of civil society and rightsholders from direct and more meaningful forms of participation in the treaty development process. As a result, BFFP members demanded that the INC design a negotiation process that facilitates meaningful access for rightsholders and recognizes the critical role of civil society groups such as Indigenous Peoples, scientists, workers from formal and informal sectors, trade unions, and climate-vulnerable and frontline communities in bringing valuable experiences to all aspects of the process and the future instrument. 

During the first few days of negotiation, advocates expressed concerns about the presence of leading corporate polluters  in the negotiation process and the lack of transparency from UNEP on how many of them are hiding behind NGO badges. Stakeholders who participated in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control advocated strongly for the exclusion of the plastics industry in negotiations, building   from their success in excluding perpetrators from tobacco negotiations, which resulted in a stronger and more effective framework.

In terms of future INC venues, country delegates agreed to host the next INC-2 exclusively in-person in Paris, the week of May 22nd, 2023 as long as visas can be issued to all negotiators of  Member State delegations  at least two weeks in advance of the meetings. Otherwise, the meeting will be moved to Nairobi. 

Today after the conclusion of INC-1, the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement launched a global petition which includes essential elements for the treaty to effectively reverse the plastic pollution crisis.

Break Free From Plastic members react to the end of the Plastics Treaty INC-1:

Maddie Koena, the South African member of the delegation of International Alliance of Waste Pickers (South Africa), said: 

“It’s been good this week to see such widespread recognition of the vital role we waste pickers play. Now countries need to design the treaty with our livelihoods and human rights in mind.  Personally I’m very pleased to see my country of South Africa leading the way on this, alongside Kenya, by launching the Just Transition Initiative as a joint initiative with the International Alliance of Waste Pickers and other stakeholders.”

Alejandra Parra, Co-Founder, Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA, and GAIA Advisor (Chile), said:

“As organizations working with local communities most impacted by pollution, we know the urgency of achieving a treaty to reduce the production of plastics to stop the flood of microplastics in our water, in our air, in our food, and in our bodies. We can’t remove all of these microplastics from the environment but we can stop them from entering now.”

Jane Patton, Plastics and Petrochemicals Campaign Manager, Center for International Environmental Law (USA and Switzerland), said: 

“This week, an incredible coalition of over 100 civil society and rights-holder organizations came together to say “No más plasticos!” on the global stage. These dedicated advocates pushed for solutions to plastic pollution on the scale of the crisis we are facing. The planet cannot handle the plastics that have already been produced, let alone an onslaught of new production. Only through dedicated inclusion of these voices can we negotiate an effective treaty to truly end plastic pollution.”

Joan Marc, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe (Belgium), said:

“It is encouraging to see how the majority of countries participating in the first session of the Global Plastic Treaty in Uruguay spoke in favour of ambitious goals to change the way we use plastic, from tackling production to addressing health impacts. Unfortunately, for as long as the system continues to allow a few oil and plastic producing countries to veto the decisions of the majority, the fate of this plastic treaty can only resemble that of the climate treaties and lead to the lowest ambition. The negotiations didn’t start well, let’s redouble efforts to show the impact of plastic pollution so that taking action is inexcusable!”

Ana Rocha, Executive Director, Nipe Fagio (Tanzania), said:

“Vulnerable communities have consistently played a major role in plastic waste management despite being historically neglected in waste management systems and is significantly affected by plastic production. Working with waste pickers and waste cooperatives that lead zero waste models in Tanzania, we witness the impact of plastic in our communities. Companies with revenue higher than our GDP produce plastic that we don’t have the capacity to manage, neither should it be our responsibility, and flood our markets. These products do not make goods available to people unless they can afford them, so we face the contradiction of people drinking untreated water while their environment and waterways are filled with plastic bottles.”

Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Project Lead, Greenpeace USA (USA), said: 

“We cannot let oil producing countries, at the behest of big oil and petrochemical companies, dominate and slow down the treaty discussions and weaken its ambition. If the plastics industry has its way, plastic production could double within the next 10-15 years, and triple by 2050 – with catastrophic impacts on our planet and its people. The High Ambition Coalition must show leadership by pushing the negotiations forward and calling for more ambitious measures which protect our health, our climate and our communities from the plastics crisis.” 

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic (Philippines), said:

“It was extremely gratifying to hear some of the world’s worst plastic polluters like Nestle and Unilever call for a cap on virgin plastic production and the need for a global plastic treaty based on mandatory policy. Both companies also expressed the need to eliminate problematic plastics. Now they should lead by example and change their own business models to match their statements. Consumer goods companies have played a huge role in perpetuating the plastic crisis, they can also help solve it. Companies must invest in reuse systems instead of single-use, eliminate problematic packaging types like sachets, and drastically reduce their plastic use.”

Additional reactions from BFFP members and allies are available here.

###

Notes to the editor

  • Coalition members and country delegates photo available here (Photo Credit: John Chweya)
  • BFFP members with INC Chair, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, available here (Photo Credit: GAIA)
  • INC-1 Cartoons available here
  • Images of Fenceline Watch and Greenpeace projections in Punta del Este

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

Global Press Contacts: 

Regional Press Contact: 

BFFP US Environmental Justice Delegation Statement on the Global Plastics Treaty INC-1 Negotiations

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 15:19

For immediate release - December 1, 2022

BFFP US Environmental Justice Delegation Statement on the Global Plastics Treaty INC-1 Negotiations

“We urge the United States delegation to meet with those of us being poisoned, rather than taking another meeting with the industries that are poisoning us."

Punta del Este, Uruguay – In the United States delegation’s opening statement on Monday at the first round of United Nations negotiations for a legally binding global plastics treaty, the U.S. delegation reaffirmed that the "world is drowning in plastics" and that fundamental changes are needed to "end the scourge of plastic pollution." But at no time did they mention the source of that pollution: the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.

On behalf of the seven environmental justice advocates who traveled from impacted communities across the U.S to participate in these negotiations, we urge the U.S. delegation to acknowledge the sources and impacts of the entire life cycle of plastic pollution on frontline and fenceline communities. In statement after statement, the U.S. has continued to repeat industry talking points and failed to acknowledge the environmental justice crisis fueled by plastic pollution in our home country. Other countries, including several Island Nations, have made more ambitious commitments protecting human health and the environment, and frontline advocates around the world have delivered multiple statements that demonstrate how plastic pollution harms their communities in the same way throughout the entire life cycle of plastics.

Nowhere in the U.S. delegation’s statements have we heard an echo of President Biden's Executive Order that the country "must strengthen our clean air and water protections," "must hold polluters accountable," and "must deliver environmental justice in communities all across America." Neither have we heard anything about the President's directive that all federal agencies must embed environmental justice in their missions and address "the disproportionate health, environmental, and economic impacts that have been borne primarily by communities of color — places too often left behind."

The plastics crisis is a human rights crisis. Last year, UN human rights experts denounced environmental racism in the "Cancer Alley" region of Louisiana – an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River with more than 150 petrochemical plants and refineries. Since then, UN officials have continued to sound the alarm. Just this week, the UN Human Rights Commissioner said the new treaty must protect human rights and put people before profits.

Despite the fact that more than 99% of plastics are made of fossil fuels, the U.S. delegation is failing to address the range of impacts along the entire life cycle and downplaying the contributions of fossil fuel and petrochemical industries to how the production, use, and disposal of plastics pollute the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the lands we call home.

We cannot reverse the rising tide of plastics until we confront the ongoing petrochemical expansion that is polluting our own backyards in the Gulf South, Appalachia, California, and beyond. The U.S. government has a responsibility to confront the industries that have made sacrifice zones of our communities and hold them responsible for fueling the plastic pollution crisis.

In Houston, Texas, the environmental injustice that the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have imposed on communities of color is so severe and so pervasive that it can literally be seen from space. If an observer watching from space can see this environmental racism and environmental violence against our communities, why is our own government still not listening to or acknowledging the voices representing these communities here in the negotiating room?

We have repeatedly asked the U.S. delegation for a meeting and have not received a response. It is hard to imagine that requests from industry representatives would be treated the same way.

If the U.S. delegation is not willing to meet with us here, then we would welcome the opportunity to show them our day-to-day experiences when we return. 

The global plastics treaty is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the multi-generational harm that the full life cycle of plastics causes in our communities, including extraction, production, usage, and disposal. The next intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) is less than six months away.

We urge the United States delegation to look us in the eyes, listen to our words, and speak with us – here or at home – rather than take another meeting with the companies that are poisoning us. Sacrificing us is sacrificing everyone and future generations. 

Environmental Justice Advocates:

  • Yvette Arellano – Fenceline Watch
  • Jo Banner – The Descendants Project
  • Juan Mancias – Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe
  • Deanna Santiago – Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe
  • KT Morelli – Breathe Free Detroit
  • Frankie Orona – Society of Native Nations
  • Alejandra Warren – Plastic Free Future

Press Contacts:

  • United States: Brett Nadrich | brett@breakfreefromplastic.org, +1 (929) 269-4480
  • Global: Caro Gonzalez | caro@breakfreefromplastic.org,  +1 (646) 991-1013

BFFP US Environmental Justice Delegation Statement on the Global Plastics Treaty INC-1 Negotiations

Thu, 12/01/2022 - 15:19

For immediate release – December 1, 2022

BFFP US Environmental Justice Delegation Statement on the Global Plastics Treaty INC-1 Negotiations

“We urge the United States delegation to meet with those of us being poisoned, rather than taking another meeting with the industries that are poisoning us.”

Punta del Este, Uruguay – In the United States delegation’s opening statement on Monday at the first round of United Nations negotiations for a legally binding global plastics treaty, the U.S. delegation reaffirmed that the “world is drowning in plastics” and that fundamental changes are needed to “end the scourge of plastic pollution.” But at no time did they mention the source of that pollution: the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.

On behalf of the seven environmental justice advocates who traveled from impacted communities across the U.S to participate in these negotiations, we urge the U.S. delegation to acknowledge the sources and impacts of the entire life cycle of plastic pollution on frontline and fenceline communities. In statement after statement, the U.S. has continued to repeat industry talking points and failed to acknowledge the environmental justice crisis fueled by plastic pollution in our home country. Other countries, including several Island Nations, have made more ambitious commitments protecting human health and the environment, and frontline advocates around the world have delivered multiple statements that demonstrate how plastic pollution harms their communities in the same way throughout the entire life cycle of plastics.

Nowhere in the U.S. delegation’s statements have we heard an echo of President Biden’s Executive Order that the country “must strengthen our clean air and water protections,” “must hold polluters accountable,” and “must deliver environmental justice in communities all across America.” Neither have we heard anything about the President’s directive that all federal agencies must embed environmental justice in their missions and address “the disproportionate health, environmental, and economic impacts that have been borne primarily by communities of color — places too often left behind.”

The plastics crisis is a human rights crisis. Last year, UN human rights experts denounced environmental racism in the “Cancer Alley” region of Louisiana – an 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River with more than 150 petrochemical plants and refineries. Since then, UN officials have continued to sound the alarm. Just this week, the UN Human Rights Commissioner said the new treaty must protect human rights and put people before profits.

Despite the fact that more than 99% of plastics are made of fossil fuels, the U.S. delegation is failing to address the range of impacts along the entire life cycle and downplaying the contributions of fossil fuel and petrochemical industries to how the production, use, and disposal of plastics pollute the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the lands we call home.

We cannot reverse the rising tide of plastics until we confront the ongoing petrochemical expansion that is polluting our own backyards in the Gulf South, Appalachia, California, and beyond. The U.S. government has a responsibility to confront the industries that have made sacrifice zones of our communities and hold them responsible for fueling the plastic pollution crisis.

In Houston, Texas, the environmental injustice that the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have imposed on communities of color is so severe and so pervasive that it can literally be seen from space. If an observer watching from space can see this environmental racism and environmental violence against our communities, why is our own government still not listening to or acknowledging the voices representing these communities here in the negotiating room?

We have repeatedly asked the U.S. delegation for a meeting and have not received a response. It is hard to imagine that requests from industry representatives would be treated the same way.

If the U.S. delegation is not willing to meet with us here, then we would welcome the opportunity to show them our day-to-day experiences when we return. 

The global plastics treaty is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the multi-generational harm that the full life cycle of plastics causes in our communities, including extraction, production, usage, and disposal. The next intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) is less than six months away.

We urge the United States delegation to look us in the eyes, listen to our words, and speak with us – here or at home – rather than take another meeting with the companies that are poisoning us. Sacrificing us is sacrificing everyone and future generations. 

Environmental Justice Advocates:

  • Yvette Arellano – Fenceline Watch
  • Jo Banner – The Descendants Project
  • Juan Mancias – Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe
  • Deanna Santiago – Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe
  • KT Morelli – Breathe Free Detroit
  • Frankie Orona – Society of Native Nations
  • Alejandra Warren – Plastic Free Future

Press Contacts:

  • United States: Brett Nadrich | brett@breakfreefromplastic.org, +1 (929) 269-4480
  • Global: Caro Gonzalez | caro@breakfreefromplastic.org,  +1 (646) 991-1013

Every Store, Every Shelf: A call for Reuse Systems to be available and accessible to all

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 08:52

Based on UNEP’s report, a lifecycle approach to end plastic pollution starts with reducing the size of the problem, which means eliminating unnecessary and problematic plastics. The remaining should be designed for circularity through reuse, refill, repair and take back systems, while finding safe ways to deal with the legacy of plastic pollution that has already accumulated in the environment. This was a strong start to the event, laying groundwork for deep and difficult discussions on what true circularity should look like, as a vision, on the ground, and as a treaty. 

Before the INC-1 Plenary on Monday morning, November 28th 2022, the World Economic Forum hosted a multi-stakeholder side event focusing on reuse systems. The event was based on a recognition that reuse systems will be critical to keep materials and products in circulation longer before they require recycling, thus reducing material use and greenhouse gas emissions. I was on that panel, together with Amy Larkin of PR3, Sheila Aggarwal-Khan of UNEP, and Jodie Roussell of Nestle, hosted by Kirsten Hughes of the Global Plastic Action Partnership. 

There was a consensus that in order for reuse to play a major role in redefining how goods are delivered, it needs to be enabled by shared standards, shared infrastructure, perhaps even shared containers. PR3 has developed an open source document of reuse standards to this effect, and France has passed legislation promoting reusable packaging, to name a few examples. 

Imagine if today’s single-use packaging were treated as returnable and reusable, without any change in their design or collection. A shampoo bottle from Unilever would be different in shape, size, material and colour compared to a shampoo bottle from Procter & Gamble. If these bottles were returnable, Unilever and P&G could only accept their own bottles respectively. This means that either the consumer has to drop off the bottles in two different drop-off points after use, or a sorting facility would have to separate bottles by brand and washed before shipping them back to the respective producers. Imagine this challenge multiplied by one hundred as we attempt to return the used containers of detergent, mayonnaise, chips, jam, and the dozens of other items from the dozens of different brands we buy on our grocery run. This is a cost that would make it difficult for consumers and producers to maintain at scale. 

Now let’s imagine an improvement to that system. The bottles are standardized and simplified to a few dozen types. Let’s say three sizes for personal care, three sizes for condiments. Maybe we start with two product types first before gradually expanding to others. The space for brand differentiation would be on the label, which also contains regulatory-compliant information on the content, make, expiry date, barcode. A paper or wax-based hygiene seal could be added to the lid. After consumption, these bottles would all enter the same bin, and get transported to a pooling facility that complies with good washing standards. The facility would wash and strip the bottles of their labels, and distribute the bottles to various consumer goods companies. The companies are no longer procuring new bottles, they have shifted that cost to a subscription fee paid to pooling facilities.   

The reason why this could work is because it already has. This is a system that was once widely used for milk bottles. This is still being used in Europe for beer breweries. It is still being used in India for food tiffins. We can aim for a world in which most products are delivered to consumers in this manner. A world in which every store, every shelf displays our daily needs, in containers that are designed to be returned for reuse. And at the end of its long life of tens to hundreds of uses, the container can then be recycled. Less churning out new containers daily, less emissions-heavy chemical shapeshifting, and no end-of-life waste disposal. 

For this to happen at scale, we would need standards that would allow interoperability across different brands, products and jurisdictions. In a world where the USB stick can be used in any brand of laptop and our mobile phone SIM cards work in any country that we land in, it does not make sense that plastic packaging is designed into hundreds of different categories which are individually churned out by hundreds of different brands. Standards could also work to ensure that the materials used for reuse are non-toxic and easy to recycle once it reaches the end of its long life, or that the transportation for reuse systems is carbon-neutral. 

The topic of standards was brought up quite a lot during the multistakeholder forum and reuse side event at INC-1.  There are demands that a global legally binding treaty could provide all countries a common ground on what is considered safe or unsafe for human health given the potential migration of toxins and dioxins from various polymers. The treaty could also provide common parameters on processes and management of materials to ensure carbon neutrality.  Safety, carbon neutrality, and the interoperability of reuse delivery systems would all complement each other to create a future without problematic disposables. These could manifest as global standards, created, housed, or facilitated by the institutional governance of the treaty. If we want a safe circular system to scale globally and become accessible to everyone, we must collectively work together to have reuse principles embedded within the global plastic treaty discussions. 

Tiza Mafira
Executive Director, Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement

Every Store, Every Shelf: A call for Reuse Systems to be available and accessible to all

Wed, 11/30/2022 - 08:52

An opening presentation by UNEP at the multi-stakeholder forum of INC-1 on November 26th 2022 laid out the context and importance of basing the discussions on available and evolving science. Based on UNEP’s report, a lifecycle approach to end plastic pollution starts with reducing the size of the problem, which means eliminating unnecessary and problematic plastics. The remaining should be designed for circularity through reuse, refill, repair and take back systems, while finding safe ways to deal with the legacy of plastic pollution that has already accumulated in the environment. This was a strong start to the event, laying groundwork for deep and difficult discussions on what true circularity should look like, as a vision, on the ground, and as a treaty. 

Before the INC-1 Plenary on Monday morning, November 28th 2022, the World Economic Forum hosted a multi-stakeholder side event focusing on reuse systems. The event was based on a recognition that reuse systems will be critical to keep materials and products in circulation longer before they require recycling, thus reducing material use and greenhouse gas emissions. I was on that panel, together with Amy Larkin of PR3, Sheila Aggarwal-Khan of UNEP, and Jodie Roussell of Nestle, hosted by Kirsten Hughes of the Global Plastic Action Partnership. 

There was a consensus that in order for reuse to play a major role in redefining how goods are delivered, it needs to be enabled by shared standards, shared infrastructure, perhaps even shared containers. PR3 has developed an open source document of reuse standards to this effect, and France has passed legislation promoting reusable packaging, to name a few examples. 

Imagine if today’s single-use packaging were treated as returnable and reusable, without any change in their design or collection. A shampoo bottle from Unilever would be different in shape, size, material and colour compared to a shampoo bottle from Procter & Gamble. If these bottles were returnable, Unilever and P&G could only accept their own bottles respectively. This means that either the consumer has to drop off the bottles in two different drop-off points after use, or a sorting facility would have to separate bottles by brand and washed before shipping them back to the respective producers. Imagine this challenge multiplied by one hundred as we attempt to return the used containers of detergent, mayonnaise, chips, jam, and the dozens of other items from the dozens of different brands we buy on our grocery run. This is a cost that would make it difficult for consumers and producers to maintain at scale. 

Now let’s imagine an improvement to that system. The bottles are standardized and simplified to a few dozen types. Let’s say three sizes for personal care, three sizes for condiments. Maybe we start with two product types first before gradually expanding to others. The space for brand differentiation would be on the label, which also contains regulatory-compliant information on the content, make, expiry date, barcode. A paper or wax-based hygiene seal could be added to the lid. After consumption, these bottles would all enter the same bin, and get transported to a pooling facility that complies with good washing standards. The facility would wash and strip the bottles of their labels, and distribute the bottles to various consumer goods companies. The companies are no longer procuring new bottles, they have shifted that cost to a subscription fee paid to pooling facilities.   

The reason why this could work is because it already has. This is a system that was once widely used for milk bottles. This is still being used in Europe for beer breweries. It is still being used in India for food tiffins. We can aim for a world in which most products are delivered to consumers in this manner. A world in which every store, every shelf displays our daily needs, in containers that are designed to be returned for reuse. And at the end of its long life of tens to hundreds of uses, the container can then be recycled. Less churning out new containers daily, less emissions-heavy chemical shapeshifting, and no end-of-life waste disposal. 

For this to happen at scale, we would need standards that would allow interoperability across different brands, products and jurisdictions. In a world where the USB stick can be used in any brand of laptop and our mobile phone SIM cards work in any country that we land in, it does not make sense that plastic packaging is designed into hundreds of different categories which are individually churned out by hundreds of different brands. Standards could also work to ensure that the materials used for reuse are non-toxic and easy to recycle once it reaches the end of its long life, or that the transportation for reuse systems is carbon-neutral. 

The topic of standards was brought up quite a lot during the multistakeholder forum and reuse side event at INC-1.  There are demands that a global legally binding treaty could provide all countries a common ground on what is considered safe or unsafe for human health given the potential migration of toxins and dioxins from various polymers. The treaty could also provide common parameters on processes and management of materials to ensure carbon neutrality.  Safety, carbon neutrality, and the interoperability of reuse delivery systems would all complement each other to create a future without problematic disposables. These could manifest as global standards, created, housed, or facilitated by the institutional governance of the treaty. If we want a safe circular system to scale globally and become accessible to everyone, we must collectively work together to have reuse principles embedded within the global plastic treaty discussions. 

Tiza Mafira
Executive Director, Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement

Civil society and rightsholders ask UNEP for a more meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement process and to keep polluters out of global plastics treaty negotiations

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 12:58

26 November 2022, Punta del Este, Uruguay - A United Nations Environment Programme-organized Multi-Stakeholder Forum on plastics concluded today, offering recommendations to the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting on the Global Plastics Treaty. However, civil society groups, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders have pointed with concern to the problematic presence of those companies responsible for plastic pollution and hidden industry influence at the forum.

As a result, Break Free From Plastic members are reacting to the Multi-Stakeholder Forum:

Soledad Mella, Communications Secretary at Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile, and President at ANARCH (Chile), said: 

“On behalf of the more than 20,000 waste pickers we represent, the equitable participation of civil society is critical to developing a treaty that addresses the human impact of plastic pollution. People on the frontline, such as waste pickers, are essential to identifying real solutions to this crisis, and it is critical that their participation is not symbolic. We need a participatory and accessible process where those most affected can access translation and interpretation, equitable participation in person, fewer communication gaps and have the opportunity to help shape the multi-stakeholder participation agenda so that this process is truly binding and not what we are seeing today.”

Kabir Arora, Asian Outreach Coordinator at International Alliance of Wastepickers (India), said: 

“Equitable civil society engagement, including representation of waste pickers and other workers in the plastic value chain, is key in developing a treaty that addresses the human impact of plastic pollution. Those at the frontlines of plastic production, recycling and disposal are essential in identifying real solutions to this crisis, and it is critical that their participation is not tokenized. We need a meaningful and accessible process where those most impacted can access translation and interpretation, have equitable access to in-person participation, and have the opportunity to help shape the agenda for future multistakeholder forums.”

Frankie Orona, Executive Director at Society of Native Nations (USA), said: 

“Indigenous people, original people of the lands, and communities of color must have an equitable voice and a seat in today’s discussions on how to deal with the negative impacts of “Plastics” in the Petrochemical industry. Inequality has existed in the UN for too long, and change needs to happen now if we truly want to ensure a healthy, suitable transition for the next generation. We are tired of having our communities deemed a sacrifice zone and having people make decisions for communities they never visit or know how to understand the hardship and suffering in indigenous and communities of color. The petrochemical plastic industry is killing our people, land, air and water. Our voices need to be heard before it’s too late for all of us.” 

Christina Dixon, Ocean Campaign Leader at Environmental Investigation Agency (UK), said:

“Allowing the very companies that are driving the harms caused by plastic pollution to have an equal seat at the table sets a concerning precedent for the negotiations to come. We cannot allow plastic producers to take control of this process while vulnerable communities struggle with equitable access and having their voices heard in these spaces. We’ve seen yet again challenges with access for this meeting while those companies bankrolling the plastics crisis are able to show up in force. We need to learn from other environmental processes where industry have been able to distract and derail the agenda while continuing business as usual. For the Global Plastics Treaty to be effective, we need meaningful engagement of impacted communities, rather than costly side-shows designed to restrict participation away from substance.” 

Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director at Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives (USA), said: 

“Greta Thunberg recently criticized the overwhelming presence of the fossil fuel industry at the climate talks: ‘If you are trying to solve malaria, you don’t give mosquitoes a seat at the table.’ The same can be said for the plastics treaty negotiations, now underway in Uruguay. The week’s first event, the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, is aimed at finding common ground between environmental justice groups, waste pickers, public health professionals, environmentalists, and the very companies that are the source of the problem: the petrochemical industry. That is a recipe for failure. Instead, the treaty process should follow the precedent of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which excluded the tobacco industry from its negotiations. The plastics/petrochemical industry is not part of the solution, it is the problem.”

Jane Patton, Campaign Manager for Plastics & Petrochemicals at Center for International Environmental Law (USA and Switzerland), said:

“The reaction we are seeing from expert civil society representatives is a reflection of our broader concerns about industry influence over governments negotiating a new legally binding treaty to address the plastics pollution crisis. The perpetrators of pollution from plastics should not be allowed to manipulate these negotiations in their favor, so these processes must be specifically protected from fossil fuels and chemicals companies and their NGO front groups.”

Christopher Chin, Executive Director at The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE) (US) said:

"Proverbs exist in nearly every culture to address the absurdity of unmitigated conflict of interest. With the very industry creating plastic and plastic pollution weighing in so strongly regarding the discussion of possible solutions, the self-serving interest is painfully obvious. In order to consider, develop, explore, and begin deploying truly effective and encompassing solutions, the proverbial fox must be removed from the henhouse, and we must have industry and industry-sponsored entities excluded from the process."

Media contacts:

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

 

Civil society and rightsholders ask UNEP for a more meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement process and to keep polluters out of global plastics treaty negotiations

Sat, 11/26/2022 - 12:58

26 November 2022, Punta del Este, Uruguay – A United Nations Environment Programme-organized Multi-Stakeholder Forum on plastics concluded today, offering recommendations to the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting on the Global Plastics Treaty. However, civil society groups, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders have pointed with concern to the problematic presence of those companies responsible for plastic pollution and hidden industry influence at the forum.

As a result, Break Free From Plastic members are reacting to the Multi-Stakeholder Forum:

Soledad Mella, Communications Secretary at Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile, and President at ANARCH (Chile), said: 

“On behalf of the more than 20,000 waste pickers we represent, the equitable participation of civil society is critical to developing a treaty that addresses the human impact of plastic pollution. People on the frontline, such as waste pickers, are essential to identifying real solutions to this crisis, and it is critical that their participation is not symbolic. We need a participatory and accessible process where those most affected can access translation and interpretation, equitable participation in person, fewer communication gaps and have the opportunity to help shape the multi-stakeholder participation agenda so that this process is truly binding and not what we are seeing today.”

Kabir Arora, Asian Outreach Coordinator at International Alliance of Wastepickers (India), said: 

“Equitable civil society engagement, including representation of waste pickers and other workers in the plastic value chain, is key in developing a treaty that addresses the human impact of plastic pollution. Those at the frontlines of plastic production, recycling and disposal are essential in identifying real solutions to this crisis, and it is critical that their participation is not tokenized. We need a meaningful and accessible process where those most impacted can access translation and interpretation, have equitable access to in-person participation, and have the opportunity to help shape the agenda for future multistakeholder forums.”

Frankie Orona, Executive Director at Society of Native Nations (USA), said: 

“Indigenous people, original people of the lands, and communities of color must have an equitable voice and a seat in today’s discussions on how to deal with the negative impacts of “Plastics” in the Petrochemical industry. Inequality has existed in the UN for too long, and change needs to happen now if we truly want to ensure a healthy, suitable transition for the next generation. We are tired of having our communities deemed a sacrifice zone and having people make decisions for communities they never visit or know how to understand the hardship and suffering in indigenous and communities of color. The petrochemical plastic industry is killing our people, land, air and water. Our voices need to be heard before it’s too late for all of us.” 

Christina Dixon, Ocean Campaign Leader at Environmental Investigation Agency (UK), said:

“Allowing the very companies that are driving the harms caused by plastic pollution to have an equal seat at the table sets a concerning precedent for the negotiations to come. We cannot allow plastic producers to take control of this process while vulnerable communities struggle with equitable access and having their voices heard in these spaces. We’ve seen yet again challenges with access for this meeting while those companies bankrolling the plastics crisis are able to show up in force. We need to learn from other environmental processes where industry have been able to distract and derail the agenda while continuing business as usual. For the Global Plastics Treaty to be effective, we need meaningful engagement of impacted communities, rather than costly side-shows designed to restrict participation away from substance.” 

Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director at Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives (USA), said: 

“Greta Thunberg recently criticized the overwhelming presence of the fossil fuel industry at the climate talks: ‘If you are trying to solve malaria, you don’t give mosquitoes a seat at the table.’ The same can be said for the plastics treaty negotiations, now underway in Uruguay. The week’s first event, the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, is aimed at finding common ground between environmental justice groups, waste pickers, public health professionals, environmentalists, and the very companies that are the source of the problem: the petrochemical industry. That is a recipe for failure. Instead, the treaty process should follow the precedent of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which excluded the tobacco industry from its negotiations. The plastics/petrochemical industry is not part of the solution, it is the problem.”

Jane Patton, Campaign Manager for Plastics & Petrochemicals at Center for International Environmental Law (USA and Switzerland), said:

“The reaction we are seeing from expert civil society representatives is a reflection of our broader concerns about industry influence over governments negotiating a new legally binding treaty to address the plastics pollution crisis. The perpetrators of pollution from plastics should not be allowed to manipulate these negotiations in their favor, so these processes must be specifically protected from fossil fuels and chemicals companies and their NGO front groups.”

Christopher Chin, Executive Director at The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE) (US) said:

“Proverbs exist in nearly every culture to address the absurdity of unmitigated conflict of interest. With the very industry creating plastic and plastic pollution weighing in so strongly regarding the discussion of possible solutions, the self-serving interest is painfully obvious. In order to consider, develop, explore, and begin deploying truly effective and encompassing solutions, the proverbial fox must be removed from the henhouse, and we must have industry and industry-sponsored entities excluded from the process.”

Media contacts:

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

 

BFFP call on EU to be a voice for ambition ahead of INC Global Plastics Treaty negotiations

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 03:00

In response to the latest news that the EU has joined the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution just as INC negotiations kick-off, BFFP and members CIEL & EIA have responded by welcoming this news, but also calling on the EU to be a voice for ambition within the coalition and beyond and to staunchly advocate for measures that phase down overall production of virgin plastic.

READ OUR OPEN LETTER

press contact: bethany@breakfreefromplastic.org

BFFP call on EU to be a voice for ambition ahead of INC Global Plastics Treaty negotiations

Thu, 11/24/2022 - 03:00

On Monday 28th November, delegations from across the world are convening at the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) in Uruguay to start developing an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. In response to the latest news that the EU has joined the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution just as INC negotiations kick-off, BFFP and members CIEL & EIA have responded by welcoming this news, but also calling on the EU to be a voice for ambition within the coalition and beyond and to staunchly advocate for measures that phase down overall production of virgin plastic.

READ OUR OPEN LETTER

COP27 Sponsor The Coca-Cola Company named worst plastic polluter for five years in a row according to 2022 Brand Audit

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 20:02

Manila — The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Nestlé come in as the world’s top plastic polluters for five years running, according to Break Free From Plastic’s latest global brand audit report. The 2022 Brand Audit analyzes five years' worth of citizen science trash-collection data, exposing how corporate voluntary commitments are not effectively reducing these companies’ devastating environmental impacts. In response, activists around the world are calling for a Global Plastics Treaty that can provide legally-binding mechanisms and enforcement policies to effectively reduce the amount of plastic both produced and used by corporations.

Since 2018, global cleanups have been carried out by more than 200,000 volunteers in 87 countries and territories to identify the companies polluting the most places with the most plastic waste. Over all five years, more Coca-Cola Company branded items were collected than the next two top polluters combined. This year’s brand audits found more than 31,000 Coca-Cola branded products, doubling the proportion of Coca-Cola products found in 2018. These findings are revealed as the top polluter is serving as a sponsor of the UN climate change conference COP27 in Egypt. Given that 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels, Coca-Cola’s role in COP27 baffles environmental activists.

Today, in response to corporate inaction, activists worldwide are commemorating a 5-year “Trashiversary” for these companies by mailing or delivering their own waste to them to demand urgent action. The actions are taking place today, targeting Coca-Cola in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, the US, and Zambia; Unilever in Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and South Africa; and PepsiCo in India and Tanzania.

In 2018, the same year that Brand Audits efforts started, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme together launched the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. This program centered on a set of voluntary commitments to address plastic pollution made by major fast-moving consumer goods companies, including most of the top plastic polluters. However, the Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report revealed that their 2025 targets will “almost certainly” not be met. For many of these companies, the use of plastic packaging has actually increased since joining the Global Commitment, exposing how voluntary actions are not leading to any kind of significant impact on plastic reduction.

Considering the failing voluntary commitments of many of the major plastic polluting companies, the Break Free From Plastic movement is calling for an ambitious, legally-binding Global Plastics Treaty. The first treaty negotiation meeting will be held in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, at the end of the month.

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic, said:

“Instead of allowing companies like Coke to greenwash their image, governments need to compel polluters to invest in reuse and alternative product delivery systems that avoid the problem in the first place. This is one of the key systemic changes required for the world to avert the full consequences of climate change and plastic pollution. Governments worldwide now have the justification and opportunity to effectively address and reverse the plastic pollution crisis by coming up with a global plastics treaty that cuts plastic production, makes corporations accountable for the pollution they are causing and mainstreams reuse-based alternatives.”

Ornela Garelli, Oceans and Plastics Campaigner for Greenpeace México, said:

“In countries such as Mexico, Coca-Cola is fighting efforts to tackle plastic pollution such as local single-use plastics bans. Our communities suffer while big plastic polluters, in league with Big Oil, massively expand fossil fuel-based plastic production to make a profit. Big brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever helped create this crisis: they must phase out throwaway plastic, ensure at least half of their packaging is reusable by 2030, advocate for an ambitious global plastics treaty that limits plastic production and use, and accelerate a just transition to the reuse economy.”

Ana Rocha, Executive Director, Nipe Fagio (Tanzania), said:

“To take effective action to eliminate plastic pollution it is necessary to understand it first. Performing waste and brand audits for five years in a row allowed us to have comparative data showing the sources of pollution and the positive impact of restrictive plastic policy in addressing the plastic crisis. The brand audit data has been used by various stakeholders for data-driven decision-making and has become an essential pillar of plastic advocacy in Tanzania and East Africa.”

Froilan Grate, Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, said:

"The recent brand audit is once again showing who the real polluters are. These companies are falling short of their promises, but we are not reducing our commitment to advocate for Zero Waste. At GAIA, we continue to work with organizations and communities with real lived experiences highlighting global south’s leadership in Zero Waste, and we will continue to include brand audits to keep top polluters accountable.”

Rosa Pritchard, Plastics Lawyer, ClientEarth (United Kingdom), said:

“The world’s top plastic polluters have littered the planet with plastic waste – and marked it clearly with their name. Instead of truly deplastifying by eliminating single-use packaging and shifting to reuse and refill, they’re fixated on recycling – a completely inadequate response to the quantities of plastic these companies place on the market every single year. Consumers, shareholders, and NGOs are turning to litigation to jolt these companies out of their stupor on plastics, and legal cases have now been launched against companies across the plastics value chain. For these companies, the risk of litigation looms especially large: we know they are driving the plastics problem. We know the harms caused by plastic pollution and the plastics lifecycle. Lawsuits holding them accountable are just a matter of time.”

Young Grguras, Campaign Director, Post-Landfill Action Network (United States), said:

“Coca-Cola and PepsiCo the brands at the top of the list of the world’s worst polluters for five years in a row are the same companies that colleges and universities welcome for exclusive multi-million dollar contracts to be the sole drink provider on their campuses. For years, these companies have tried to convince us that waste is an individual problem, but we know that this is not true. Students often find barriers to shifting their campuses to reuse in the form of lengthy legal contracts that rarely include any language on sustainability. Students and young people, using Brand Audit data, are leading a movement for more transparency, corporate responsibility, and climate accountability as we move towards waste elimination and true reuse systems.” 

###

Note to the Editor:

  • A list of all the Global Day of Action efforts is available here
  • Photos and b-roll of the Global Day of Action will be made available throughout the day for journalists  [Videos | Photos
  • Country-specific brand audit data is available here.

 

About the Global Plastics Treaty:

On March 2, 2022, the United Nations approved a landmark agreement to create the world’s first-ever global plastics pollution treaty, adopted upon the conclusion of the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2).

The mandate, titled “End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument,” sets the stage for governments to negotiate a comprehensive and legally binding treaty that will cover measures along the entire life cycle of plastic. In addition, the mandate will serve to guide the development of the treaty itself, which an International Negotiating Committee (INC) will be tasked with drafting by the end of 2024.

The first Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee meeting will take place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from November 28th to December 2nd. Dozens of BFFP members are expected to attend the meeting.

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

Regional Press Contact: 

  • Europe: Bethany Spendlove Keeley | Bethany@breakfreefromplastic.org | +(49) 176 595 87 941
  • Africa: Carissa Marnce | Carissa@no-burn.org 
  • United States: Brett Nadrich | Brett@breakfreefromplastic.org | +1 (929) 269-4480
  • Latin America: Camila Aguilera | Camila@no-burn.org | +56 (951) 111599
  • Asia & the Pacific: Danish Raza | Danish@breakfreefromplastic.org | +(91) 9899747422

Global Press Contact: Caro Gonzalez | Caro@breakfreefromplastic.org | +1 (646) 991-1013

 

 

COP27 Sponsor The Coca-Cola Company named worst plastic polluter for five years in a row according to 2022 Brand Audit

Mon, 11/14/2022 - 20:02
Activists commemorate 5-year Trashiversary by organizing actions and return-to-sender activities in front of top polluter offices to call for a global plastics treaty

Manila — The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Nestlé come in as the world’s top plastic polluters for five years running, according to Break Free From Plastic’s latest global brand audit report. The 2022 Brand Audit analyzes five years’ worth of citizen science trash-collection data, exposing how corporate voluntary commitments are not effectively reducing these companies’ devastating environmental impacts. In response, activists around the world are calling for a Global Plastics Treaty that can provide legally-binding mechanisms and enforcement policies to effectively reduce the amount of plastic both produced and used by corporations.

Since 2018, global cleanups have been carried out by more than 200,000 volunteers in 87 countries and territories to identify the companies polluting the most places with the most plastic waste. Over all five years, more Coca-Cola Company branded items were collected than the next two top polluters combined. This year’s brand audits found more than 31,000 Coca-Cola branded products, doubling the proportion of Coca-Cola products found in 2018. These findings are revealed as the top polluter is serving as a sponsor of the UN climate change conference COP27 in Egypt. Given that 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels, Coca-Cola’s role in COP27 baffles environmental activists.

Today, in response to corporate inaction, activists worldwide are commemorating a 5-year “Trashiversary” for these companies by mailing or delivering their own waste to them to demand urgent action. The actions are taking place today, targeting Coca-Cola in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, the US, and Zambia; Unilever in Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and South Africa; and PepsiCo in India and Tanzania.

In 2018, the same year that Brand Audits efforts started, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme together launched the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. This program centered on a set of voluntary commitments to address plastic pollution made by major fast-moving consumer goods companies, including most of the top plastic polluters. However, the Global Commitment 2022 Progress Report revealed that their 2025 targets will “almost certainly” not be met. For many of these companies, the use of plastic packaging has actually increased since joining the Global Commitment, exposing how voluntary actions are not leading to any kind of significant impact on plastic reduction.

Considering the failing voluntary commitments of many of the major plastic polluting companies, the Break Free From Plastic movement is calling for an ambitious, legally-binding Global Plastics Treaty. The first treaty negotiation meeting will be held in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, at the end of the month.

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic, said:

“Instead of allowing companies like Coke to greenwash their image, governments need to compel polluters to invest in reuse and alternative product delivery systems that avoid the problem in the first place. This is one of the key systemic changes required for the world to avert the full consequences of climate change and plastic pollution. Governments worldwide now have the justification and opportunity to effectively address and reverse the plastic pollution crisis by coming up with a global plastics treaty that cuts plastic production, makes corporations accountable for the pollution they are causing and mainstreams reuse-based alternatives.”

Ornela Garelli, Oceans and Plastics Campaigner for Greenpeace México, said:

“In countries such as Mexico, Coca-Cola is fighting efforts to tackle plastic pollution such as local single-use plastics bans. Our communities suffer while big plastic polluters, in league with Big Oil, massively expand fossil fuel-based plastic production to make a profit. Big brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever helped create this crisis: they must phase out throwaway plastic, ensure at least half of their packaging is reusable by 2030, advocate for an ambitious global plastics treaty that limits plastic production and use, and accelerate a just transition to the reuse economy.”

Ana Rocha, Executive Director, Nipe Fagio (Tanzania), said:

“To take effective action to eliminate plastic pollution it is necessary to understand it first. Performing waste and brand audits for five years in a row allowed us to have comparative data showing the sources of pollution and the positive impact of restrictive plastic policy in addressing the plastic crisis. The brand audit data has been used by various stakeholders for data-driven decision-making and has become an essential pillar of plastic advocacy in Tanzania and East Africa.”

Froilan Grate, Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, said:

“The recent brand audit is once again showing who the real polluters are. These companies are falling short of their promises, but we are not reducing our commitment to advocate for Zero Waste. At GAIA, we continue to work with organizations and communities with real lived experiences highlighting global south’s leadership in Zero Waste, and we will continue to include brand audits to keep top polluters accountable.”

Rosa Pritchard, Plastics Lawyer, ClientEarth (United Kingdom), said:

“The world’s top plastic polluters have littered the planet with plastic waste – and marked it clearly with their name. Instead of truly deplastifying by eliminating single-use packaging and shifting to reuse and refill, they’re fixated on recycling – a completely inadequate response to the quantities of plastic these companies place on the market every single year. Consumers, shareholders, and NGOs are turning to litigation to jolt these companies out of their stupor on plastics, and legal cases have now been launched against companies across the plastics value chain. For these companies, the risk of litigation looms especially large: we know they are driving the plastics problem. We know the harms caused by plastic pollution and the plastics lifecycle. Lawsuits holding them accountable are just a matter of time.”

Young Grguras, Campaign Director, Post-Landfill Action Network (United States), said:

“Coca-Cola and PepsiCo the brands at the top of the list of the world’s worst polluters for five years in a row are the same companies that colleges and universities welcome for exclusive multi-million dollar contracts to be the sole drink provider on their campuses. For years, these companies have tried to convince us that waste is an individual problem, but we know that this is not true. Students often find barriers to shifting their campuses to reuse in the form of lengthy legal contracts that rarely include any language on sustainability. Students and young people, using Brand Audit data, are leading a movement for more transparency, corporate responsibility, and climate accountability as we move towards waste elimination and true reuse systems.” 

###

Note to the Editor:

  • A list of all the Global Day of Action efforts is available here
  • Photos and b-roll of the Global Day of Action will be made available throughout the day for journalists  [Videos | Photos
  • Country-specific brand audit data is available here.

 

About the Global Plastics Treaty:

On March 2, 2022, the United Nations approved a landmark agreement to create the world’s first-ever global plastics pollution treaty, adopted upon the conclusion of the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2).

The mandate, titled “End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument,” sets the stage for governments to negotiate a comprehensive and legally binding treaty that will cover measures along the entire life cycle of plastic. In addition, the mandate will serve to guide the development of the treaty itself, which an International Negotiating Committee (INC) will be tasked with drafting by the end of 2024.

The first Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee meeting will take place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from November 28th to December 2nd. Dozens of BFFP members are expected to attend the meeting.

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain – from extraction to disposal – focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

Regional Press Contact: 

  • Europe: Bethany Spendlove Keeley | Bethany@breakfreefromplastic.org | +(49) 176 595 87 941
  • Africa: Carissa Marnce | Carissa@no-burn.org 
  • United States: Brett Nadrich | Brett@breakfreefromplastic.org | +1 (929) 269-4480
  • Latin America: Camila Aguilera | Camila@no-burn.org | +56 (951) 111599
  • Asia & the Pacific: Danish Raza | Danish@breakfreefromplastic.org | +(91) 9899747422

Global Press Contact: Caro Gonzalez | Caro@breakfreefromplastic.org | +1 (646) 991-1013

 

 

The Global Plastics En’Treaty: why waste trade to the Asia-Pacific needs to stop

Mon, 11/07/2022 - 21:40

Where: Meetspace A, Artotel Thamrin, Jakarta (map link here)
When: 03 November, 2022 at 14:00 - 15:00 Indonesia | 15:00 - 16:00 Malaysia & the Philippines

On November 3, 2022, a press briefing was organised by Alianzi Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) and Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) to:

  1. Highlight the harms caused by plastic waste exports across countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
  2. Emphasise the need to recognise the role of the global plastic waste trade in causing plastic pollution, directly and indirectly, during the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) meetings in November 2022.
  3. Share findings from Nexus3 Foundation’s latest report on plastic waste imports to Indonesia.

To recapitulate, ahead of the Global Plastic Treaty negotiations, organisations fighting plastic pollution, recognise the need to address waste trade issues in Asia Pacific. Plastic waste imports cause serious pollution and threaten the health of local communities across the Asia Pacific. If the world is serious about tackling marine plastic pollution, the open trade of plastic waste from rich and industrialised economies to less industrialised ones must end.

As we build a vision for the Global Plastic Treaty, we need to demand an integrated, holistic systems approach to the entire plastic value chain, from extraction to disposal. The transition to a future free from plastic pollution should allow us to hold accountable those most responsible, while engaging and amplifying the voices of those most impacted.

In addition, you may also quote our panelists, as below:

Quotes:

Yuyun Ismawati, co-founder and Senior Advisor of Nexus3 Foundation, Indonesia

“The improved regulation [on plastic waste trade] has reduced violations that we can observe on the grassroots level, however, government transparency is lacking in the implementation. Past violations, which were administratively sanctioned, left the environment and the surrounding communities burdened with questionable practices of destroying hundreds of containers filled with untreatable imported plastic waste by the violating companies.”

Mochamad Septiono, Program Officer for Toxic and Zero Waste Program at Nexus3 Foundation.

“Moving forward, the Indonesian government should be ambitious in setting the roadmap to massively increase the proportion of domestic recycling to fulfil the national industry demand, especially to boost separated waste collection. The current contamination threshold (2%) should be strictly enforced, and further increased to 0-0.5% contamination (recyclates ready for direct production/recycling process for secondary raw materials). In addition, waste-derived product commodities (RDF/PEF pellets, or in any form) should be prohibited to import.”

Pua Lay Peng, chemical engineer and human rights defender with Kuala Langat Environmental Action Association, Malaysia.

"In recent years, Malaysia has become one of the biggest waste importers. It leaves a trail of pollution, especially from waste plastic since China’s ban on import wastes in 2017. We are suffering the consequences of increasing respiratory system disease and cancer rates. Corruption is one of the reasons why so much waste has been smuggled into Malaysia. This waste has very little benefit. Instead we’re left with refuse material containing harmful chemicals, and many leftover plastics will just be burnt in the incinerator or discarded at landfills. Southeast Asia is not the world’s dumping site. Developed countries should deal with their own plastic waste."

Fajri Fadhillah, lawyer-researcher at Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), Indonesia

“Developed countries must stop exporting plastic waste to Asia Pacific countries. Most practices of these exports are illegal or criminal activities. The importing and exporting countries who have ratified the Convention need to put in forth the sanctions to persons or corporations who violate the convention.”

Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, the Philippines.

“ASEAN as a regional bloc should prohibit all importations of plastic waste. To address the plastic pollution crisis, we further request the ASEAN member states to develop strong plastic reduction policies, including phasing-out single use plastics.”

Media Resources:

Indonesia Waste Trade Update: Focusing on Plastic and Paper Waste in Indonesia, Nexus3 Foundation report

This report provides a summary of the dynamics of plastic waste trade conditions in Indonesia, covering the policy changes, volume fluctuation, trade routes, role of recycling industry, trade violation, and most importantly, recommendations - curated for the Indonesian government, industry & industry associations, think tanks and NGOs as well as the general public.

Waste Trade briefs by The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center), Malaysia

These briefs draw from 40 interviews with government officials, businesses and community representatives, these briefs provide an overview of waste trade in Malaysia.

  1. Good Governance and the Global Plastic Waste Trade
  2. Counting the Costs for Human Rights and the Environment

 

Waste Trade in the Philippines: How Local and Global Policy Instruments Can Stop the Tide of Foreign Waste Dumping in the Country, Greenpeace Philippines and Ecowaste Coalition

This report investigates the laws, the policies, and the shortfalls that have allowed illegal waste into the Philippines and also "legal" waste for which the country lacks an infrastructure capable of protecting the health of people and the environment.

Sign the #StopShippingPlasticWaste petition

Solidarity Open Letter for the EU Waste Shipment Regulations vote

This is an open call to the European Parliament to ban plastic waste exports outside the European Union in the latest revision of the Waste Shipment Regulations and put in safeguards to ensure waste dumping does not occur within the EU.

If you would like to further interact/interview any of our panelists or need to connect with other subject matter experts in Asia Pacific, please reach out to: 

Devayani Khare, Project Communications Officer - Asia-Pacific
Break Free From Plastic
devayani@breakfreefromplastic.org

About Alianzi Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI)

AZWI is an alliance that currently consists of 10 environmental organizations. AZWI campaigns for the correct implementation of the Zero Waste concept in order to mainstream various existing Zero Waste activities, programs and initiatives to be implemented in various cities and regencies in Indonesia by considering the waste management hierarchy, material life cycle, and circular economy.

https://aliansizerowaste.id/

About Break Free From Plastic (BFFP)

#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,500 organizations representing millions of supporters  around the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share the shared values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions. 

www.breakfreefromplastic.org

 

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