Companies campaigning to end plastic waste ‘investing billions in new plants’

This week a number of firms announced their impending collaboration surrounding plans to tackle plastic pollution, while also being the world’s biggest investors in new plastic production plants.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of these companies: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow Chemical, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis.

According to a European NGO Recycling Netwerk, the companies have invested an estimated £778m in reducing plastic pollution, and yet have tens of billions dependent upon the industry increasing in production over the next decade.

“The signatories claim to invest over a billion dollars to “end plastic waste”. But an overview of pending investments in the expansion of plastic production, quickly reveals the hypocrisy of the Alliance. Without tackling the production of plastic at its source, all clean-up efforts will be in vain”, Said the NGO. Click this link and scroll down to see the list of investments from each company.

ExxonMobil has begun production on a new polyethylene line in Texas, which will produce 650,000 tons per year. Shell plan to build a new plastic plant in Pennsylvania, which will turn shale gas into 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year. Given these investments, the Alliance appears to be nothing more than a ‘greenwashing’ operation.

Since 2010, fossil fuel companies have invested more than $180 billion in new fracking facilities, or ‘cracking’ as it is known, which will increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade.

Rob Buurman, the director of Recycling Netwerk, said: “It is interesting to see [the plastics industry] finally acknowledge that there is a problem with their plastics. But unfortunately, this initiative does not tackle the problem at its source: the gigantic production of 400 million tonnes of plastic each year, with 60 million metric tonnes produced in Europe alone.”

It is estimated that each year around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into the sea. This plastic goes on to choke, infect, and kill multiple marine creatures, and can destroy habitats.

A spokesman for the alliance said: “Reducing the amount of plastic required to create products while preserving the benefits people rely on and making plastics easier to recycle is definitely part of the solution. Not all alliance members produce plastic. Some of the members do produce plastic, and some have announced expansions to meet the demands of a growing population.

“Plastic provides many critical health, safety and sustainability benefits that help improve and maintain living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world and replacing it could, in the end, do more harm than good.”

While both arguments are valid, it must be stressed that trust cannot be placed in the hands of big business. It has been a neoliberal con that has placed the consumer as the one who is to blame for plastic pollution. Public opinion in recent years, especially, 2018 has changed for the better, and yet it leads to organisations such as the Alliance To End Plastic Waste which talk of progressive change, but mask realities.

Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace, said: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics. In 2018 people all over the world spoke up and rejected the single-use plastics that companies like Procter & Gamble churn out on a daily basis, urging the industry to invest in refill and reuse systems and innovation. Instead of answering that call, P&G preferred to double down on a failed approach with fossil fuel giants Exxon, Dow and Total [which] fuel destructive climate change.”

“Make no mistake, plastics are a lifeline for the dying fossil fuel industry, and this announcement goes to show how far companies will go to preserve it.”

With many of the investments of these companies being linked to fracking, we cannot view an organisation like the Alliance as an inherently good thing, and must ask the question, are these apparent progressive environmental campaigns a costly but effective way of disguising and safeguarding future plastic investment and production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

200 cross-party MPs pledge to divest parliament from fossil fuels

Around 200 MPs and former MPs have come together to sign the Divest Parliament Pledge, a pledge calling on the MP’s Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies.

This announcement comes at the same time as global leaders meet for COP24, the climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, to develop plans to actualise on the global heating limitations set out in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. As the recent IPCC report stated that we only have 12 years to mitigate the worst of greenhouse gas emissions and global heating, this act from MPs is greatly welcomed.

“We’re now a 200 strong cohort of cross-party MPs who believe it is morally indefensible for Parliamentarians to be investing in companies which profit from wrecking our planet.” Said Green Party MP for Brighton Palivion. “MPs have a duty to take action to prevent the worst of climate change. One simple step we can take is ditching our investments in fossil fuels – and instead invest in clean, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies”.

If this Divest Parliament Pledge is successful, Parliament would join the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, The New York State Pension fun, and two-thirds of UK universities committed to fossil fuel divestment.

Amongst those MPs that have signed the pledge are Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP MP Mhairi Black, Labour MP David Lammy, and former conservative MP Lord Deben. You can find a full list of MPs who have signed the pledge here, and use the site to inform your local MP if they have not already signed.

“Preventing disastrous climate change will be the defining challenge of the next decade for world leaders.” Said Lord Deben. “The UK must show leadership by demonstrating that we are prepared to make the necessary choices. This includes moving investment out of fossil fuels and towards renewables that are already proving that they can be built at the scale needed to power our homes and businesses. Moving quickly towards the Paris goals is the best way to protect our health and our prosperity for many generations to come.”

Since December 2017, the amount of MPs signing the pledge has doubled, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being the 100th person to sign. 23 out of 25 SNP MPs have signed, alongside 11 out of 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, including party leader Sir Vince Cable.

Of the MPs that have signed the pledge, roughly 59% are Labour. Conservatives make up roughly 7%, Liberal Democrats 8%, SNP members make up 15%, and other parties make up 20%.

The campaign itself was started in 2014, by a small group of MPs that included Caroline Lucas. The campaign’s first success was to ensure that the trustees of the MPs Pension Fund disclosed its investments. This revealed that the largest individual holding is in British Petroleum, valued at £7.33 million. It also revealed investments in Royal Dutch Shell A at £3.67 million, Rio Tinto at £3.67 million, Royal Dutch Shell B at £2.93 million, and Total SA at £2.93 million, amongst others.

The campaign for transforming our current economy into a green economy had been rhetoric for some time, but now is seemingly becoming actualised, however slowly. Carbon-based fossil fuels drove the first industrial revolution, but have no become part of our downfall, as global temperatures rise, extreme weather events becomes more and more often, and refugees are forced from their homes at the hands of climate breakdown. What we need is a new energy revolution. Divestment is the first step towards this.

The current UK government may employ a green rhetoric, but it’s record is far from clean. Only recently did the Conservative government ratify Caudrilla’s bid to frack for shale gas in the northern county of Lancashire, despite the local council’s attempts to block it. Fortunately, more and more conservative party members seem to be turning away from Fracking.

The government’s Clean Growth Strategy admitted that the measures it had recommended to fulfil the fourth and fifth carbon budgets set by the Paris Climate Agreement would not be enough. This is a legally binding contract, limiting by law the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in a five-year period.

This campaign is the fastest growing divestment movement of all time, which has seen more than $5tn of assets divested across more than 800 institutions.” writes Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford & Eccles. “Campaigning for our universities, workplaces, unions, and pension funds to divest is one important way we can help to build a more sustainable society. Parliament must play its part.