European Parliament votes to ban single-use plastics for which alternatives are available.

The European Parliament has voted for an extensive ban on single-use plastics to stop pollution entering the world’s oceans.  Products including plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds will all be eradicated from 2021 under the plans.

The ban is intended to affect items for which valid alternatives are available, which are estimated to make up over 70 percent of marine litter.

In a far-reaching set of proposals, EU lawmakers also set out plans to make companies more accountable for their plastic waste.  The regulations will now have to be approved in talks with member states, some of which are likely to push back against the strict new rules.

The plan was initially proposed in May after a wave of public opposition to single-use plastic swept across the continent.

        
        A scavenger collects plastic cups for recycling in a river covered with rubbish near Pluit dam in Jakarta.
        
        A man climbs down to a garbage filled river in Manila.

Fragments of plastic have been found everywhere from Arctic sea ice to fertilisers being applied to farmland.

Animals as small as plankton and as large as whales are known to eat plastic, and as tiny shards enter the human food chain they seem to be ending up inside humans as well.

While much still remains unknown about the impact plastic is having on the environment and human health, environmentalists have called for urgent measures from industry and governments to curb the flow of plastic.

“We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the council, due to start as early as November,” said Belgian liberal Frederique Ries, who was responsible for the bill.

Under the new rules, member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the cost of cigarette butt collection and processing in a bid to reduce the number entering the environment by 80 percent in the next 12 years.

Similar measures would apply to producers of fishing gear, who would have to help ensure at least 50 percent of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year.  Fishing gear accounts for over a quarter of waste found on Europe’s beaches, and “ghost fishing” is thought to be responsible for thousands of whales, seals and birds dying every year.

EU states would also be obliged to recycle 90 percent of plastic bottles by 2025, and producers would have to help cover costs of waste management.

Environmental groups have criticised companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle, which collectively are responsible for a vast proportion of plastic waste, for not doing enough to tackle pollution.

Other plans set out by MEPs included an intention to reduce consumption of other plastic items for which there are no viable alternatives by at last a quarter by 2025. These include various food containers and fast food cartons.

The parliament backed the range of proposals with a 571-53 majority. “Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive,” said Ms Ries.   “It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at €22bn (£19bn) by 2030.”

Many European nations have already proposed their own measures to cut back on single-use plastics. On Monday the UK government announced plans to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds in a bid to “turn the tide on plastic pollution”.

By Josh Gabbatiss, Science Correspondent, Independent

October 24, 2018

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/plastic-pollution-ban-vote-eu-european-parliament-environment-ocean-meps-a8599686.html

Microplastics found in human stools for the first time in Austrian study

Study suggests microplastics may be widespread in the human food chain.

Microplastics have been found in human stools for the first time, according to a study suggesting the tiny particles may be widespread in the human food chain. The small study examined eight participants from Europe, Japan and Russia. All of their stool samples were found to contain microplastic particles.

Up to nine different plastics were found out of 10 varieties tested for, in particles of sizes ranging from 50 to 500 micrometres. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were the plastics most commonly found. On average, 20 particles of microplastic were found in each 10g of excreta. Microplastics are defined as particles of less than 5mm, with some created for use in products such as cosmetics but also by the breaking down of larger pieces of plastic, often in the sea.

Based on this study, the authors estimated that “more than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools”, though they stressed the need for larger-scale studies to confirm this.

The Environment Agency Austria conducted the tests using a new procedure the researchers said shed fresh light on the extent of microplastics in the food chain. Samples from the eight subjects were sent to a laboratory in Vienna where they were analysed using a Fourier-transform infrared microspectrometer.

Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna who led the study, said: “This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut. Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”

Previous studies on fish have also found plastics in the gut. Microplastics have been found in bottled water and tap water around the world, in the oceans and in flying insects.  A recent investigation in Italy also found microplastics present in soft drinks. In birds, the ingestion of plastic has been found to remodel the tiny fingerlike projections inside the small intestine, disrupt iron absorption and add to stress on the liver.

“The smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and may even reach the liver,” said Schwabl, who will report on the study at UEG Week in Vienna on Tuesday. “Now that we have the first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.”

Plastic particles in the gut could affect the digestive system’s immune response or could aid the transmission of toxic chemicals and pathogens, the researchers said.

The sources of the plastic found in the stool samples is unknown. The people studied kept a food diary that showed they were all exposed to plastics by consuming food wrapped in plastic or drinking from plastic bottles. None of those participating in the study were vegetarians, and six of the group ate sea fish.

Scientists still know little about the effects of microplastics once they enter the human body, though many studies have already found them present in foods such as fish that people are likely to eat. The UK government has launched a study of health impacts. . .

 

By Fiona Harvey and Jonathan Watts, The Guardian

October 22, 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/22/microplastics-found-in-human-stools-for-the-first-time?CMP=fb_gu&fbclid=IwAR3Eep-zHg5r5s_XSIsbu7CWm838z-VJdADjwioQ8GqhughR4_J2SaWopHo

Nestlé, Tim Hortons named Canada’s top plastic polluters of plastic trash

Much of the plastic trash cleaned up from Canadian shorelines by volunteers in September could be traced back to five companies: Nestlé, Tim Hortons, PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s, an audit of plastic polluters led by Greenpeace Canada has found.

Greenpeace and other environmental advocacy groups working on the international Break Free from Plastic campaign looked for branding on 10,000 litres of food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic-lined coffee cups and other plastic trash collected in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax during World Cleanup Day on Sept. 15 and counted the results as part of their first Canadian plastic polluters brand audit.

Sarah King, head of Greenpeace Canada’s oceans and plastics campaign, said its first brand audit was in the Philippines last year because the group found that cleanups could only do so much.

“You do a cleanup one day, and the next day the beach is filling up with plastic again,” she said. “We really wanted to look at the companies that were responsible for the bulk of this trash that we were finding on the beaches.”

These are the top 10 plastic items found during shoreline cleanups across Canada on Sept. 15. (Greenpeace Canada)

According to King:

  • Over 75 per cent of the 10,000 litres of trash collected during the Canadian cleanups was plastic.
  • Of that, 2,231 pieces had identifiable branding, and 700 other pieces had branding that couldn’t be identified.
  • Food wrappers were the most common item found, followed by bottles, cups, bottle caps and shopping bags.
  • The top five companies accounted for 46 per cent of the identifiable branded trash.

Many of the companies have multiple brands — for example, Nestlé sells treats ranging from Drumsticks ice cream cones to Aero and Coffee Crisp chocolate bars, along with bottled water under brands such as Aberfoyle and Montclair, and PepsiCo makes Quaker granola bars and Frito-Lay chips.

Volunteers go through food wrappers found on a beach in Vancouver during World Cleanup Day. Food wrappers were the top branded item found. (Amy Scaife/Greenpeace)

When brands were counted instead of the companies themselves, the top offenders, accounting for 40 percent of identifiable trash were, in order:

  • Nestlé Pure Life.
  • Tim Hortons.
  • McDonald’s.
  • Starbucks (the company came 7th overall).
  • Coca-Cola.

Worldwide, Break Free from Plastic member organizations found that the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated and Colgate-Palmolive were the most frequent multinational brands collected in cleanups.

CBC has reached out to the five companies cited in the Canadian audit.

In response, Tim Hortons said in an email that  is working on a packaging strategy that takes into account its environmental footprint.

Nestlé suggested in an email that the real problem was improper disposal, saying the results “demonstrate a clear and pressing need for the development of proper infrastructure to manage waste effectively around the world.”

It added that the company’s goal is to make 100 per cent of its packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025, and it is also exploring packaging solutions with its industry partners to reduce plastic usage and develop new approaches to eliminating plastic waste.

Recyclability not the solution: Greenpeace

King thinks much of the trash found during cleanups may have been disposed of properly, but spilled into the environment by wind or storms.

Based on the Canadian results, she added, it didn’t seem that easily recyclable items, like plastic bottles, were less common than ones that are more difficult to recycle, like coffee cups or food wrappers.

Many of the companies cited have more than one brand. When Greenpeace looked at brands only, both Tim Hortons and Starbucks made the top five. (Amy Scaife/Greenpeace)

She hopes the findings of the audit will have an impact on the companies that were responsible, and get them to recognize that simply making single-use plastics recyclable isn’t the solution.

“We really want the companies to recognize, ‘Look the efforts that you’ve made or that you’re stating that you’re making aren’t good enough.’ You actually have to reduce your production of these products if want to be sure that they’re not going to be ending up in their environment, in our oceans and polluting communities.”

King firmly believes that it’s the companies that make the products that should be responsible, not the consumer.  “We aren’t given a lot of options for buying food and household products in plastic-free packaging,” she said.

She thinks consumers can have the biggest impact by pushing companies for reusable and refillable alternatives to single-use plastic packaging.

. . . Dirk Matten, a professor who holds the Hewlett-Packard Chair in Corporate Social Responsibility at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said he thinks Greenpeace’s audit is a “very skillful and effective” way to address plastic pollution.  “These companies actually use plastic that contributes to this massive problem to deliver their products and, I think by this, are forced to think about a more environmental friendly way of doing this,” he said.

He added that Greenpeace’s report could influence organizations like governments and universities in their purchasing decisions. “To the corporations, I would say don’t fight it,” he said. “Collaborate, address this constructively.” He added that Greenpeace is an international organization with a lot of experience that could be used as a resource in finding solutions.

As for consumers, he says, they should also be disciplined about their use and disposal of these products.

See also:

SEE FULL ARTICLE AT:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/greenpeace-plastic-brand-audits-1.4855450?fbclid=IwAR00hJQ0Hy5-NesFlcMLAEwdvAKYfs7kOhgPsb7lcuY1Juq1BgeWsNLF7Zs

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé found to be worst plastic polluters worldwide in global cleanups and brand audits

Plastic Found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch © Justin Hofman / Greenpeace

A Greenpeace diver holds a banner reading “Coca-Cola is this yours?” and a Coke bottle found adrift in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Even hundreds of kilometres from any inhabited land, plastic can be found polluting our environment. © Justin Hofman / Greenpeace

 

“These brand audits offer undeniable proof of the role that corporations play in perpetuating the global plastic pollution crisis,” said Global Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic Von Hernandez. “By continuing to churn out problematic and unrecyclable throwaway plastic packaging for their products, these companies are guilty of trashing the planet on a massive scale. It’s time they own up and stop shifting the blame to citizens for their wasteful and polluting products.”

The audits, led by Break Free From Plastic member organizations[1], found that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Incorporated, and Colgate-Palmolive were the most frequent multinational brands collected in cleanups, in that order. This ranking of multinational companies included only brands that were found in at least ten of the 42 participating countries. Overall, polystyrene, which is not recyclable in most locations, was the most common type of plastic found, followed closely by PET, a material used in bottles, containers, and other packaging.

The top polluters in Asia, according to the analysis, were Coca-Cola, Perfetti van Melle, and Mondelez International brands. These brands accounted for 30 percent of all branded plastic pollution counted by volunteers across Asia. This year’s brand audits throughout Asia build upon a week-long cleanup and audit at the Philippines’ Freedom Island in 2017, which found Nestlé and Unilever to be the top polluters.

“We pay the price for multinational companies’ reliance on cheap throwaway plastic,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines Campaigner Abigail Aguilar. “We are the ones forced to clean up their plastic pollution in our streets and waterways. In the Philippines, we can clean entire beaches and the next day they are just as polluted with plastics. Through brand audits, we can name some of the worst polluters and demand that they stop producing plastic to begin with.”

In North and South America, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé brands were the top polluters identified, accounting for 64 and 70 percent of all the branded plastic pollution, respectively.

“In Latin America, brand audits put responsibility on the companies that produce useless plastics and the governments that allow corporations to place the burden, from extraction to disposal, in mostly vulnerable and poor communities,” said GAIA Coordinator for Latin America Magdalena Donoso. “BFFP members in Latin America are exposing this crisis  and promoting zero waste strategies in connection with our communities.”

In Europe, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé brands were again the top identified polluters, accounting for 45 percent of the plastic pollution found in the audits there. In Australia, 7-Eleven, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s brands were the top polluters identified, accounting for 82 percent of the plastic pollution found. And finally, in Africa, ASAS Group, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble brands were the top brands collected, accounting for 74 percent of the plastic pollution there.

“These brand audits are putting responsibility back where it belongs, with the corporations producing endless amounts of plastics that end up in the Indian Ocean,” said Griffins Ochieng, Programmes Coordinator for the Centre for Environment Justice and Development in Kenya. “We held cleanups and brand audits in two locations in Kenya to identify the worst corporate polluters in the region and hold them accountable. It is more urgent than ever, for the sake of communities that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, health and well-being, to break free from plastic.”

Bread Free From Plastic is calling on corporations to reduce their use of single-use plastic, redesign delivery systems to minimize or eliminate packaging, and take responsibility for the plastic pollution they are pumping into already strained waste management systems and the environment. While the brand audits do not provide a complete picture of companies’ plastic pollution footprints, they are the best indication to date of the worst plastic polluters globally.

 

Notes:

For the entire set of results, please find Break Free From Plastic’s brand audit report here: https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2018/

[1] Break Free From Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, nearly 1,300 groups from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. www.breakfreefromplastic.org

Photo and video:

For photo and video from brand audits around the world, click here: https://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJWQQ88P

 

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Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé found to be worst plastic polluters worldwide in global cleanups and brand audits

 

Contacts:

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist: +1 301 675 8766, perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org

Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic Senior Communications Officer: +1 703 400 9986, shilpi@breakfreefromplastic.org

Claire Arkin, GAIA Campaign and Communications Associate: +1 510-883-9490, claire@no-burn.org

Greenpeace International Press Desk: +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org