Welcome to Scrap Collector, Waste Dive's Friday round-up of insights and stories you may have missed during the week.
NEW REPORT REVEALS PLASTIC'S CLIMATE CONTRIBUTION
Lately, Thea Riofrancos noted in Viewpoint Magazine this week, "climate scientists are beginning to sound like radicals" — and not without reason. An October 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises policymakers that limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society"; a November 2018 federal assessment warns that climate change "is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century; and a UN report released last week reveals more that than 1 million plant and animal species are currently on the verge of extinction.
Can't get worse than that, right? Wrong. A new report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) estimates, for the first time, plastic's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions — and the results are alarming. In 2019, plastic production and incineration will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — the equivalent of pollution from 189 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants. If production and use increase as planned, these emissions could reach 1.34 gigatons per year by 2030 (equal to more than 295 500-megawatt coal-fired plants) and over 56 gigatons by 2050 — 10-13% of our entire remaining carbon budget (the amount of carbon dioxide emissions we can sustain while still having a chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius).
The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade association representing U.S. chemical companies, pushed back against the findings.
"Unfortunately, the CIEL report focuses largely on the anticipated growth of plastic production but fails to note that production is growing in response to increasing global demand for lightweight automotive parts, building insulation, and product packaging — all of which will play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping people live more sustainably around the world," said Steve Russell, vice president of ACC's Plastics Division, in a statement.
Nevertheless, the report recommends several key actions:
Ending the production and use of single-use, disposable plastics
Halting development of oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure
Fostering the transition to "zero waste"
Establishing extended producer responsibility as an integral part of circular economies
Adopting and enforcing ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors — including the plastics industry
"It has long been clear that plastic threatens the global environment and puts human health at risk," said CIEL President Carroll Muffett in a statement. "This report demonstrates that plastic, like the rest of the fossil economy, is putting the climate at risk as well. Because the drivers of the climate crisis and the plastic crisis are closely linked, so too are their solutions: humanity must end its reliance on fossil fuels and on fossil plastics that the planet can no longer afford."
IN OTHER NEWS...
Mountain of unsold food discovered in Seattle landfill — Buzzfeed News
A Seattle resident stumbled upon a dumpster diver's jackpot last week at a local waste facility: a nearly 6-foot-high pile of prepared meals — wraps, salads and sandwiches, along with hot dogs, bell peppers and other grocery items — still in their Amazon Go packaging.
The food waste, an Amazon spokesperson suggested to Buzzfeed News, might have been the work of other parties: "Amazon Go's policy is to donate unsold food that is still in good condition to local non-profits to help support the community ... In certain circumstances, our community partners may also be discarding food but we can’t comment on the details of their practices."
Of course, it's not just the organics at issue — it's the mountains of single-use packaging getting landfilled alongside them. And while major retailers are increasingly making gestures toward sustainability, mounting public pressure — especially from PR nightmares such as the one Amazon is currently facing — might force companies to accelerate and intensify their efforts.
AROUND THE WORLD
Philippines recalls ambassador to Canada over illegal waste standoff — The New York Times
The rest of the world may be whipping itself into a frenzy over Game of Thrones, but here at Scrap Collector, it's all about the frothy multi-year drama unraveling between the Philippines and Canada — and just like in Westeros, something rotten sits at the core.
When we last checked in, things seemed to have taken a turn for the better: Canada, apparently shaken by President Duterte's threats of war over the 77 containers of hazardous Canadian waste festering in Filipino ports had, after six years of resistance, agreed to repatriate its trash. However, it appears that the two countries may still be a long way off from "Kumbaya" — Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin announced Thursday that Duterte has recalled the country's ambassador to Canada in response to a missed May 15 trash pickup deadline.
At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out. They are expected here in a day or so. Canada missed the May 15 deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there.— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 15, 2019
Whatever happens, we can almost guarantee it'll be more worth following than Sunday's GoT finale. International hazardous waste scandal over dragons any day, y'all.
SEEN & HEARD
I can't make this up, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl are trying to give this press conference and you can't hear them because Burkman's trash is being taken away pic.twitter.com/aaBh3SsTM9— Alex Thomas (@AlexThomasDC) May 8, 2019
It rained on my birthday which meant I got a FEAST! I ate another keg (????), two cigarette urns (????), and another creepy doll that will haunt my dreams (????). Happy birthday to me! pic.twitter.com/zSDWuiyOSe— Mr. Trash Wheel (@MrTrashWheel) May 14, 2019
Garbage Disposal Twitter is the worst Twitter— Timothy Cama (@Timothy_Cama) May 7, 2019