Corporate Projects Wish Away Plastic Pollution
By Romero Halloway
For years, consumers have mollified their consciences related to the rampant production of plastics and their propensity to end up in the natural environment by dutifully placing plastic items in a blue bin.
Increasingly, it is difficult to hide from the fact that approximately 10% of the plastic products they are sorting out from their regular trash are ever recycled. The rest is often shipped overseas at enormous energy and emissions costs to countries in Southeast Asia or Africa, where a fraction of it is actually recycled and the rest is either burned or dumped.
But the corporations responsible for the largest amount of plastic production in the United States have also been providing false comfort according to a new report by an organization called Break Free From Plastic.
The report, Missing the Mark, contends that the top fast-moving consumer goods companies, like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, churn out projects, announcements, and press releases that make it sound as though they are laser-focused on ameliorating the plastic pollution problem but substantively do little.
“The world’s top polluting companies claim to be tackling plastic pollution, but the evidence for how serious they are is in the numbers,” said Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic Corporate Campaigns Coordinator. “These companies are pursuing false solutions that range from potentially damaging at worst, and simple wishful thinking, at best.”
The report analyzed plastic pollution mitigation projects from seven major companies -- Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Mondelez International, Mars Inc., PepsiCo and Nestle.
“What the findings reveal is that only 15% of the projects are proven solutions like reuse, refill, and alternative delivery systems,” Priestland said. “Instead, these companies are investing in projects that do little to eliminate single-use plastics.”
The report analyzed 265 different projects announced by the seven plastic-intensive companies and found only 15% focused on the concept of reuse.
Reuse is different from recycling because in recycling, the material is melted to make raw materials, which are then used to create other plastic products. The process creates emissions and doesn’t ultimately reduce the number of plastics in the ecosystem.
Reuse, on the other hand, is when manufacturers create a product that is meant to be used multiple times and can even be passed from one user to another.
The concept of reuse has been identified by Break Free From Plastic and other groups as one of the ways in which companies could reduce the plastic footprint and contribute to a reduction of harmful pollution.
The report argues these companies are pursuing other avenues that prioritize style over substance.
Out of the 265 projects analyzed for the study, only 39 were focused on reuse. The experts defined the remaining 226 projects as false solutions to the plastic pollution problem. False solutions came under four categories:
1. unproven technology that isn’t scaled;
2. third party collection and disposal, which often means burning;
3. false narratives like beach clean-ups that are more cosmetic in nature;
4. announcements without follow-ups.
Here at Littorary, we are using our material science background to come up with reusable products that will minimize or replace plastics.
Our solution to plastic pollution starts with product design, which we use to create compelling alternatives to single-use products, particularly as it relates to hot or chilled beverages like coffee and tea. A reusable non-plastic product can help salve the environmental wounds created by the overproduction of wasteful single-use products.
Littorary is committed to making durable and sophisticated products that rival the convenience of plastics without the environmental burden. We believe technology and design innovations can revolutionize how Americans and the world consume products in concert with the health of the environment. Please stay tuned to our website, blog, and upcoming Kickstarter page as we unveil a product fully capable of providing the convenience and sustainability that will consign the concept of disposable plastics to the garbage heap of history.