Californian environmental group, Earth Island Institute (EII), is embarking on a David versus Goliath legal challenge after filing a lawsuit against the world’s largest plastic polluters.
Here’re some facts for you: every piece of plastic ever produced still exists on Earth in some form. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by 2050 plastic will outweigh the fish in our oceans. And Coca-Cola’s Head of Sustainability, Bea Perez, told the world at Davos 2020 that customers ‘like’ plastic bottles as they reseal and are lightweight. We quite clearly have a problem with plastic. As consumers, the recycling of single-use plastic falls squarely on our shoulders. At least, that’s what we’re led to believe. And while we agree that everyone is accountable for their waste, what about the global corporates producing the plastic? Why aren’t they equally (if not more so) responsible? According to EII, they should be.
In 2019, global movement Break Free From Plastic conducted an international audit monitoring the plastic collected during beach clean-ups. Over 72,000 volunteers assisted the research. The result? Turns out 10 companies are the world’s worst plastic polluters. And on 26 February 2020, the EII filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County against them. The companies are Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, Mars, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mondelēz International, Crystal Geyser and Clorox.
So what’s the lawsuit?
Not only is EII suing the 10 for being plastic pollution nuisances but also for misleading consumers about the recyclability of plastic. Yup, they’re lying to us. We’re all led to believe that if we recycle correctly the world would be in a much better place. But in reality, and according to the lawsuit “there is no market for most plastics to be recycled”. And in fact, past studies show that globally only 10% of plastic ever gets recycled. With anywhere between eight and 20 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans each year, it’s clear something is amiss.
David Phillips, executive director of EII, stated during an interview with The Guardian, “These companies should bear the responsibility for choking our ecosystem with plastic. They know very well that this stuff is not being recycled, even though they are telling people on the labels that it is recyclable and making people feel like it’s being taken care of.” EII hopes that by filing this lawsuit, these organisations will have to take more responsibility for the plastic waste they create.
The ten polluters are yet to comment on the lawsuit, but the world is waiting. And we for one can’t wait to hear what they have to say. We’ll keep you posted.