Film Review: Plastic Wars

Plastic Wars – Another View on Single Use Plastics

Review by Chris Cooper

In May we reported on the film ‘The Story of Plastic’ (see the notes on the film here).

Since then, a new film has been released, ‘Plastic Wars’.  In some respects it is a better report; shorter, slightly less pessimistic, more focused on the root cause, and readily available on YouTube

 

Plastic Wars looks specifically at the motivation and tactics of the petrochemical industry over the past forty years.  As renewable energy sources become more available, the industry is looking to switch uses of its raw materials, oil and gas, to the production of plastics.

 

In the 1980’s the first public awareness of the problem of plastics waste began, and some US states threatened to ban plastic packaging.  The industry’s response was:

  1. Advertise the virtues of plastic
  2. Promote the concept of recycling

1 was successful if unhelpful; 2 was a blind alley already secretly acknowledged by the industry.  Sorting by chemical type was successfully prototyped in the 1990’s then abandoned, as only the plastic in plastic bottles had any commercial value, the other 90% ending up in landfill.  Why this should be was not fully explained.  Partly, packaging manufacturers were producing products made of multiple types of plastic which could not be separated, but one suspects that the petrochemical industry was also undercutting the price of recycled raw materials.

 

At that time, plastic identification symbols were put on packaging, but this was simply a public relations ploy to give people some confidence in the recycling process.

 

Exporting waste to the Far East for processing has only exacerbated the problem of unregulated dumping, especially since China closed the door to imports and trade switched to countries with more lax regulations.  The overspill is now finding its way into the oceans in a big way.

 

Once again the petrochemical industry is promoting recycling while at the same time engaging in a massive plastics manufacturing investment, which makes no sense if recycling was a viable option.

 

What to do?

While both films point to the petrochemical industry as the problem, they tend to take the line that this is the only point where pressure can be applied.  They recognise that the whole industry is a supply chain of many players, raw materials producers, packaging manufacturers, packaging users, packaged products retailers, consumers, waste collection and (the missing link) waste re-processers feeding back to the packaging manufacturers.  If this was working properly, the petrochemical industry would only be topping up any raw materials lost in the process.

 

However, as with any supply chain, the law of supply and demand applies.  If restrictions are applied at any point, by regulation or public demand, all stages of the process should be similarly restricted.  We as consumers have the power to let the shops know what we think, by complaining or just not buying.

 

Also, be aware of industry hype from those whose only interest is selling oil.  As with most big corporate organisations, the need for self-preservation will outweigh any moral or communal duty.

 

The Time is Now meeting with Anthony Browne 29 June 2020

Overall around 14,000 people signed up to the lobby nationally, and up to 270 MPs held meetings throughout the week.  The mass lobby had been arranged at fairly short notice so that it could precede the Chancellor’s statement early this month; so all in all an amazing effort by all concerned.

We had our meeting with S Cambs MP Anthony Browne on Monday 29 June.  There were 40 people at the Zoom meeting, of whom about a quarter were 2G3S newsletter subscribers – well done everyone!

Mr Browne had asked for questions to be presubmitted; people could also submit questions on the day via the ‘Chat’ facility.  He read the questions out himself and managed to get through 20 questions in the hour he had allocated.  Inevitably there were several questions that were not reached, including all the follow-up questions.

Sam Hall, Director of the Conservative Environmental Network, was also present and gave some supplementary answers.

A couple of us took notes and you can read our full report, as accurate as we can make it, below.  How well or satisfactorily Mr Browne answered the questions is for you to decide.

TTIN SCambs Q&A Anthony Browne 29.6.20docx

 

Green Alliance Blueprint for a resilient economy

The reports are coming thick and fast now!  See the Green Alliance Blueprint for a resilient economy, published 29 June, here.

They say:

“We set out the five essential building blocks that would support new long term employment opportunities, thriving businesses and a healthier, fairer society, whilst protecting against the potentially devastating future impacts of climate change and nature’s decline:

1. Invest in net zero infrastructure
2. Restore nature
3. Stop wasting valuable resources
4. Ensure clean air and healthy places
5. Make the recovery fair

Committee on Climate Change: 2020 Report

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advises the government on emissions targets and reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  CCC is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

It has just (25 June) published its 2020 report entitled ‘Reducing UK Emissions’, which includes new advice to the UK Government on securing a green and resilient recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.  It recommends that Ministers seize the opportunity to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change.   For the first time, the Committee sets out its recommendations government department by government department.

The report highlights five clear investment priorities in the months ahead:

  1. Low-carbon retrofits and buildings that are fit for the future
  2. Tree planting, peatland restoration, and green infrastructure
  3. Energy networks must be strengthened
  4. Infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle, and work remotely
  5. Moving towards a circular economy.

There are also opportunities to support the transition and the recovery by investing in the UK’s workforce, and in lower-carbon behaviours and innovation:

  1. Reskilling and retraining programmes
  2. Leading a move towards positive behaviours
  3. Targeted science and innovation funding

Unfortunately the report has gone large unnoticed because of all the attention focused on the latest information about Covid-19.  However, you can download the report here.

 

 

Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change – interim Covid-19 report

The UK Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change was created by MPs last  year.  It has just published an interim briefing on Covid-19, recovery and the path to net zero.

The briefing looks at Economic Recovery and Lifestyle Changes.

Key findings

●79% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “Steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net zero.”​​

●93% of assembly members ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that, “As lockdown eases, government,employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero.” ​

Note: Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six cross-party Select Committees of the UK Parliament to explore how the UK should reach its legally-binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The assembly’s 108 participants are together ​representative of the UK population​ in terms of demographics and levels of concern about climate change.

The final report will be published in September.

 

Protecting food standards – petition

At a time when we are negotiating post-Brexit trade deals with the US and others, many people are worried that in future our food may not be produced to the same high environmental and welfare standards that we currently have in the UK.  The government has maintained that no compromises will be made but has also rejected parliamentary moves to enshrine this in law.

The NFU has organised a petition about this which you can sign here.

Greenpeace ‘Speaker Shorts’ Events in June

(Taken from the Greenpeace website)

Join our ‘Speaker Shorts’ talks in June

Throughout June Greenpeace is running an exciting new programme called Speaker Shorts. These are free 15 minute talks followed by an interactive Q&A on areas that Greenpeace is campaigning on. From protecting our forests and oceans, to plastics and the climate crisis, Speaker Shorts will give an introduction to the topic and simple things you can do to help!

Speaker Shorts talks will be delivered by members of our Greenpeace Speakers network – passionate and knowledgeable volunteers who know a lot about our work.

The talks will run as a Zoom webinar, which is a secure and private way for you and your family to participate in these fun and interactive talks. You’ll need to download Zoom for free in order to join.

Find out more about each talk and register at the links below:

Family friendly:

Young people and students:

Adults and general audiences: