Plastic waste increases as companies miss out on recycling promises

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg

The companies that produce much of the 23 million tons of plastic waste that end up in oceans and rivers each year are unable to curb the flow of waste and in some cases are misleading about their efforts. This emerges from two new reports.

A group of scientists, led by Stephanie B. Borrelle of the University of Toronto, developed a model to assess the ambitious commitments made by countries, international organizations such as the United Nations, and independent groups to reduce plastic waste. The researchers found that even if all of these combined pledges are met – on an accelerated basis, plastic pollution will continue to deteriorate.

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The amount of plastic waste entering global water supplies each year is expected to double to 53 million tons by 2030. Images of plastic-clogged marine life and beaches littered with discarded Coke bottles have sparked public outcry, with corporate and corporate governments making a number of pledges to increase recycling. “Without great technological innovation, it is inconceivable that efforts to reclaim plastic waste from the environment could reach as much as 10% of annual emissions,” said the researchers in their report published Thursday in Science magazine.

These findings were backed up by a separate study by a London-based environmental protection group called the Changing Markets Foundation. Through their research, the group found that the top 10 plastics manufacturers did not even meet their own goals of reducing the use of new plastic.

The foundation used the Break Free From Plastic advocacy group’s two most recent brand reviews as a basis for its research, reviewed the recycling commitments set out in the reports, and reviewed the companies’ follow-up actions. The work, according to the foundation in a press release on the published results, included research reports, interviews with experts and non-governmental organizations, industry sources, policy makers and inquiries about government documents.

One case study was of Coca-Cola Co., which Break Free From Plastic has repeatedly named the world’s largest plastic polluter. The foundation found that the company’s 2009 sustainability report included a commitment to use 25% recycled plastic in its bottles by 2015, while its 2015 report indicated 12.5% ​​recycled or renewable content in its bottles. (Coke didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Other beverage companies that have come under fire in the Changing Markets Foundation report for failing to make plastic recycling pledges that they are unlikely to make include Nestle SA’s North American water division and PepsiCo Inc., “Nestle Waters NA did obliged to double the recycling targets for PET bottles By 2018 it was 60%, “said the group in the accompanying materials,” but in 2018 this rate was 28.9%. ”

The report also said that despite rhetoric to the contrary, beverage manufacturers are actively undermining government efforts to legally curb plastic production. Cola is one of seven industry associations that have campaigned to block laws that reduce the use of new plastic or interfere with its disposal.

“The industry’s voluntary initiatives and commitments have failed,” said Nusa Urbancic, campaign director at the Changing Markets Foundation. “Policy makers should look beyond the industry’s smoke screen.”

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