Scrap Collector: Global brands produce at least 8M metric tons of plastic per year, report reveals
Plus: The perils of space debris, a mammoth discovery in a Mexican landfill and news from the right-to-repair movement.
Welcome to Scrap Collector, Waste Dive's Friday round-up of insights and stories you may have missed during the week.
GLOBAL COMPANIES DISCLOSE FULL SCALE OF PLASTIC FOOTPRINT
A new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy initiative reveals the annual plastic packaging volumes of 31 major companies around the world — including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Colgate Palmolive, and other corporate behemoths. According to the foundation, this unprecedented public disclosure marks "an important step towards greater transparency in today's plastic system" — and certainly a giant one, based on the massive plastic footprint revealed in the data.
Exhibit A: Coca-Cola, which, in a fun nod to its 1917 slogan, produces a whopping 3 million metric tons of plastic packaging per year — the equivalent of 200,000 bottles a minute. Altogether, the 31 companies generate 8 million metric tons of plastic packaging per year (Coca-Cola's figures are trailed by Nestlé's 1.7 million metric tons, Danone S.A.'s 750,000 and Unilever's 610,000) — and that's not even factoring in the rest of the initiative's 150 industry signatories (including PepsiCo, Walmart and L'Oréal), which have thus far declined to divulge the extent of their own plastic packaging production.
Inclination toward tight-lipped reticence aside, the signatories were commended on their "initial efforts" in tackling plastic pollution — New Plastics Economy lead Sander Defruyt praised the targets and action plans detailed in the report as "a significant step forward compared with the pace of change of past decades." Highlighted commitments include:
Increasing recycled content in consumer packaging to an average of 25% by 2025, compared with the current global average of just 2%.
Eliminating the use of "problematic and unnecessary" plastics, including PVC and single-use plastic straws and bags.
Piloting or expanding reuse and refill schemes.
Still, Defruyt noted, these action items are "far from truly matching the scale of the problem, particularly when it comes to the elimination of unnecessary items and innovation towards reuse models."
"Ambition levels must continue to rise to make real strides in addressing global plastic pollution by 2025, and moving from commitment to action is crucial," he added. "Major investments, innovations, and transformation programs need to start now."
IN OTHER NEWS...
Waste of space — Bloomberg Environment
According to experts, all the space debris that's accumulated in Earth's orbit during the past 60 years of space exploration — even tiny pill-sized aluminum chunks — poses an increasing threat to our ability to survive in space (like that wasn't already hard enough).
But seriously, the possible fallout from one of those aforementioned aluminum itty-bits striking an unsuspecting spacecraft at 6 miles per second is pretty severe — especially with Trump's Space Force ramping up to send billions of dollars worth of military personnel, equipment and satellites into space in the next several years. So we've naturally drawn up comprehensive plans to remove all that orbital junk, right?
Eh. While the White House's June 2018 space policy directive notes that the U.S. should "mitigate the effect of orbital debris on space activities," it doesn't specify how, or by whom, this might be accomplished. "It's been U.S. space policy for about 10 years now that we will be actively trying to clean up space debris, except that we haven't taken any steps to do so," said Ted Muelhaupt, associate principal director for systems analysis and simulation at The Aerospace Corp. "No money has been set aside, no one's assigned to do it."
(In fairness, this kind of thing has never been a big issue for Martians, who spend a lot of time raking and cleaning and doing things. If we'd just rake our orbit every once in a while, you know, we wouldn't have this constant threat of spectacular fiery space explosions looming over us all the time.)
AROUND THE WORLD
Mammoth bones discovered in Tultepec landfill — Mexico News Daily
Time to address the elephant in the room: we for real need to stop tossing everything all carefree and willy-nilly into the trash. I mean, now someone's gone and thrown away an entire mammoth? Outrageous behavior.
Okay, so maybe someone didn't just throw their mammoth into the trash — but municipal crews did uncover fossilized mammoth bones while performing drainage work at a new landfill in Tultepec, Mexico state. Excavation work at the site is now being coordinated by archeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, who estimate the bones to be at least 14,000 years old.
According to specialists, it may have been a common phenomenon for Columbian mammoths to wander into shallow bodies of water and get trapped in mud (you try weighing 10 metric tons and not getting constantly stuck in things). This is, in fact, the second mammoth discovery in Tultepec, which was dominated by a shallow lake system during the late Pleistocene period — a specimen unearthed in December 2015 now resides in the town's Casa de la Cultura.
Waste Dive wishes this chonky tusk boy a similarly mud-free forever home — and sends you away with the reminder that, while mammoth bones might get the archeologists going, they're not the only odd items to find their way into landfills.
SEEN & HEARD
UPDATE: The FTC just announced a new workshop to "focus on how manufacturers may limit repairs by consumers and repair shops and whether those limitations affect consumer protection, including consumers’ rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act." https://t.co/V5DVHjnHmr— Nathan Proctor (@nProctor) March 13, 2019
In 2019, it's not hard for consumers to find eco-friendly products, but the average American can't afford most of them.@APBenven dives into the high cost of sustainable products pic.twitter.com/8yPZpGyBEQ— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 10, 2019
Follow the women tackling #plasticpollution! @Plastisphere @MelanieBergma18 @rebecca_altman@Anna_Cummins @klavlaw @Imogennapper @MaxLiboiron @rznagle @JambeckResearch@mariawesterbos @lizbonnin @BCarneyAlmroth @WinnieCJ @RhiannonCMoore 1/x #WomensDay— Plastisphere Podcast (@PlastispherePod) March 8, 2019
Today I watched the garbage truck @RepublicService dump the recycling dumpster into the same load as the trash. All the material I had gathered to recycle that week was sent to the landfill. Where is my recycling supposed to go? @AthensRecycles— Connor K (@ConnorKeisling) March 14, 2019
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