How Big Oil misled the public into believing plastic would be recycled

How Big Oil misled the public into believing plastic would be recycled

SOURCE: OPB DATE: September 11, 2020 SNIP: Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups. None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried. “To me that felt like it was a betrayal of the public trust,” she said. “I had been lying to people … unwittingly.” Rogue, like most recycling companies, had been sending plastic trash to China, but when China shut its doors two years ago, Leebrick scoured the U.S. for buyers. She could find only someone who wanted white milk jugs. She sends the soda bottles to the state. But when Leebrick tried to tell people the truth about burying all the other plastic, she says people didn’t want to hear it. “I remember the first meeting where I actually told a city council that it was costing more to recycle than it was to dispose of the same material as garbage,” she says, “and it was like heresy had been spoken in the room: You’re lying. This is gold. We take the time to clean it, take the labels off, separate it and put it here. It’s gold. This is valuable.” But it’s not valuable, and it never has been. And what’s more, the makers of plastic — the nation’s largest oil and gas companies — have known this all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite. NPR and PBS “Frontline”...
Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.

Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.

SOURCE: The New York Times DATE: August 30, 2020 SNIP: Confronting a climate crisis that threatens the fossil fuel industry, oil companies are racing to make more plastic. But they face two problems: Many markets are already awash with plastic, and few countries are willing to be dumping grounds for the world’s plastic waste. The industry thinks it has found a solution to both problems in Africa. According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies is lobbying to influence United States trade negotiations with Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, to reverse its strict limits on plastics — including a tough plastic-bag ban. It is also pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit. Plastics makers are looking well beyond Kenya’s borders. “We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” Ed Brzytwa, the director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council, wrote in an April 28 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Kenya, like many countries, has wrestled with the proliferation of plastic. It passed a stringent law against plastic bags in 2017, and last year was one of many nations around the world that signed on to a global agreement to stop importing plastic waste — a pact strongly opposed by the chemical industry. The chemistry council’s plastics proposals would “inevitably mean more plastic and chemicals in the environment,” said Griffins Ochieng,...
Nautical not nice: how fibreglass boats have become a global pollution problem

Nautical not nice: how fibreglass boats have become a global pollution problem

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 6, 2020 SNIP: Where do old boats go to die? The cynical answer is they are put on eBay for a few pennies in the hope they become some other ignorant dreamer’s problem. As a marine biologist, I am increasingly aware that the casual disposal of boats made out of fibreglass is harming our coastal marine life. The problem of end-of-life boat management and disposal has gone global, and some island nations are even worried about their already overstretched landfill. The strength and durability of fibreglass transformed the boating industry and made it possible to mass produce small leisure craft (larger vessels like cruise ships or fishing trawlers need a more solid material like aluminium or steel). However, boats that were built in the fibreglass boom of the 1960s and 1970s are now dying. We need a drain hole for old boats. We can sink them, bury them, cut them to pieces, grind them or even fill them with compost and make a great welcoming sign, right in the middle of roundabouts in seaside towns. But there are too many of them and we’re running out of space. To add to the problem, the hurricane season wreaks havoc through the marinas in some parts of the world, with 63,000 boats damaged or destroyed after Irma and Harvey in the Caribbean in 2017 alone. Most boats currently head to landfill. However, many are also disposed of at sea, usually by simply drilling a hole in the hull and leaving it to sink someplace offshore. Some say that dumped fibreglass boats will make suitable artificial reefs....
Revealed: more than 1,000 metric tons of microplastics rain down on US parks and wilderness

Revealed: more than 1,000 metric tons of microplastics rain down on US parks and wilderness

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 11, 2020 SNIP: Microplastic particles equivalent to as many as 300m plastic water bottles are raining down on the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and other US national parks, researchers have found. In a survey of 11 remote western locations, also including the Great Basin and Craters of the Moon national parks, researchers discovered more than 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles that had traveled through the atmosphere like rain or water particles. Most microplastics are fragments from larger pieces of plastic. Since plastics aren’t biodegradable, plastics that end up in waste piles or landfills break down into microparticles and make their way through the Earth’s atmosphere, soil and water systems. Janice Brahney, lead researcher and professor of watershed sciences at Utah State University, calls this process “plastic spiraling” – and some microplastics have been traveling through natural systems for a long periods. “Plastics could be deposited, readmitted to the atmosphere, transported for some time, deposited and maybe picked up again,” Brahney said. “And who knows how many times and who knows how far they’ve travelled?” Brahney’s team found that so-called wet microplastics, named for the way they are transported via wet atmospheric conditions, had most likely been disturbed by a storm and swept up into the atmosphere, and originated in larger urban areas. Dry microplastics, by contrast, mimicked the dispersal patterns of dust patterns and traveled long distances, often across continents. Brahney warned that new findings show an urgent need to reduce plastic pollution. Although their full effects on the human body are still unknown, scientists are starting to raise public health concerns over...
‘More masks than jellyfish’: coronavirus waste ends up in ocean

‘More masks than jellyfish’: coronavirus waste ends up in ocean

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 8, 2020 SNIP: Conservationists have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution – adding to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life – after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds. The French non-profit Opération Mer Propre, whose activities include regularly picking up litter along the Côte d’Azur, began sounding the alarm late last month. Divers had found what Joffrey Peltier of the organisation described as “Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitiser beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminium cans. The quantities of masks and gloves found were far from enormous, said Peltier. But he worried that the discovery hinted at a new kind of pollution, one set to become ubiquitous after millions around the world turned to single-use plastics to combat the coronavirus. “It’s the promise of pollution to come if nothing is done,” said Peltier. In France alone, authorities have ordered two billion disposable masks, said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. “Knowing that … soon we’ll run the risk of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean,” he wrote on social media alongside video of a dive showing algae-entangled masks and soiled gloves in the sea near Antibes. The group hopes the images will prompt people to embrace reusable masks and swap latex gloves for more frequent handwashing. “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from Covid. That’s the message,” said...