On September 30, 2019, non-governmental organization (NGO) Greenpeace published a report titled “Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have It Wrong on Plastic Pollution Solutions.” The report writes that “some of the worlds largest companies . . . have made commitments that seem aspirational, but closer scrutiny shows that they are mostly continuing on the same track by investing in false solutions that fail to move us away from single-use plastic, diverting attention away from better systems, perpetuating the throwaway culture, and confusing people in the process.”

Specifically, the Greenpeace report criticizes (i) the appropriateness of switching from single-use plastics to disposable paper-based packaging materials, (ii) unclarities regarding bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics, (iii) the inability of current collection and recycling systems to keep up with the levels of produced waste, and (iv) the efficiency, energy use, and hazardous substances involved in chemical recycling technology. Instead, the organization argues for “reduction of units sold in single-use packaging, and for investment in solutions focused on reuse, refill and other systems not dependent on disposables.”

In an article published by the NGO Plastic Pollution Coalition on September 27, 2019, a similar fundamental approach is recommended. “A real solution to polluting single-use plastic bottles lies in reintroducing the water fountain in a modern form as a bottle refill station.” It also criticizes the value recycling systems have been able to offer for plastic. “The public was sold on recycling plastic when only 9% of the plastic ever produced has been recycled. While recycling was working for paper and glass, it never worked for plastic.”

In the U.S., related discussions are underway among lawmakers regarding potential new bills to be added to the Save our Seas Act, which first entered into force in 2018. An article published by Waste Dive on October 2, 2019 describes the bills currently in preparation as focusing on promotion of technologies to remove plastic pollution in waterways using cleanup efforts and trash screens. However, concerned groups recently sent a letter to lawmakers arguing against the draft legislation and calling instead for reduction in plastic production. They write that “this legislation does not provide a comprehensive approach to solving the growing problem of plastic pollution and certain provisions of the bill will make the problem worse. We need Congress to pass legislation that reduces the generation of plastic, particularly single-use plastic packaging. This bill does not do that.”

Read More

Julian Buckley (October 2, 2019). “Greenpeace USA says multinationals are offering unsustainable plastics solutions.” Plastics News Europe

Lisa Kaas Boyle (September 27, 2019). “Real Solutions to Plastic Pollution.” Plastic Pollution Coalition

Katie Pyzyk (October 2, 2019). “Federal ‘Save Our Seas’ bill spurs debate over plastics recycling.” Waste Dive

Reference

Greenpeace (September 30, 2019). “Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have It Wrong on Plastic Pollution Solutions.” (pdf)

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