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We Are in a Climate Crisis
It’s Time to Start Naming Bad Actors 5/31/2021 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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A new study identifies both companies driving climate crisis with virgin polymer production and the financial institutions lending them the money to help do it. Just 20 firms produce 55 percent of the world’s plastic waste. Eleven of those companies are based in Asia, four in Europe, three in North America, one in Latin America, and one in the Middle East. And their plastic production — it’s funded by banks with names you’re familiar with: Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase.

The Plastic Waste Makers Index reveals for the first time companies producing the polymers that become the single-use plastic items we’ve talked about avoiding so frequently here. At the end of a short lifecycle these items pollute the oceans, are burned, or are thrown into landfills. 130 metric tons of this plastic was not recycled in 2019 and even more alarming, estimates are that only a meager 10 to 15 percent of plastics worldwide were. See what I mean about a crisis? Would you be willing to reconsider some of your purchases or banking relationships if they could make a difference in even a small way?

The Index, which was supported mostly by the Minderoo Foundation, was filled with insights that might surprise. For instance, the study found that Australia leads the list of countries generating the most single-use plastic waste on a per capita basis, ahead of the United States, South Korea, and Britain. ExxonMobil is the greatest single-use plastic waste polluter in the world, contributing 5.9 million tons of global waste, followed by the largest chemical company in the world, USA-based Dow Chemical Company, with 5.5 million tons. China’s oil and gas enterprise, Sinopec, created 5.3 million tons.

Former VP turned environmentalist Al Gore pointed to the Index and how it exposes fossil fuel companies switching to plastic production as two of their main markets, transportation and electricity generation, are being decarbonized. “Since most plastic is made from oil and gas, especially fracked gas, the production and consumption of plastic are becoming a significant driver of the climate crisis,” Gore said. “Moreover, the plastic waste from single-use plastics is piling up in landfills, along roadsides, and in rivers that carry vast amounts into the ocean.”

We’ve talked about the alternatives presented for your clients by upcycling and recycling, and the fact that they see this kind of news in mainstream media. Perhaps they are already talking about the shift to a circular economy, and you sourcing promotional products produced with recycled polymers from plastic waste, reusing plastic, and using substitute materials. The time for benefiting all of us has come — just two percent of single-use plastic was made from recycled polymers in 2019, the last year reported.

“Plastic pollution is one of the greatest and most critical threats facing our planet,” said Dr Andrew Forrest AO, chairman of the Minderoo Foundation, and funder of the Plastic Makers Index. “The current outlook is set to get worse, and we simply cannot allow these producers of fossil fuel-derived plastics to continue as they have done without check. With our oceans choking and plastic impacting our health, we need to see firm intervention from producers, governments, and the world of finance to break the cycle of inaction.” You can break your own cycle of inaction, and help clients break theirs, too. It’s a win for them, for you, and for our planet. Think of it this way: If not now, when? If not you and your clients, who?

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on TwitterLinkedInInstagram, or read his latest musings on food, travel and social media on his personal blog jeffreypjacobs.com. Email jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.
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