Break Free From Plastic Bewegung anlässlich der Konferenz „Our Oceans 2018“ auf Bali: „Our throwaway culture is no longer viable.“

Anlässlich der Konferenz Our Oceans 2018, die morgen in Bali beginnt, hat das Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Netzwerk heute eine Corporate Leadership Dokument veröffentlicht, das konkrete Forderungen an die großen Plastikkonzerne formuliert. Als Mitglied von Break Free From Plastic unterstützen wir als Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung diese Forderungen ausdrücklich!

Es ist abzusehen, dass im Zuge der zweitägigen Konferenz zahlreiche Selbstverpflichtungen und Ziele angekündigt werden – von Regierungen, aber eben auch von großen Konzernen, die nicht wirklich zur Lösung des Plastikproblems beitragen werden. Warum das so ist, beschreibt das Dokument von BFFP:

The need for real corporate courage and leadership to reverse the plastic pollution crisis

Plastic pollution and production now threaten all living things – in the air, on land and at sea. This global environmental health emergency demands that we establish new foundations for how we produce, consume and dispose of our food and all of our goods. Our throwaway culture is no longer viable.

When it comes to most current consumer goods, the use of throwaway, single-use packaging is no longer acceptable. Such problematic packaging – designed to end up as waste and pollution the minute they are made – are massive contributors to the plastic pollution overwhelming nature and suffocating our oceans and waterways.     Worse, over the next 10 years, plastic production is expected to increase by 40%, and packaging accounts for one third of this total.  The evidence  is mounting and getting more difficult to ignore : plastic pollution is  harmful to people, to animals, to the environment and to our climate. Left unchecked, the unfettered  production of single-use, unrecyclable and non-essential plastics could lead to more problems of a global and catastrophic scale.

Break Free from Plastic’s recent report ‘Branded – in search of the world’s top corporate plastic polluters’ reinforces the need for corporations to ‘accept responsibility for the full life-cycle impacts of their products and the packaging in which their products are sold.’ The report outlines that  ‘Waste management systems and environments worldwide are suffering under the weight of a planned 40% increase in the production of plastics, and consumer goods companies have an opportunity and an obligation to stop this crisis where it starts.Responsibility for this plastic pollution problem lies not with individual “litterbugs”, but with corporate polluters who must adopt sustainable solutions and systems to stop the crisis.’

Plastic pollution is a transboundary and complex problem with significant and long lasting social, economic and environmental impacts.

  • Up to 80% of ocean litter—much of which is plastic—is estimated to be delivered by river systems from inland sources.
  • By 2025, global plastics production is expected to increase by 40%.
  • Recent data shows that only 9% of all plastic ever discarded since 1950 has been recycled while the rest is still present in the environment.
  • Packaging accounts for about one-third of plastic production, and much of this is designed for single-use, with 95% of its material value (or $80-120 billion per year) lost to the economy after a short first use.

It is clear that recycling alone cannot solve the plastic pollution crisis. While community cleanups are growing in popularity – they are not the answer to this crisis. Contrary to an implicit message repeated by corporations, the blame does not lie in countries with poor waste management systems, but in those who irresponsibly put an ever increasing amount of single-use plastics on the market worldwide, and those who allow that. The solution needs to be multi-dimensional encompassing legally binding global standards, national and local legislation, greater public awareness about the need to shift away from a ‘throw-away’ culture, and corporations taking responsibility for stopping plastic pollution at the source.

Communities around the world are demanding an end to the plague of plastic pollution;  individuals are seeking reusables and alternative systems and materials, while governments are deliberating bans on single use plastics, taxes and stronger lifecycle and Extended Producer Responsibility policies. Corporations – working with governments and civil society, can solve this problem if they want  to but no large company has yet had the courage to  implement serious plastics reduction policies and institute new delivery systems that do not rely on disposable, throwaway plastic .

Corporate leadership, from all tiers of the plastics supply chain, and in particular from fast moving consumer goods companies and plastic producers, is needed to reduce the volume of plastic packaging and production. True corporate leadership requires significant, clear and transparent commitments to this end, but most importantly – it requires urgent, concrete, comprehensive  and time-bound action. This leadership is needed now.

The first step is full acknowledgement of the root of the plastic pollution crisis – commiting to stop promoting a throwaway culture and recognising that we cannot simply recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis. The second step is to commit to change with strong reduction targets, and demonstrate it, not only in statements and policies but in immediate practice.

At a minimum and in particular for all companies involved in consumer goods production and retail,  real change  necessitates  that they:

  1. Commit to a plastic footprint reduction policy to dramatically reduce single-use plastic production and usage – with a publicly available action plan and timeline that shows measurable, independently audited results by 2020. They must demonstrate clear accountability by transparently reporting on their plastic footprint –  the plastics they used , as well as  reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal rates of their own products around the world;
  2. Re-envision a delivery system that dis-incentivises single-use, throwaway packaging; prioritising significant  investments  in reusables and refill systems;
  3. Redesign their products to end the use of microplastics, including microbeads, and other sources of microplastics and microfibres;
  4. Collaborate with retailers, government and NGOs to create scalable solutions to plastic pollution – including support for ambitious legislation that rewards plastics reduction and penalizes plastics overuse.
  5. Reject false and unproven solutions including waste incineration and thermal waste to energy technologies, chemical recycling,  plastic-roads or construction materials using residual plastics and other back-end replacements which are not durable, multi-use, further recyclable and non-toxic. In the absence of strong upstream commitments and measures to reduce and eliminate problematic plastics, such approaches simply perpetuate business as usual, and give companies the excuse to produce and use more of the plastic materials and products  that have brought us to this crisis in the first place.
  6. Avoid regrettable replacements, such as bioplastics and apply the precautionary principle –  banning  hazardous chemicals, prohibiting  and preventing  toxic recycling, and avoiding the  switch to alternative single-use products and materials.

We still have time to solve this issue. Corporations have an urgent and immediate obligation to stop over-packaging, to redesign product delivery systems in ways that minimize and eliminate waste, and to take responsibility for the plastic pollution they are pumping into the environment.

Most important of all, in order to reverse this crisis conclusively, corporations must start the larger shift away from fossil fuel dependency, recognising  that the  fossil fuel industry, including its petrochemical affiliates,  should not be allowed to  simply continue and expand plastic production to extend the lifetime of its highly polluting activities. This should start with companies recognising, and paying for the full costs associated with plastics pollution, such as but not limited to human health impacts (eg cancer and other developmental deficits), biodiversity harm and costs to marine ecosystem degradation, air and water pollution, cleanup and waste management costs,  impacts of fracking, and climate change.

Break Free From Plastic is a global movement of more than 1,300 member groups and thousands of individuals united around a common goal: to bring systemic change through a holistic approach that tackles plastic pollution across the entire plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure and on providing effective solutions.

Find out more and get involved –  join us now