February 21, 2022
The United Nations Environment Assembly will be held from February 28 to March 2. More than 100 countries will attend. Countries around the world will discuss and formulate the world's first treaty to deal with plastic pollution. It is expected to formulate regulations to reduce the production and use of single-use plastics. quantity.
For the petrochemical industry whose main products are plastic products, this requirement is undoubtedly the lifeline of the petrochemical industry.
The petrochemical giants have not opposed the UN proposal in public, representing major petrochemicals including Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N). The company's plastics industry groups have all expressed support.
However, Reuters reported on the 17th that these plastics industry giants are working behind the scenes to lobby participants to reject any agreement to limit plastic production.
Reuters: UN pact may limit plastic production, big oil aims to stop it
Reuters said it could take at least two years to finalize a treaty, but any agreement reached at the meeting would determine key elements of the treaty thereafter. Reuters said it could become the most important environmental pact since the 2015 Paris Agreement.
On the other hand, the petrochemical industry is also lobbying hard to prevent a treaty to limit plastic production. Plastic manufacturers want the UN to focus more on waste collection, recycling, and waste-to-fuel technology, areas that have no impact on their business. Reuters said the industry hopes to double global plastic production within 20 years.
Leading the lobbying effort is the Washington-based American Chemistry Council, a large trade group of U.S. petrochemical companies with more than 170 members. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has long defended single-use plastic, arguing that it is better for the planet than alternatives such as glass and cardboard, which it says are heavier and require more fossil fuels to transport. But some climate scientists countered that managing plastic waste requires huge social costs, plastic waste is difficult to recycle, degrades slowly, and is expensive to collect, bury and incinerate.
On October 21 last year, the trade group sent out a mass email saying it would create a coalition of big companies to block treaty discussions to limit plastic production.
According to the email, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) named the proposed coalition of businesses the "Plastic Pollution Action Enterprise," calling on businesses to "change the debate" by focusing the government's attention on the benefits of plastic. According to the email, the group plans to meet monthly and share policy recommendations with the government.
Not only that, but the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has been meeting privately with government officials and lobbying them.
On March 3 last year, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) sent an email to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), inviting it to participate in a telegram briefing, and detailed its objections in an attachment. One of its claims is that since big consumer brands are already using single-use plastic packaging to sell essential goods in poor countries, if plastic production is restricted, food waste in developing countries will increase, access to clean water will decrease, and global inequality will deteriorate.
Last year alone, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) emphasized its views on plastics to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency twice, once in March and again in July, Reuters said.
The same goes for Plastics Europe in Brussels. Since the outbreak, the European Plastics Association has asked the United Nations to avoid caps or bans on the production of single-use plastics, citing public health reasons. In a report sent to EU officials on December 16, the trade group said any such restrictions could have "unintended consequences" given the high demand for disposable masks, gloves and water bottles.
On November 3, 2021, local time, in New York, USA, there are piles of garbage on the streets of New York. Figure from Visual China
It is worth mentioning that the Biden administration, which claims to be a climate change leader, has also remained silent on the issue of plastics, and the Biden administration has not publicly committed to restricting or banning the production of single-use products.
The United States is home to the world's largest manufacturer of plastic polymers, and the United States produces more plastic waste per capita than any other country. According to a report released by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on December 1 last year, the United States is currently the world's largest producer of plastic waste, both in terms of total volume and per capita. The United States produced about 42 million tons of plastic waste in 2016, ranking first in the world, more than the sum of the plastic waste produced by all member states of the European Union in the same year, and the United States produced 130 kilograms of plastic waste per capita that year, ranking first in the world .
In an interview with Reuters, Monica Medina, assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Oceanic, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, declined to say whether the Biden administration was for or against the restrictions on plastic production, nor would she say any specific U.S. goals for the treaty.
Medina said vaguely: "We think about being as innovative as possible, rather than taking a prescriptive and top-down approach."