Business is booming for plastic companies as demand for plexiglass surges

The Daily Dive


One of the interesting things about the coronavirus pandemic is that it sparked a need for more plastic demand for everything from facials, gloves, takeaway food containers, and even bubble wrap for online shopping has gone up and with that demand is severely set back the effort to recycle this happening is big oil companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to create new plastic and companies that have made pledges to use more recyclable materials are even in a tough spot as new plastics are far cheaper than using recycled plastic for more on how the pandemic has accelerated the trend of creating more and not less plastic trash. We'll speak to Joe Brock special correspondent at Reuters. Before the pandemic, we had a plastic crisis and I think that there is an awareness about that. It's killing marine life. It's it's leaking toxins into drinking water in some of the world's poorest countries. Then the pandemic hits and we have this flood of new plastic containers from three takeaway. Bubble wrap because more people ordering in as they were stuck in lockdowns as well as the the lifesaving PPA, the mosques and the gowns and the bodybags, which is understandable but also you have this double whammy. Plastic recyclers are suffering like every other industry under an economic meltdown and they are unable to recycle the plastic and the price of oil from which plastic is made drops dramatically, and that means that new plastic becomes very cheap and we cyclist cannot compete with that new plastic. So you've got this sous Nami new plastic arriving on the scene we site closed. Struggling, and so this dynamic can only lead to more plastic waste. I. Think that's a very important thing that a lot of people don't realize or they forget right away as that plastic really comes from fossil fuels, oils and and petrochemicals, and as you were mentioning, you know to make new plastics these single use plastics. It's so much cheaper now than using recyclables. Companies that have pledged to use more recyclable materials in their packaging and whatnot, but they just can't keep up you know new plastics just cheaper for their business models and all of this can become a driver of climate change. Correct and I think this is something which has been overlooked toll misunderstood during the climate change debate not only plastic made from fossil fuels oil derived products and gas issues. A growing area for struggling oil and gas companies. People are driving more electric cars than moving to cleaner fuel. These oil and gas giants need to use up this oversupply of shale gas. In the US they've got dwindling opportunities to use this one area they put into is making new plastic for the developing world where there's a rising middle class in parts of Asia and Africa. The problem comes that these are the places who are feeling the plastics crisis the worst. So as oil and gas company suspending about four hundred, billion dollars to increase production of plastics to use up cheap oil and gas. These countries have no way of processing dot plastic. So with already a waste crisis, more supply coming online no way to deal with it what do you think's going to happen? And the oil and gas industry are planning to spend about four hundred, billion dollars over the next five years on new plans to make the raw materials or these new plastics virgin plastics as they're called through Reuters surveyed twelve of the largest oil and chemical firms around the world to see what they're doing about this waste. Really they're just spending a fraction of the money that they're making on sales to devote to working on waste. So you've got campaign groups on you know some politicians in some government sank the oil and gas industry we KINDA. Coat. We need to reduce plastic production and what the oil and gas industry saying his. Don't worry we've got this covered we've got a solution we are investing in recycling infrastructure. We are helping poor countries to deal with their waste, and that's where I'll story really came from. We wanted to check that claim on what we found was the pledges made by the oil and gas industry are fraction of best spending on increasing plastic production, and they will have minimal impact on reducing plastic waste. So I think that that's a key point I understand because as the oil and gas companies tell you that they are fixing plastic waste crisis. It's important to interrogate those figures and I think that's what we've thoughtfully achieve with the story. I wanted to talk a little bit more of the effects of the pandemic. As we said in the beginning, you know face masks gowns, the P.. P. That we need to protect ourselves. That's also a big thing that's going to be feeling a lot of the waste you mentioned in your article China US twelve times more face masks than they did in earlier months in the United States, they generated entire years worth of medical wastes in two months at the height of the pandemic. So this is a lot of stuff that we're going to be seeing. The effects are going to be with us for some time. Yeah I think that's right I. think that's where it's worth separating the issue here. I don't think anyone is saying that plastic is not an incredible material with multiple uses and that it helped industrial organizations to make planes lighter may cause lights I think the issue here is single use plastic on the fear is this pandemic will exacerbate that trend of single use plastic. So although people might need mosques a need gowns and these are essentials if companies were to take this opportunity to increase the use of plastic single use plastic, then it's GonNa add to the waste problem and that's something we've seen with oil and gas lobbies who since the pandemic is hit. Written to lawmakers in the US to say that single use plastic is safer than other materials. Now, scientists have found that that's not the case. So you have to question whether the plus the pandemic is being used by certain vested interest companies that they want to capitalize on this to increase their profits. I think when a lot of people think about plastic waste and the huge problem, they definitely think about our oceans plastics make up about eighty percent of the marine debris and we've seen the big problems. We've seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch you know which is just a bunch of plastic and netting and things like that. So I think a lot of people are really focused on that when they hear about plastic problem, but I mean it's really ranges all over the place. Yeah absolutely, and I think this is a problem which affects everyone. It affects humanity and I think that you see you see it in the oceans and certainly in parts of Southeast Asia, which is considered one of the biggest toy destinations in the world of Pristine Beaches Turquoise Asians you've got these waterways completely clogged with plastic fishing communities devastated where they live to be a risk as you mentioned, each plastics in the Pacific and elsewhere, but it's not just in the ocean it's clogging up rivers. It's affecting communities where they rely on food supplies where plastic waste is. So you know this is an issue that impacts everybody and should be an issue which everyone wants to help fix. We talked a little bit about the efforts from the oil and gas companies to limit plastic waste. But one thing that I did not know I found very interesting that the world's top three plastic polluters for two years running now are Coca Cola Nestle and Pepsi Pepsico. Obviously, they have a lot of plastic packaging. Their bottles are made the bottles that hold the soda in are made from plastic, and they're constantly setting goals to use more recyclable plastic in their products and not meeting those standards and it goes back to what we were saying at the beginning it's just cheaper to use new plastic than it is to use recycled stuff. Coke and Pepsi and Nestle and the other big consumer goods coming committees giving up a a consistent message they wanna fix this problem they want to use more recycled products but when it comes to meeting those targets that consistently Mitch the Knicks over decades and then they set new talk. Now, what they're saying is we don't get the recycled material. Now they cannot get the recycled material at the right price it cheaper to buy new plastics. Now, how you're GONNA get movies like material will you need a very advanced recycling system and that's what we're highlighting in this story the investment in that respect infrastructure is simply not there the oil and gas industries Coke Pepsi, they say they're investing in it, but then investing a fraction of what they're spending on advertising on new production. And this is a competitive industry when you go into the store and you look at the bottle of coke bottle of Pepsi bottle of another brand, the price of the packaging is significant in not product and you don't want your product to be increasing because you're using more recycled plastic. So the proof in the pudding we've seen that they've made these promises before and they've missed them. So I think we need to keep checking and keep saying they're gonNA meet those promises in the feature.

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