August 18, 2022

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The Plastic Crisis Has Deep Corporate Roots: To Protect Our Planet, They Need To Be Exposed

Despite growing public consciousness of (and laws on) plastic air pollution, the worldwide plastic disaster is just getting worse. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS.
  • Opinion
  • Inter Press Service

By the third week – after a deep dive into the troubling connections between fossil capitalism (the dependence of capitalism on fossil fuels), waste colonialism (the unjust worldwide commerce and disposal of hazardous waste between international locations) and environmental injustice – just a few college students stated glumly that that they had thought the course could be extra optimistic.

During the fourth week, we explored the well-documented historical past of climate denial and deception amongst fossil gasoline firms, in addition to the associated “deceit and denial” techniques of the tobacco, lead and chemical industries. “Do you think it’s really true?” one pupil requested me imploringly. “Do you think that businesses are really that unsustainable and will never change?”

I hesitated. I wished my college students to think about advanced environmental issues from a vital sociological perspective, however I didn’t need to lead them down a pessimistic path. “Well,” I admitted, “I did just write a book about the plastics industry with the subtitle ‘how corporations are fuelling the ecological crisis and what we can do about it’”.

It’s exhausting to keep away from pessimism whenever you witness firsthand the obstinacy of socially and environmentally damaging industries. Early in 2019, I attended a plastics business convention within the wake of the marine plastic crisis, prompted by public outrage over viral photos of marine wildlife choking on plastic. The disaster prompted a swift response from plastic-related companies, who tried to border the issue by way of littering and waste reasonably than overproduction. “We need to get the image of plastic in the oceans out of the public’s mind,” exclaimed a company government on the convention. “We need to make plastic fantastic again.”

Since the dramatic rise of plastic manufacturing the world over after the second world war, petrochemical and plastics firms have fought to develop and defend their markets by way of creating demand for plastic merchandise, denying poisonous dangers and shifting blame for air pollution onto shoppers. And regardless of growing public consciousness of (and laws on) plastic pollution, the worldwide plastic disaster is just getting worse.

My new e book, Plastic Unlimited, sheds gentle on the company roots of this disaster. In it, I tackle the idea of the “corporate playbook” utilized by big oil, big tobacco, and, extra just lately, big plastic.

Playbook techniques

The corporate playbook typically incorporates a typical repertoire of methods utilized by controversial industries to hide or forged doubt on the dangerous results of their merchandise. Champions of those methods have been dubbed “merchants of doubt” and accused of offences from downplaying the well being dangers of smoking to funding local weather change denial.

As researcher David Michaels wrote in his exposé Doubt is Their Product, “the manipulation of science by the plastics industry was at least as flagrant and as self-serving as any other industry” he had researched – together with the tobacco business. Michaels was referring to the vinyl chloride scandals of the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies, when main chemical firms conspired to cover proof in regards to the poisonous well being results of the vinyl chloride monomer on staff in chemical vegetation.

Big business’s monitor file continues right this moment. It has denied the toxic hazards of myriad petrochemicals and plastic merchandise, funded climate misinformation campaigns, misled the general public in regards to the effectiveness of recycling, and lobbied to thwart and delay environmental laws. During the pandemic, it additionally lobbied to advertise single-use plastic baggage because the “sanitary choice”.

Leading companies additionally use offensive techniques, together with directing consideration to their position as so-called innovators in inexperienced tech. Take the circular economy, for instance. It appears like an ideal concept to attempt to eliminate waste by shifting from a linear “take-make-waste” financial system to 1 wherein current supplies are reused for so long as potential. But, crucially, no international or nationwide coverage visions of a round financial system for plastics go as far as to name for limiting plastic production altogether.

In reality, the plastics business promotes the weakest type of the round financial system – recycling – which implies plastic production can preserve going, regardless of the reality that the majority objects going right into a recycling bin will find yourself being burned or dumped.

What’s extra, recycling makes use of plenty of vitality. Chemical recycling, for example, includes returning plastics to their authentic molecular states for use once more. Although it’s promoted as an answer to the plastic disaster, it’s a poisonous, carbon-intensive course of that’s successfully the identical as incineration.

Here’s some excellent news: in March 2022, the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi agreed on a mandate for a new global treaty to deal with the crisis. This was a landmark achievement in the direction of creating legally binding measures to forestall poisonous plastic air pollution.

Many scientists, activists and organisations insist that any ensuing treaty should embrace a cap on plastic production. The negotiations might be difficult, nonetheless, given companies’ vested interests in conserving laws targeted on waste reasonably than manufacturing. Now, it’s pressing that we push again in opposition to greenwashing and work in the direction of a world mandate for limiting unsustainable plastics progress.The Conversation

Alice Mah, Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick

This article is republished from The Conversation below a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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