Alliance to tackle plastic waste accused of 'greenwash'

Members of a new alliance that announced a drive to eliminate plastic waste have been accused of greenwash by an environmental NGO, which says they are making huge investments in increasing plastic production.

Just last week a group of nearly 30 companies joined forces to create the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), pledging to invest $1.5bm over the next five years.

But many of the same companies are in fact making huge investments in increasing plastic production, according to a report from Belgian-Dutch NGO Recycling Netwerk (CRCT).

Recycling Netwerk said the list of companies forming the so-called alliance reads as a "Who's Who of companies investing billions of dollars to produce even more plastics".

 "Many of the 28 members forming the alliance, including major companies like BASF, Shell, Exxonmobile and Dow have scheduled future billion-dollar investments in the expansion of plastic production," said the NGO.

"They don't practice what they preach. An overview of pending investments and the expansion of plastic production quickly reveals the hypocrisy of the alliance."

While recognising it is a small step forward that the plastics industry has finally recognized the huge problems posed by plastic waste, the fact that members plan to hugely expand production indicates the alliance is nothing more than a large "greenwashing operation", it said. 

Rather than blaming consumers, members of the alliance needed to be aware that the best way to tackle plastic waste was at its source, especially by reducing the use of single-used plastics for packaging, said Recycling Netwerk. “Cleanups of streets, rivers and seas offer no effective solution as long as a steady stream of new plastics keeps being produced.”

Recycling Netwerk director Rob Buurman said there was a question mark over how companies in the alliance will spend the money earmarked for the fund and if the spending will be externally supervised. 

Many of the new investments in plastic production being made by members of the alliance are linked to fracking and plan to use cheap shale gas to produce ethylene gas that can be used create single-use plastics.

AEPW projects to help end plastic waste include backing The Incubator Network to develop and promote technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling.

It will also be supporting Renew Oceans, a company that works to capture plastic waste before it reaches the ocean.

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