A report from The Changing Markets Foundation has revealed how the plastics industry, consumer brands and retailers have obstructed and undermined proven legislative solutions to the crisis for decades.

Plastic bottles recovered from sewers are seen at a road during cleaning of drains with the onset of Monsoon amid the COVID-19 nationwide lockdownPTI representative
news Environment Friday, September 18, 2020 - 17:47

A new report from The Changing Markets Foundation has revealed that the plastics industry has used different tactics to “distract, delay and derail” unfavourable legislation against the use of plastic. The report, called ‘Talking Trash: The Corporate Playbook of False Solutions’ showed that industry’s delaying tactics include lobbying to delay unfavourable legislation, to protect the status quo for longer and to remain primed for future opportunities to influence or weaken legislation.  

The report names for big Indian branches of multinational companies and states, “The Indian subsidiaries of multinational corporations have developed their own set of voluntary initiatives that shy away from addressing the plastic crisis in any meaningful way. An overall analysis of the various commitments and voluntary programs reveal a lack of transparency in reporting the progress of such initiatives.”

The report has critically analysed voluntary commitments from the ten biggest plastic polluters (Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Perfetti Van Melle, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever), who have a joint plastic footprint of almost 10 million tonnes per year. 

The report reveals how companies use these commitments to appear to be part of the solution, while at the same time using trade associations, producer responsibility organisations and even fake environmental groups to aggressively oppose and lobby to delay progressive legislation to tackle the plastics crisis.

The report states that in 2018, Nestle India launched its ‘Maggi wrapper return scheme’ but Nestle has not published any progress reports or shared any expansion of this scheme in other regions. 

“In October 2019, Unilever and Coca Cola launched a multi-city plastic waste management program in association with the United Nations Development Program...The campaign so far claims to have collected 30,000 tons of waste and aims to reach 100,000 tons in due course,48 – a negligible fraction of the 3 million tons the company generates globally per year,” the report said.

About Colgate-Palmolive India, the report said the company rolled out pilots for plastic recycling initiatives in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in 2018 but  there are no progress reports divulging any further details on the quantity of materials recovered or the financial commitments made by the company so far.

“PepsiCo’s global plastic footprint is 2.3 million metric tonnes per year,” the report notes, but goes on to add that despite the company’s plastic waste management efforts spanning across a few initiatives, “, the company websites or annual reports do not provide any evidence to corroborate recovery or recycling rates.” 

The report suggests 12 measures for India to better its waste management and environment conservation, including steps like stricter legislations for violations, phasing out multi-layered plastics, bans on unnecessary or harmful plastic materials such as PVC and Polystyrene, and prioritising reusable alternatives. The report can be read here.

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