NGO retracts ‘waste colonialism’ report blaming Asian countries for plastic pollution | Plastic

An environmental watchdog withdrew an influential report blaming five Asian countries for most of the plastic pollution in the oceans.

The report, Stemming the Tide, by the US-based environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, also included incineration and waste-to-energy as “solutions” to the plastics crisis. Released in 2015, it was denounced as “waste colonialism” by hundreds of environmental, health and social justice groups across Asia.

The watchdog has now publicly apologized for “creating an unfair narrative” about who is responsible for producing plastic waste and removed the report from its website. His apology was greeted Wednesday as “long overdue” by Gaia, an alliance of 800 waste reduction groups in 90 countries, and Break Free From Plastic, a global movement of more than 2,000 organizations.

The report caused years of damage, the groups said, ignoring the role of the northern countries of the world for the overproduction of plastic and for the export of plastic waste to developing countries in the form of trade.

“This unprecedented retraction of the report is an opportunity to stop decades of waste colonialism,” said Froilan Grate, Gaia’s Asia-Pacific coordinator.

“Ocean Conservancy is able to sensitize other organizations and politicians to the false narrative propagated by the report.”

When contacted by the Guardian for an apology, Ocean Conservancy referred to the statement on its website, which it posted in July.

The report not only “wrongly blamed” five countries – the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand – for most of the plastic pollution, but “misled governments and the public for years to think that burning plastic waste was a solution to the problem, ”Grate said.

Gaia also said that Ocean Conservancy underestimated the true cost of incineration in terms of climate and public health.

Additionally, Ocean Conservancy admitted its mistake in failing to look at the contributions of Asia-Pacific communities to find solutions to plastic waste, which Grate said were “disproportionately impacted” by the report. Now he is engaged in a “restorative justice” process by engaging with groups in Asia, he said.

Stemming the Tide was written by consulting firm McKinsey, with a steering group that includes the World Wildlife Fund, the Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical, and the American Chemistry Council.

Plastic bottles at a recycling plant in Bang Phli, Thailand. Photograph: Matt Hunt / Neato / Rex

Christie Keith, Gaia’s international coordinator, said the five Asian countries named in the report are not to blame for plastic waste. “That is the fault of the companies that produce and push ever greater quantities of plastic,” she said. “And those fighting for zero waste community solutions deserve to be honored and celebrated, not attacked.”

Satyarupa Shekhar, Asia-Pacific coordinator for Break Free From Plastic, said the Ocean Conservancy report “diluted existing restrictions on incineration and opened the door to false solutions and controversial technological solutions to address the pollution crisis by plastic”.

In the Philippines, the national ban on incineration is threatened by new proposals to allow waste-to-energy plants, while in Indonesia the government continues to push for waste incineration despite a supreme court ruling revoking presidential regulations to accelerate the development of waste. waste power plants or incinerators.

Stemming the Tide has often been cited by US lawmakers and federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sonia Mendoza, president of the Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines, said: “Every country should be responsible for the waste it generates and not export it under the pretext of ‘trade’.”

Understanding of ocean plastic waste, including its origins, has evolved in recent years.

In the statement on its website, Ocean Conservancy said it “failed to address the root causes of plastic waste or to incorporate the effects on communities and NGOs working on the ground in the places most affected by plastic pollution.” Including incineration and waste-to-energy as acceptable solutions to the plastics crisis was wrong, she said.

“We have not considered how these technologies support continued demand for plastic production and hinder the transition to a circular economy and a zero-carbon future.”

“Furthermore, by focusing so closely on one region of the world (East and Southeast Asia), we have created a narrative about who is responsible for the plastic pollution crisis in the oceans, which has not recognized the huge role that developed countries, in particular the United States has played and continues to play in the generation and export of plastic waste in this region. This was also wrong “.

Stemming the Tide was based on a paper published in Science in February 2015, which first estimated how much plastic entered the ocean from mismanaged land-based waste and ranked all 192 coastal countries accordingly.

Since then, data has been released showing that the United States ranks third among countries contributing to coastal plastic pollution and challenges the widely held belief that the United States is managing its own pollution adequately, underscoring its own footprint. waste in developing countries.

Another research, which Ocean Conservancy is now promoting, recommends interventions to reduce, reuse and better manage plastics across economies.

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