Talking Trash

Plastics are problematic across their lifecycle; from extraction and refining to consumption and disposal they cause pollution on land, and oceans, threatening marine ecosystems, leading to toxic emissions and undermining human health. Despite the unprecedented attention the plastic crisis has received, most efforts to address it are focused on end-of-pipe solutions which fail to hold those truly responsible for the problem to account. This campaign highlights the critical need for plastic producers and consumer brands to collect at least 90% of the packaging they put on the market, for either reuse or effective recycling, which in turn will stimulate product redesign, better collection systems and a push towards a circular economy. Such solutions need to be enshrined in legislation, because the industry has failed to address the problem through voluntary measures.

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

September 2020

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.

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Plastic Pollution Lobby: A coalition against the introduction of a deposit return system in Austria

May 2020

Austria is currently considering the introduction of a deposit return system: a proven way to reduce plastic pollution and reach the targets for separate collection of plastic bottles set out in the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive. However, this report reveals that a group of powerful companies with vested interests, including major retailers Lidl, Spar, Hofer and REWE Group, has been lobbying to influence the government’s decision against a deposit system. They are orchestrating their lobbying efforts through the highly reputed Altstoff Recycling Austria AG (ARA), Austria’s largest extended producer responsibility (EPR) organisation, which currently manages around 70% of the waste market. Recent poll finding show that 83% of Austrians are in favour of DRS and 93% agree with the idea that plastic producers should contribute to managing plastic waste. For this reason Austrian government should introduce a deposit return system for all beverage containers and introduce specific measures to promote reuse, such as a specific sub-target for refillables.

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Genie in a Bottle: Unlocking the full potential of California’s bottle bill

May 2020

This briefing highlights the opportunity to update California’s bottle bill by increasing safety and convenience for Californians wanting to redeem their bottle deposits during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The system has seen redemption and recycling rates falling over the years, leading to higher emissions, more recyclable material sent to landfill, and more plastic ending up in the ocean. The system must be brought back to best-in-class level, and unlocking $400 million of unspent funds in the program could be the first step to updating the system, leading to the creation of new jobs and environmental and economic benefits. The briefing also presents the results of the public opinion poll, which showed that 74% Californians want more action on plastic pollution and 80% want plastic producers to contribute to managing plastic litter.

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