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Friday, March 30, 2018

Strategic CSR - Plastic

It never ceases to amaze me how much we know about the damage we are doing to the planet and, in light of that knowledge, how little we are doing to rectify that damage. The statistics that I include in the CSR Newsletter are usually just the most eye-catching of the articles I read on this topic. There are many more that are equally depressing. Whatever else can be said about the climate change debate, no one can say that we weren't warned. The article in the url below continues that trend, discussing the amount of plastic we produce and how, even though we fully understand the pollution it is causing, we are only ramping-up the amount of plastic in our lives. The amounts are staggering:
"The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US."
How much, exactly?
"Fossil fuel companies are among those who have ploughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new 'cracking' facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons. The new facilities – being built by corporations like Exxon Mobil Chemical and Shell Chemical – will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade."

According to a graphic in the article, we now produce 300 million tons of plastic a year. To put that in perspective:
"The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity."
And we have been doing this for a while now:
"… humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s, with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world's oceans and continents. The report warned that plastic, which does not degrade for hundreds of years, risked 'near-permanent contamination' of the earth."
This is a topic that The Guardian has been pushing for a while:
"In June a Guardian investigation revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute with most ending up in landfill or the sea."
The article argues that the current expansion in plastics production is driven by the shale gas boom in the U.S.. With cheaper, more readily available fossil fuels (and without an adequate carbon tax in place), plastic becomes more efficient to produce in larger quantities. In a sign of the permanent nature of the damage being done, the plastic residue being deposited in the sediment that will be discovered by future geologists was one of the two defining criteria (along with nuclear fallout) for the declaration that we have entered a new epoch (see Strategic CSR – Anthropocene).
Have a good weekend
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$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge
By Matthew Taylor
December 26, 2017
The Guardian