Trashion: The stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya

The amount of second-hand clothing flowing to Kenya from global sources has grown significantly in recent years, a torrent that amounts to 17 items of clothing every year for each Kenyan, up to 8 of which are waste from the start. The system of used-clothing trade is currently at breaking point, with over 900 million items sent to Kenya from around the globe in 2021. Watch the online documentary of our investigation Trashion: The stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya. Read the press release here.

Synthetics Anonymous 2.0: Fashion’s persistent plastic problem

Synthetics Anonymous 2.0 uncovers the lack of progress that has been made by the fashion industry to kick its synthetics addiction. One year on from Synthetics Anonymous: fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuels, this follow-up report assesses where global clothing companies stand in reducing reliance on synthetic fibres and their transparency on usage. We reached out to 55 brands with a questionnaire and conducted desk research into their policies and public disclosure of relevant information on several topics, including use of synthetic fibres, synthetic suppliers, use of recycled fibres, commitments to phase out synthetics fibres, policies to address end-of-life management of synthetic fibres, policies to address microfibre release, climate targets and company position on elements of the European Union (EU) legislation proposed in the EU Textile Strategy. Analysis of the responses to our questionnaire signals fashion’s synthetic fibre addiction has not undergone any significant rehabilitation over the last five years. Thus, amidst an accelerating climate emergency, over one-fifth of the largest fashion companies are recording a heavier reliance on fossil-fuel-derived fabrics. On a positive note, survey results indicate that fashion brands show significant support for several of the policy elements proposed in the EU Textile Strategy. The European Commission must step up and implement these legislative solutions to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

Emissions Impossible: Methane Edition

Emissions Impossible: Methane Edition, a joint report with IATP, for the first time estimates the methane emissions of five of the largest meat and ten of the largest dairy companies. Their disproportionate share of methane emissions are feeling climate change.

Their combined methane emissions are roughly 12.8 million tonnes, which equates to over 80% of the European Union’s entire methane footprint. These companies’ emissions represent around 3.4% of all global anthropogenic methane emissions and 11.1% of the world’s livestock-related methane. Individual companies’ methane emissions are also comparable to countries’ livestock-related methane emissions. If these 15 companies were treated as a country, they would be the tenth largest GHG-emitting jurisdiction in the world. Their combined emissions also exceed those of oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.

All of the governments where these companies are headquartered (with the exception of China) have signed up to the Global Methane Pledge. They must significantly ramp up ambition to reduce methane from the livestock industry. Our findings show that a comprehensive set of regulations is needed, including binding GHG and methane reduction targets for the agriculture sector in line with the global goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C.

Dressed to Kill: Fashion brands’ hidden links to Russian oil in a time of war

This report exposes the hidden supply chain links between major global fashion brands and retailers and Russian oil used to make synthetic clothing. The investigation focuses on two of the world’s largest polyester manufactures, Reliance Industries in India and China’s Hengli Group. We found evidence that Russia has become the largest oil supplier to Reliance Industries and its polyester manufacturing, and evidence that Hengli Group is also purchasing Russian oil to make its polyester-based products. Polyester from  both companies are then sold to garment manufacturers around the world, who in turn produce clothes for many of the world’s largest brands. Our research has linked 39 of the 50 (78%) brands included in this research directly or indirectly to the Hengli Group or Reliance Industries supply chains, illustrating how widely polyester-based clothing made from controversial fossil fuels can spread through the global fashion industry. This stands in contrast to the sustainability commitments and high-profile green claims made by many of the same brands. Even though over 25 of these brands have suspended or withdrawn their operations in Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, through their reliance on synthetics, they continue to contribute to the Russian economy, therefore indirectly funding the war. The report calls for complete transparency with regard to the use of synthetic fibre use and a commitment to phase them out due to their contribution to plastic pollution, climate breakdown, and now war.

High Steaks: How focusing on agriculture can ensure the EU meets its methane-reduction goals

The agricultural sector is the largest source of methane emissions in the EU, responsible for 8 Mt of methane per year or 53% of EU’s overall methane emissions. This is equivalent to the total emissions from 50 coal-fired power plants, according to conservative calculations. Yet, the EU has very few policies to deal with emissions from its meat and dairy industries. For this reason, the Changing Markets Foundation commissioned research to the independent consultancy CE Delft to calculate methane reduction potential of different measures across the agriculture, energy and waste sectors. The report shows that the EU is currently on track for around 17% methane reductions by 2030, which falls short to the 30% target it has committed to by signing the Global Methane Pledge. It is also significantly less than what the science says is needed. However, there is a lot of potential. Through a combination of measures in agriculture, the EU could cut its methane emissions by up to 36%. The biggest potential comes from policies that would drive the uptake of healthier diets, as recommended by national dietary health guidelines. According to this Europeans should cut their red meat consumption by half and reduce their dairy consumption by a quarter. The study also investigates measures available in other sectors and concludes that the maximum reduction from all available measures could be up to 68%. Our briefing, supported by 6 NGOs, ends with policy recommendations for the European Commission and governments to realise potential of methane reductions in agriculture.

Under Wraps? What Europe’s supermarkets aren’t telling us about plastic

European supermarkets are very important actors when it comes to plastic: with a €2.4 trillion turnover, this sector has the resources to act, and public opinion polls consistently show that citizens believe that retailers must address plastic pollution. This first-ever analysis of European supermarkets’ plastic actions shows disappointing results, revealing that some of the biggest retail chains in Europe only pay lip service to the problem, while behind the scenes they are trying to delay action and distract consumers and policymakers. A coalition of 20 NGOs, members of the Break Free from Plastic movement, contacted 130 retailers across 13 European countries. The total overall average score achieved by retailers across three categories was only 13%. Only two companies exceeded 60%: Aldi in the UK with 65.3%, and Aldi in Ireland with 61%. The other two companies above 40% were Lidl in the UK with 44.7% and Carrefour in France with 41.7%. 82% of the companies did not provide even the most basic information, such as their plastic footprint. We also found that very few supermarkets were openly supportive of progressive government policies, but that instead they were found to be lobbying against these solutions. The report calls on supermarkets to stop perpetuating false solutions and greenwashing and to start systemically addressing the plastic crisis, such as through plastic reduction, upscaling reuse and actively supporting progressive legislation.

Licence to Greenwash

An in-depth investigation into 10 major certifications, labels and voluntary industry initiatives in the fashion sector (Higg Index and SAC, BlueSign, Oekotex, Cradle to Cradle, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Textile Exchange, The Microfibre Consortium, ZDHC, WRAP and the EU EcoLabel). Our research sought to establish whether these schemes are robust, if they’re creating any transformational change in the fashion sector, and how they approach key issues such as fossil fuel reliance and overproduction.

Why is the climate emergency now a methane emergency?

The climate emergency is now a methane emergency. The livestock agriculture is the single largest contributor to man-made methane emissions, responsible for 32% of this potent greenhouse gas. Although scientists have warned that rapid reductions of methane emissions are needed to slow the rate of global heating in this decade and avoid dangerous climate tipping points, reducing methane from livestock remains a blindspot for climate policy. Our analysis shows that all of the biggest 20 meat and dairy companies scored poorly, which indicates that the largest corporate methane emitters are oblivious to the problem and their responsibility to address it. We have also discovered that none of the 18 countries with the biggest livestock industries has effective policies in place to reduce methane emissions. Although most of these countries report their livestock methane emissions, these have been remained stable or have even increased in half of the countries analysed over the last five reported years.

Following the adoption of the Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in Glasgow, we are calling for rapid action by governments and corporations to cut methane emissions as part of a wider shift towards healthier and more sustainable diets and better agricultural production systems.

How fossil fuels are the backbone of fast fashion

Today’s fashion industry has become synonymous with overconsumption, creating an ever-worsening waste crisis, widespread pollution and the exploitation of workers in global supply chains. What is less well known is that the insatiable fast fashion business model is enabled by cheap plastic, or synthetic fibres, which are produced from fossil fuels, mostly oil and gas.

Coinciding with COP26, this video aims to show the hypocrisy of fashion brands, who are making top line commitments to climate action, while behind the scenes they double down on using fossil fuels to make clothes and drag their feet on putting in place real science-based climate plans. The campaign calls for prompt, transformative legislative action to slow down the fashion industry and decouple it from fossil fuels.

Why making clothes from plastic bottles will not solve fashion’s waste crisis

Fashion brands want you to believe using recycled bottles to make clothes is helping to solve the waste crisis – but this is misleading consumers and encourgaging us to buy more clothes in the belief they’re more sustainable. In this video we explore five reasons that fashion brands’ use of recycled polyester from plastic bottles may be environmentally harmful, and how it distracts us from their huge over reliance on virgin synthetic fibre derived from oil and gas.

Synthetics Anonymous: fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuels

Synthetic fibres are the backbone of the unsustainable fast fashion business model, which is driving runaway consumption and fuelling the plastic and waste crises. Despite many claiming to care about sustainability, fashion brands are heavily reliant on these fibres, which come from fossil fuels such as oil and fracked gas. The production of polyester alone creates the equivalent emissions of 180 coal fired power plants, and plastic microfibres which shed from synthetic clothes are a silent scourge undermining both human and environmental health. This short film is part of a campaign and report investigating the behaviour of some of the biggest fashion brands and retailers regarding their use of synthetic fibres and transparency about doing so. We reached out to 46 brands, finding that the majority of brands are dragging their feet on reducing their reliance on fossil-fuel based fibres, with some well-known brands landing in the red-zone for heavy of synthetics or lack of transparency. No brand was deemed to be a frontrunner on the issue of synthetics. We also conducted meticulous online research of over 4,000 products, seeking to establish what brands are doing on the ground regarding their reliance on synthetic fibres. Our findings not only expose fashion brands’ heavy addiction to synthetics but also demonstrate rampant greenwashing across their voluntary commitments and products, with as much as 59% of green claims for the products we assessed being unsubstantiated or misleading.

GobiernoDesplastifí – A microsite to provide Spanish citizens with a voice of action towards the plastic crisis

Spain is at a key decision moment on how it will address the plastics crisis. This year it is expected that the Waste Law and the Royal Containers Decree will be published through which the Spanish government intends to implement the EU waste legislation.

Our investigation “More Trash, More Cash: who is really behind the plastic crisis in Spain” revealed how the plastic polluters have successfully prevented any attempts to reform the Spanish waste management system for years and are now once again gearing up to derail meaningful implementation of new EU targets, adopted in the Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive through their latest fake voluntary initiative -Reciclos.  Only cleaning-up packaging litter on streets and coastal areas costs Spanish municipalities and, therefore, taxpayers up to €744 million every year. And a crucial part of these costs, up to €529 million, is associated with beverage packaging, such as bottles, cans and Tetra-Paks, which could be reduced by up to 80% if the drinks were sold with a deposit.

5 things plastic polluters don’t want you to know about chemical “recycling”

You’ve probably heard about new technologies that claim to break plastic waste down into its basic components to make new plastic. The industry that’s promoting it (mainly plastic producers, fossil fuel companies, and consumer brands) call it “chemical recycling” or “advanced recycling.” But there’s something these plastic polluters don’t want you to know: that chemical “recycling” is at best a distraction from real solutions, such as cutting plastic production, scaling reuse and shoring up conventional recycling.

What We Waste

This report by Reloop, supported by Changing Markets, draws on data from 93 countries, over a 20 year period, to examine trends in sales, collection and wastage of drinks containers, where wastage is defined as containers ending up in landfill, incineration, or in the environment. The countries included comprise 81% of the world’s population as of 2019. In particular, it considers the relationship between wastage rates and the beverage industry’s shift from refillable bottles to single-use drinks packaging, and the measures that can be used to limit that wastage. It looks at the impact the implementation of a deposit return system can have, and the effect of a strong refillable market share – and how both can work together.

Dead Loss: the high cost of poor salmon farming practices

Salmon aquaculture is dominated by a small number of multinational producers operating in just four farming regions – Chile, Norway, Canada, and Scotland. Not only is it already the fastest growing food production sector in the world, but a continued global growth in demand is expected. However, it also generates considerable controversy, which has seen demand growth slow in developed countries, not least due to negative consumer perceptions of farmed salmon. Although promoted as a healthy and sustainable product, behind the marketing discourse, we find that transparency and accountability are extremely weak by comparison with land-based farming. Data are often absent on important phenomena such as mortalities, escapes and environmental impacts. A combination of growing environmental impacts, consumer demand for ethical and environmentally-friendly products and direct losses from poor fish husbandry are creating long run economic risks to the industry, that can only be mitigated by investing in better farming practices and reduction of environmentally harmful aspects, such as use of wild-caught fish. It shows how measures such as high stocking densities, are a false economy as they have led to increasing mortalities on salmon farms.

Fossil fashion: the hidden reliance of fast fashion on fossil fuels

This report reveals the hidden reliance of the fast fashion industry on fossil fuels. It demonstrates how the historical and projected growth of synthetic fibres, such as polyester, has become the backbone of the prevailing unsustainable fast fashion business model, which is driving runaway consumption and presents a major obstacle to a circular economy. It also uncovers how, in light of the fashion industry’s growing dependence on fossil fuels, the oil and gas industry are betting on production of plastic, including plastic-fibres, as a growing share of their revenue. The production of polyester alone is leading to annual GHG emissions equivalent to 180 coal power plants and this is projected to nearly double by 2030. In addition to the climate crisis, fashion’s addiction to fossil fuels is also driving the waste crisis – from ubiquitous microfibre pollution to mountains of textile waste ending up in nature, landfills and incinerators. The report calls for a considerable slow-down of fast fashion and highlights the upcoming EU textile strategy as a good opportunity to introduce sweeping legislation that should change the course of the industry.

Talking Trash: the corporate playbook of false solutions to the plastic crisis

This report investigates industry tactics in the face of an unprecedented plastic pollution crisis and growing public pressure to address it. Based on research and investigations in over 15 countries across five continents, it reveals how – behind the veil of nice-sounding initiatives and commitments – the industry has obstructed and undermined proven legislative solutions for decades. We have critically analysed voluntary commitments from the biggest plastic polluters (Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Perfetti van Melle and Unilever), dissected the most prominent group initiatives (some of them championed by governments and NGOs) and revealed how companies across the plastic supply chain – from the oil industry to consumer brands and retailers – really act behind the scenes. Our case studies show that not only have voluntary initiatives failed to contain the plastics crisis, but also that companies have used these initiatives as a tactic to delay and derail progressive legislation – all while distracting consumers and governments with empty promises and false solutions.

Fishing for Catastrophe: the dark secret behind farmed seafood

Based on findings from undercover investigations in Vietnam, India and The Gambia, this report presents damning evidence that the production of fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) for use in the growing global aquaculture industry is destroying fish stocks, marine ecosystems and traditional livelihoods as well as undermining the food security of vulnerable communities. Our findings  reveal that demand for FMFO is fuelling overfishing, exacerbating other pressures on wild fish stocks such as climate change, and that the species being taken to produce FMFO are often food grade fish Through in-depth supply chain research we trace the tainted supply of FMFO from fishery to farm to fork, implicating some of Europe’s biggest retailers, as well as the world’s largest aquafeed producers.

With over 50% of the seafood we consume coming from aquaculture, a figure predicted to rise to 60% by 2030, the pressure on wild fish stocks to feed farmed species is growing. Against this backdrop, the report analyses the risks that irresponsible sourcing of feed raises for companies throughout aquaculture supply chains. It finds that the sector’s continued dependence on wild fish for use in aquafeed represents a systemic threat for companies, with FMFO and aquafeed producers being particularly vulnerable. Through their increasing reliance on farmed seafood fed using FMFO, other sectors – such as seafood processing and retail – are also exposed to these risks, which include disruption of supply, rising costs of raw materials and reputational damage.

Kellogg’s: stop breaking nutritional promises in Mexico

Kellogg’s advertises to kids with colorful cartoons and cute animal mascots. To parents, Kellogg’s promises something serious: a nutritious start to kids’ days. But in Mexico, parents and children are just getting empty promises and empty sugar.

A recent report from Changing Markets found that Kellogg’s quietly slashed nutritional content in some of its most popular Mexican cereals, even as 1.6 million children suffer from malnutrition.

Kellogg’s has made commitments to helping fight malnutrition across the world, even saying it would fortify its cereals to meet the “specific needs” of local markets. But this new report shows that it has in fact been taking out some of the key nutrients in its cereals in Mexico. That’s why we’re coming together to demand Kellogg’s live up to its breakfast promise.

Tell Kellogg’s to take children’s health seriously and fortify its Mexican cereals based on local needs:

Kellogg’s: pon la salud de los niños por encima de las ganancia

Kellogg’s hace publicidad dirigida a los niños con dibujos animados coloridos y lindas mascotas de animales. Para los padres de familia, Kellogg’s promete algo más serio: un comienzo nutritivo cada día para sus hijos. Sin embargo, familias mexicanas sólo están recibiendo promesas vacías y calorías vacías.

Un reporte reciente de Changing Markets descubrió que el contenido nutricional de Kellogg’s fue silenciosamente reducido en algunos de sus cereales mexicanos más populares, incluso cuando 1,6 millones de niños sufren de malnutrición.

Kellogg’s se ha comprometido a ayudar a combatir la malnutrición en todo el mundo e incluso ha dicho que fortalecería sus cereales para satisfacer las “necesidades específicas” de los mercados locales. Sin embargo, este nuevo reporte muestra queha estado extrayendo algunos de los nutrientes claves de sus cereales en México. Es por esto que nos unimos para exigir que Kellogg’s cumpla con su promesa de proporcionar desayunos nutritivos.

Dile a Kellogg’s que tome en serio la salud de los niños y fortifique sus cereales en México según las necesidades locales:

Testing US carpet for toxics

Our investigation tested 12 samples from six major carpet manufacturers in the United States, and found substances of concern in almost all of the samples. In half of the carpets tested PFAS were detected, which have been associated with cancer, hormone disruption, obesity, developmental disorders, and other adverse health effects. Five carpets were found to contain phthalates, a type of plasticizer often used in PVC carpet backing. Phthalate exposure has been linked to hormone disruption and adverse developmental effects in children, including reproductive and neurobehavioral impacts. It’s time for companies to produce safer carpets and move to a toxic-free circular economy.

Testing for toxics

Our investigation tested carpets from seven major European manufacturers, and found chemicals in all but three samples. Among the chemicals found was the phthalate DEHP, which was banned in 2015 but is still permitted in products using recycled PVC. Such loopholes in EU law can expose vulnerable groups, such as babies and young children, to toxic chemicals. It doesn’t have to be like this: three toxic-free carpets show that it is possible to produce and recycle carpets without creating health risks. It’s time for companies to scale up these solutions and move to a toxic-free circular economy.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats to public health today. If we don’t act, it’s estimated that by 2050 AMR will kill 10 million people a year – that’s more than cancer and diabetes combined.

One frequently overlooked cause of AMR is environmental pollution from raw materials used to make antibiotics at the very beginning of the supply chain.

Most of the world’s antibiotics factories are in India and China. These factories are contributing to the problem by not treating their waste properly, creating superbugs which spread quickly around the globe, undermining modern medicine.

These polluting factories supply pharmaceuticals to healthcare providers in the European Union. The EU needs to stop turning a blind eye to pharmaceutical pollution; if we don’t act now, the superbugs will win.

Dirty Fashion

H&M and Zara have been linked to devastating pollution in Asia. The clothes many Europeans love to buy and wear are made with viscose from factories that dump untreated, toxic waste directly into the environment. These factories are poisoning air, water and people.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Cleaner production techniques already exist and brands need to ask producers to clean up their act.

It is time for citizens across Europe to demand change. Sign the petition

Did you know most carpets are made from oil, used once, then buried or burned?

Currently, most carpets end up in landfills, which is problematic as synthetic fibres, such as nylon and polyester, can take centuries to biodegrade, leach toxic chemicals, and emit methane gas. Much of your company’s carpet waste also gets incinerated. Your industry calls burning carpet “transformation” which is an example of greenwashing, since incinerating carpet releases high levels of greenhouse gases and pollutants that are not regulated or monitored. These polluting emissions can be lethal, causing cancer, heart attacks, strokes, asthma, and pulmonary disease. For this reason, The Story of Stuff started a petition against Shaw – the biggest carpet manufacturer in the world – to promote sustainability and a circular economy in the carpet industry. You can sign the petition here:

Acrylamide: EU Protect Our Food Safety!

Big corporations want to leave a dangerous substance, acrylamide, in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, coffee, crisps and even baby food.

European Health authorities say that it could damage our DNA and increase the risk of cancer. SumOfUs is asking Health Commissioner Andriukaitis to change this by setting legally binding limits for acrylamide in our food. You can sign the petition here:

Antibiotics pollution

Watch the video with German and French subtitles.

Today, India is one of the world’s leading suppliers of generic drugs. Its pharmaceutical industry was worth US$15 billion in 2014 and over half of its drugs is going to EU and U.S. markets. However, as demonstrated by our investigation, this exponential growth is coming at a high price that is often paid by local communities living in vicinity of dirty pharmaceutical manufacturing sites. These people, who are often poor and reliant on subsistence farming, are suffering the consequences of extreme contamination of waterways and agricultural lands. In addition, the effluent from dirty factory is also driving drug resistance in bacteria present in the environment and could contribute to one of the biggest health threats of the 21st century – the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

Lil’ Krill

Lil’ Krill has a message for anyone using krill oil products – you can live without krill. The oceans can’t. SumOfUs is asking CVS and Wallgreens Boots Alliance to stop selling krill products and put the health of the Antarctic ecosystem before their profits.