September 14, 2020 Read More →

Investigation: Plastics industry knew recycling was dead end

DeSmog Blog:

Off Africa’s eastern coast, north of Madagascar, lies Aldabra Atoll, a cluster of coral islands that surround a tropical lagoon.

Aldabra is a UN World Heritage Site that’s home to a stunning array of wildlife, including tens of thousands of wild giant tortoises, far more tortoises than in the Galapagos Islands. Sir David Attenborough, the documentary filmmaker, has called Aldabra “one of the wonders of the world.” The atoll is exceedingly difficult to visit, not only because it’s so remote, but also because new arrivals must contend with a $225 per-visitor daily environmental impact fee — as well as piracy in the region.

This wild, protected place is also, according to newly published research from Oxford University, littered with over 500 tons of plastic waste. 

“The image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate,” Larry Thomas, a former president of a plastics industry association, wrote in records obtained by NPR from that meeting. “We are approaching a point of no return.”

The solution the gathered executives arrived at, NPR found, was to advertise a solution that industry officials knew was unworkable: recycling.

“They knew that the infrastructure wasn’t there to really have recycling amount to a whole lot,” Thomas, now turned whistleblower, told NPR. 

There are some signs that impacts being felt in the petrochemicals industry. This month, Saudi Aramco canceled plans to build a $20 billion petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia, and said it was reviewing its purchase of gas export infrastructure in Texas. Oil giant BP anted up $1.1 billion for wind energy projects in the US and in June announced it was selling its petrochemicals division.

“We’re seeing a deterioration of the plastics market right before our eyes,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’ finance director Tom Sanzillo said in July, citing a plunge in plastic prices.

[Sharon Kelly]

More: Oil Industry’s Shift to Plastics in Question as Report warns $400 Billion in Stranded Assets Possible

Posted in: IEEFA In the News

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