US NGO withdraws 2015 report blaming Asian countries for plastic waste
The report, backed by the world's worst polluter, blames 5 Asian nations for the bulk of the world's plastic pollution.
With an apology long overdue, Ocean Conservancy, a US-based environmental watchdog, retracted a report, pushed forward and funded by large corporations, that blamed five Asian countries for the majority of plastic pollution in the ocean.
The report, titled Stemming the Tide, not only advocated false and racist ranks and information, but it also claimed that incineration and waste-to-energy are solutions to the plastic crisis, disregarding that science for long has provided evidence that such actions are only harmful to the environment.
The report was written by McKinsey, a consulting firm, and the group behind the paper were Coca-Cola Company, World Wildlife Fund, Dow Chemical, and the American Chemistry Council, noting that Coca-Cola is one of the world’s top polluters of plastic.
An audit in 2019 conducted by Break Free From Plastic consisting of 848 cleanup events across 51 countries and six continents found that of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic collected, Coca-Cola was the #1 brand, followed by Nestle and then PepsiCo.
Another report sent to Congress issued in December 2021 depicted that the United States is the world's biggest contributor to global plastic waste in the world and that the US has contributed to some 42 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2016 alone.
Stemming the Tide, published in 2015, has frequently been cited and used by US lawmakers and federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, to back their policies and claims. However, it has been slammed by environmental, health, and social justice groups across the continent as "waste colonialism".
Read more: Firms causing packaging pollution accused of 'blatant greenwashing'
The website then issued an apology for unfairly "creating a narrative" about those responsible for producing plastic waste and withdrew the report.
Gaia, an alliance of 800 waste-reduction groups in 90 countries, and Break Free From Plastic, another alliance of 2,000 organizations and more, remarked that the apology was long overdue.
The groups argued that the report ignored the role of the Global North in producing plastic, in addition to their exporting of plastic waste to developing countries under the guise of “trade". The report blamed the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand for the bulk of plastic pollution, misleading the public.
Read more: Greenpeace UK: Global South 'used as a place to dump waste'
Gaia also remarked on the Ocean Conservancy’s advocacy for incineration and its implications for the climate and public health. The organization admitted to its failure to acknowledge the efforts of Asian-Pacific communities in finding solutions to plastic waste. The same communities have been, according to Froilan Grate, Gaia’s Asia-Pacific coordinator, “disproportionately impacted” by the report.
Gaia’s international coordinator, furthermore, asserted that the five Asian countries that were named in the report are not to be blamed for the plastic waste.
“That fault lies with the corporations that make and push out ever-increasing quantities of plastic,” she said. “And those fighting for zero-waste community solutions deserve to be honored and celebrated, not attacked.”
In the statement on its website, Ocean Conservancy said it “failed to confront the root causes of plastic waste or incorporate the effects on the communities and NGOs working on the ground in the places most impacted by plastic pollution."
“We did not consider how these technologies support continued demand for plastic production and hamper the move to a circular economy and a zero-carbon future."
“Further, by focusing so narrowly on one region of the world (east and south-east Asia), we created a narrative about who is responsible for the ocean plastic pollution crisis – one that failed to acknowledge the outsized role that developed countries, especially the United States, have played and continue to play in generating and exporting plastic waste to this very region. This too was wrong.”