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Beverage-Makers & Other Companies That Sell Their Products in Single Use Plastic Containers Sued

Plastic waste is everywhere on our planet now, from the deepest parts of our oceans to the tops of the highest mountains on earth. We are literally drowning in the stuff. It's polluting our oceans and rivers, filling our landfills and spoiling our beaches, and it's responsible for killing over 1 million marine animals each year including sea turtles, sharks, birds and fish. And, there is increasing evidence that it's impacting our health.

Small pieces of plastic, called "microplastics," are now routinely found in the food we eat and the water [and beer] we drink.

QTD.Education, Dr Sabrina Stierwalt: "Microplastics can come from a few sources, including those small beads found in some soaps and lotions that are usually sold as good for exfoliation. Microplastics also include microfibers that are shed by the millions from synthetic clothing like fleece, acrylic, and polyester with each wash. Secondary microplastics are the smaller pieces of once larger plastic items, including anything from toys to furniture."

Researchers aren't sure yet how much of a health hazard human ingestion of microplastics presents, but we do know "that plastics can contain a variety of toxic or endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as flame retardants, antimicrobial compounds, and bisphenol-A––an industrial chemical used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins." And, a recent study found that each one of us is consuming about 50,000 microplastic particles each year.

To make matters worse, all of us are now breathing microplastics and scientists are concerned about the long-term effects on our lungs.

Our plastic problem gets worse day by day. For instance, we produce 300 million tons of plastic every year, and 8-20 million tons of it ends up in our oceans. And demand for single-use plastic containers continues to rise, growing an estimated 3.5% in 2019.

The problem seems overwhelming and there aren't any easy, short-term fixes. But, like with other environmental challenges, the first step is to educate the public about the threat. If history is a guide, we know that government officials rarely act to address environmental hazards without substantial public backing. And sometimes you have to be a bit dramatic to catch the public's attention.

A California based environmental group, Earth Island Institute, made a big splash in the press this week by attacking our plastic problem at its source. They sued a group of companies that are responsible for a large percentage of the nation's single-use plastic waste including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestlé, Clorox, Crystal Geyser, Mars, Danone, Mondelēz International, Colgate-Palmolive, and Procter & Gamble. They argue in their suit that the firms have created a plastic pollution “nuisance,” have mislead consumers about the recyclability of plastic, and should be held accountable for damaging the environment.

The Guardian: "Earth Island Institute, which filed the lawsuit, says a significant amount of the eight to 20m tons of plastic entering the Earth’s oceans annually can be traced back to a handful of companies, which rely heavily on single-use plastic packaging. The suit seeks to require these companies to pay to remediate the harm that plastic pollution has caused to the Earth and oceans. It also demands these companies stop advertising products as “recyclable”, when they are, in fact, largely not recycled."
“These companies should bear the responsibility for choking our ecosystem with plastic,” said David Phillips, executive director of Earth Island Institute. “They know very well that this stuff is not being recycled, even though they are telling people on the labels that it is recyclable and making people feel like it’s being taken care of.”

Their suit is novel, but based on an established legal principal known as "public nuisance" that says that companies can be held liable for the negative consequences resulting from their manufacturing activities. Given the growing evidence that plastic waste is fouling our water and permeating our food supply, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to find that a company's use of single-use containers is a public health hazard. But, win or lose, Earth Island Institute's suit should spur much greater public attention to the issue.

#environment #news

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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