G7 leaders address ocean plastic pollution... is it enough?

by Sandra Curtis

The newly-released G7 Ocean Plastic Charter appears a lot like worldwide efforts to combat climate change: Acknowledge the problem (mostly) and create verbiage that sounds good but in fact does too little too late. Even worse, use words that sound good but are industry jargon for something very different. It probably should be called the G5 Ocean Plastic Starter.

The good news is the problem has been acknowledged by at least 5 of the 7 nations who are part of the G7. Those countries include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Conspicuously absent are the United States and Japan, major plastic producers and polluters.  It shouldn't be a surprise about the U.S., given that last August, President Trump overturned a six-year regulation banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in national parks.

In addressing the critical nature of the threats to the oceans worldwide, Greenpeace criticized the G7 Charter as tepid and inadequate. The organization identified the biggest concern as the charter's promotion of "recovery."

That's industry jargon for burning plastic waste. As explained by Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator for the #breakfreefromplastic movement - all the "recovery" options, including incinerators, cement kilns gasification, pyrolysis or thermal waste to energy plants - inevitably transform plastic waste into a toxic and greenhouse gas emissions nightmare. Incinerating plastic causes harmful emissions of heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, carbon emissions and other dangerous toxics.

"The use of incineration encourages us to waste more, not less," says Monica Wilson, Research and Policy Coordinator at GAIA. "If we rely on burning our waste we have no chance of getting to the root of the problem-- eliminating the products and packaging that create the waste in the first place."

The wording of the charter had been in the works for months in Canada. One admirable goal had been to set a target date for eliminating plastics from landfills, as well as commitments from each country on how to get there. Unfortunately, the actual charter is miles from that goal. It devolved into a multi-year target to make packaging recyclable or reusable. And we know the state of recycling – China and other nations in the Far East like Vietnam are refusing to take trash from the U.S. and Europe.

In response to the adoption of the Charter, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced the development of a new coalition on plastic pollution, urging the world's largest companies to join and show leadership on the issue..

In response to the foundation announcement, Greenpeace plastics campaigner Graham Forbes said:

"It is important for businesses to move beyond what is easy and convenient. They must recognize that while better recycling is important, we cannot simply recycle our way out of the plastics crisis we are facing today. The sheer scale and volume of plastic production, predicted to quadruple by 2050, prevents us from solving this through recycling efforts alone."

It's the position of Plastic Pollution Coalition that the only truly viable solution is to stop production at the source and to make producers take responsibility for what they create.  

We need to continue growing awareness, supporting individual behavior change, using our power as consumers to push for alternatives, promoting solutions, advocating for local, state, and national regulations and pressuring producers to stop the problem at the source.

Join us in keeping the pressure on to create a world free of plastic pollution.