15 Burst results for "Lou Freeman"

"lou freeman" Discussed on Planet Money

Planet Money

03:23 min | 3 months ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on Planet Money

"They'll convince the public to get on board, which of course starts with a new ad. This is the world we see. A plastic bag floats in the ocean, plastic bottles and trash or piled high on beaches. Because the world we see. And as the music soars the smiling young people are picking it all up, we see scientists and recycling plants and blue sorting tubs, and we have the tools. We have the people. That can change the world. I wanted to know what the architects of the last plan, the one from the 1990s thought of this. So I watched it with Lou Freeman. What do you think? Deja vu all over again. It's sometimes said. This is the same kind of thinking that ran in the 90s. I don't think this kind of advertising is helpful to them at all. And Larry Thomas, the bigwig, who wants represented plastic to the public. He said the same. I don't think anything has changed. I think it's exactly the same. These days Larry spends a lot of time biking past the ocean. And he's become deeply worried about its future. What it will look like in another 20 or 50 years long after he's gone. And he thinks back to those years he spent at fancy hotels and conference rooms with oil and plastic executives. And he says what occurs to him now is something he says, maybe should have been obvious all along. He says what he saw was an industry that didn't want recycling to work. Because if the job is to sell as much oil as you possibly can, as much virgin oil as you possibly can, any amount of recycled plastic. Is competition. They were not interested in and still aren't interested as far as I'm concerned in putting any real money or effort in the recycling because they want to sell virgin material. Nobody who's producing a virgin product wants something to come along that is going to replace it, produce more virgin material. That's their business. Every year they want to say they produced X number of million more pounds because that means our business is growing. And it is growing, we're making more plastic buying more plastic using more plastic. That's not going to go away any time soon. But as the industry does off their new ads and makes their new promises. There is one difference. The.

Lou Freeman Larry Thomas Larry
"lou freeman" Discussed on Planet Money

Planet Money

06:31 min | 3 months ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on Planet Money

"In this section are all like to these have so many of these sort of cross outs. Because those records are no longer a headwind. They're not here anymore. They are not. Where did they go? The society of the plastics industry asked for them back. Thank you. They really? Yes. Is unusual? That doesn't happen often. Yeah. Do you know, do you know why they took them? Did they say? I do not know. Okay. Of course, there are all kinds of reasons why an industry lobbying group might want its records back. I did call the society of the plastic folks and ask them if I could see the records they took. They said no. So I headed to another library this time at Syracuse university. And there, buried in its stacks, are boxes of files donated from an industry consultant. Actually, the industry consultant died and the wife found the boxes and gave them to Syracuse. And inside these boxes, I found what I was looking for, a report was sent to top oil and plastic executives in 1973. It says recycling plastic is nearly impossible. There is no recovery from obsolete products. It says. Recycling is costly, sorting it is infeasible. Plus it says plastic degrades every time you try to reuse it. So the oil and plastic industry knew they've known for almost 50 years. And then I found more confidential memos and meetings that echoed decades of this knowledge. Inside thousands of pages of courtroom discovery. There's a speech from an industry insider in 1974. When it comes to recycling large quantities of plastic, it says. There is, quote, serious doubt that it can ever be made viable on an economic basis. Now, okay, sure, anyone can take something plastic, melt it down and make something else. But what these documents are saying is that it's expensive. It's time consuming. It's chemically problematic. And it's just cheaper and easier to make plastic out of new oil instead of plastic trash. There are all kinds of names in these documents, men who have never spoken publicly before. And there was one name I kept seeing over and over. He was giving speeches of fancy hotels, hosting conferences in Berlin and Phoenix. They called him a bigwig. He was the industry's top lobbyist, Larry Thomas. This is the man I had to find. But do you know how many Larry thomases there are in the United States thousands? I'd call, say, are you the Larry Thomas who used to work in plastics? Are you the Larry Thomas who used to be president of the society of the plastics industry? And then finally? I was a frontman for the plastics industry. No, getting around it. The bigwig himself. That's for sure. Yeah. Well, personal views certainly didn't always have with the views I had to take as part of my job, but that's the way it was. Larry's retired now on the coast of Florida. But I told him I've been reading all about his exploits in the world of plastic. Where would the offices? The officers were, what would you think they would be? K street? Yes. 18, 25 K street. K street was the heart of lobbying in Washington, and it was in those offices that top executives on the world's most powerful oil and plastic companies met. They had meeting after meeting. About a little problem they were having. There was just too much plastic trash and consumers didn't like it. In one of the documents I found from 1989, Larry wrote to top oil executives at Exxon Chevron, amico. Dow. DuPont, proctor and gamble and a bunch of others. He wrote the image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We are approaching a point of no return. The plastic industry is almost under fire, we got to do quantitative to take the heat off because we want to continue to make plastic products. They wanted to keep making plastic. But the more you make, the more plastic trash you get. And the obvious solution to this is to recycle it, but they knew they couldn't. Remember, it's expensive. It's a great. There was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to recycle. They knew that the infrastructure wasn't there to really have recycling amounts to a whole lot. So they needed a different plan. Larry decides to call a bunch of meetings at fancy hotels. He summons the society of the plastics people, oil executives. Larry doesn't remember the specifics of each particular meeting, but one of his deputies at the time. Lou Freeman, he remembers. If you could peel back all of the layers of my brain. Lou remembers a bunch of meetings. The basic question on the table was you guys as your trade association and the plastics industry aren't doing enough. We need to do more. This one DuPont executive was telling Lou, it's your job to fix plastics imaging problem. So what do you need? He said, I think if we had $5 million, which seemed like a lot of money there. If we had $5 million we could, we could solve this problem. And my boss said, in response, if you had $5 million you wouldn't know how to spend it effectively. Well, they came up with a way to spend $5 million. That and a lot more. I remember this is one of these exchanges that sticks with me 35 years later, however long it's been. And it was, you know, what we need to do is advertise our way out of it. That was the idea thrown out. The industry decided to advertise its way out of a can't recycle it problem. Presenting the possibilities of plastics. Plastics help save you from dense and broken bones. They touted the benefits of a product that after it was used for the most part, was headed to a landfill incinerator or even ocean. Yet it's anything but trash. It's full of potential. These commercials carried an environmentalist message, but they were paid for by the oil and plastic companies, eventually leading to a $50 million a year industry wide ad campaign, promoting plastic. So I asked Larry. Why? Why spend tens of millions of dollars telling people to recycle plastic when they knew recycling plastic wasn't going to work? And.

Larry Thomas Larry thomases Larry Syracuse university Exxon Chevron Syracuse DuPont Lou Freeman amico Berlin Phoenix Lou United States Florida Washington
"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

KQED Radio

02:16 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

"We see. Plastic bag, floats in the ocean plastic bottles and trash or piled high on beaches. Because the world we see and as the music soars, the smiling young people are picking it all up. We see scientists and recycling plants and we blew sorting tubs and we have the tools. We have people that can change the world. I wanted to know what the architect of the last plan the one from the 19 nineties thought of this, So I watched it with Lou Freeman. What do you think? There you all over again? Is It is sometimes said, This is the same kind of thinking that ran in the nineties. Don't think this kind of advertising is helpful to them at all. And Larry Thomas, the bigwig who once represented plastic to the public. He said. The same well like anything is fast. I think exactly the same these days. Larry spends a lot of time biking past the ocean, and he's become deeply worried about its future. What will look like in another 20 or 50 years long after he's gone? And he thinks back to those years he spent a fancy hotels and conference rooms with oil and plastic executives. And he says, What occurs to him now is something he says. Maybe should have been obvious all along. He says. What he saw was an industry that didn't want recycling toe work. Because if the job is to sell as much oil as you possibly can as much virgin oil as you possibly can, any amount of recycled plastic Competition they were not interested in and still arm. It is far as I'm concerned and putting any real Money or effort in the recycling because They want to sell version material. Nobody is producing a virgin product wants something to come along. That is gonna replace it Produce more virgin material. That's their business. Every year. They want to say they produced X number of million more pounds because that meant their business was growing, and it is growing. We're making more plastic buying more plastic using more plastic that's not going to go away anytime soon. It is the industry dust off their new ads and makes their new promises..

Larry Thomas Lou Freeman
"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

KQED Radio

03:24 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

"Industry insider 1974 When it comes to recycling large quantities of plastic. It says there is quote serious doubt that it can ever be made viable on an economic basis. Now, Okay? Sure. Anyone can take something plastic, melted down and make something else. But what these documents are saying is that it's expensive. It's time consuming. It's chemically problematic. And it's just cheaper and easier to make plastic out of new oil instead of plastic trash. There are all kinds of names in these documents. Men who have never spoken publicly before, and there was one name. I kept seeing over and over. He was giving speeches of fancy hotels hosting conferences in Berlin and Phoenix. I called him a bigwig. He was the industry's top lobbyist Larry Thomas. This is the man I had to find. But do you know how many Larry Thomas is there are in the United States. Thousands I'd call say, Are you the Larry Thomas used to work in plastics? Are you the Larry Thomas who used to be president of the Society of the Plastics industry? And then finally, I was a front man for the plastics industry. No getting around it. The bigwig himself. I'll go what the industry wanted me to do. That's the show. Yeah, well, personal views certainly didn't always job was the views. I had toe take his part of my job, but That's what itwas Larry's retired now on the coast of Florida, But I told him I've been reading all about his exploits in the world of plastic. Where were the offices The officers were. Where would you think they would be? K Street? Yes. 18 25 K Street Case Tree was the heart of lobbying in Washington and was in those offices that top executives and the world's most powerful oil and plastic company's Met. They had meeting after meeting about a little problem they were having. It was just too much plastic trash and consumers didn't like it. In one of the documents I found from 1989. Larry wrote the top oil executives at Exxon, Chevron, Amoco, Dow DuPont, Procter and Gamble on a bunch of others, he wrote. The image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We are approaching a point of no return the whole world. The classic status is I was under fired. We gotta do. What it takes to take the heat off. Because we want to continue to make plastic products. They wanted to keep making plastic. But the more you make the more plastic trash you get, and the obvious solution to this is to recycle it. If they knew they couldn't remember. It's expensive. It's a great There was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to recycle. I knew that the infrastructure wasn't there. You really have recycling amount of a whole lot. So they needed a different plan. Larry decides to call a bunch of meetings at fancy hotels. He summons the society of the plastics, people. Oil executives. Larry doesn't remember the specifics of each particular meeting but one of his deputies of the time, Lou Freeman, he remembers if you could, Yeah, Peel back all the layers of my brain. Liu remembers a bunch of meetings. The basic question on the table was you guys is your our trade Association in the plastics industry aren't doing enough. We need to doom or this one DuPont executive was.

Larry Thomas DuPont Lou Freeman United States Liu Society of Berlin Exxon Gamble president executive Washington Florida Phoenix Dow DuPont Amoco Chevron Procter
"lou freeman" Discussed on KCRW

KCRW

03:48 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KCRW

"How they say they've done it. Thanks again for signing on Operation Clean Sweep Operation Clean Sweep is a voluntary program the industry came up with in 1991. Companies that joined watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling from plant truck ships and rail cars. There's no data required. No numbers, nothing public. The operation Clean sweep is truly making a difference. Together, we can achieve zero pellet flake and proud of us. The industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve Russell was until recently the vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which jointly runs the program, Nobody wants plastic in the environment. And if it still happens, and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release, then it will be reported and remediation steps could be taken. Formosa is an operation Clean sweep member. So I asked to former workers and Ronnie Hambrick about it. I have no idea what she even talking about. I've never heard it. There's evidence the industry does, in fact, have a pellet problem. Recent spills on beaches in Louisiana in South Carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating oceans, killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's also evidence the industry has known about this problem all along. In 2005, the industry participated in a study of 10 pellet plants. It found pellets washed away in heavy rain at every single facility and called Operation Clean Sweep inadequate. But even long before that, there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents left over from old industry lawsuit. It was written in March 1991. The industry's trade association, warrants top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and others. That the EPA had recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment, regulation and permits are likely coming, the memo says. Unless they act quickly, it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue, it says. Unless this occurs, it is likely EPA will act independently. Then, just four months later, we developed a program that was called Operation Clean Sweep. Lou Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association, then called the Society of the Plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions. About quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating that what the results were, so it was a voluntary program without any metrics. Yeah, I would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But it also be naive if I didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by, you know, Keeping the regulators off our back today. The EPA doesn't regulate pellets and in the almost 30 years since, the agency told NPR it has brought just 10 Clean Water Act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. How would anyone really know if pellets were leaking? If you head down to the Gulf of Mexico pellet manufacturers like Chevron Phillips say they're not. I can tell you that. It's not a problem here at Chevron Phillips, we have almost no Let's leaving our sights. Jim Bakker is the vice president of sustainability for Chevron Phillips. He met me in a warehouse after plant officials showed me pawns and drains, they said, catch all of the pellets. You. You've heard a little bit about Operation Clean sweep. We've been practicing that since the company was formed. How do you know that? That you've.

Chevron Phillips EPA vice president Formosa vice president of plastics Jim Bakker Chevron Ronnie Hambrick Society of the Plastics indust Steve Russell Lou Freeman American Chemistry Council Exxon Mexico Louisiana South Carolina DuPont NPR
"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

KQED Radio

03:44 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

"Program. The industry came up with in 1991 Cos. That joined watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling her plants, trucks, ships and rail cars. There's no data required. No numbers, nothing public. The operation Clean sweep is truly making a difference. Together. We can achieve zero pellet flake and proud of us. Theo industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve Russell was until recently the vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which jointly runs the program. Nobody wants plastic in the environment and If it still happens, and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release, then it will be reported and remediation steps could be taken. Formosa is an operation Clean sweep member. So I asked to former workers and Ronnie Hamrick about it. I have no idea what she even talking about. I've never heard it. There's evidence the industry does, in fact, have a pellet problem. Recent spills on beaches in Louisiana in South Carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating oceans, killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's also evidence the industry has known about this problem all along. In 2005, the industry participated in a study of 10 pellet plants. It found pellets washed away in heavy rain at every single facility. And called Operation Clean Sweep inadequate. But even long before that, there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents left over from old industry lawsuit. It was written in March. 1991, the industry's trade association, warns top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and others. But the EPA had recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment. Regulation and permits are likely coming, the memo says. Unless they act quickly, it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue, it says. Unless this occurs, it is likely EPA will act independently. Then, just four months later, we developed a program that it was called Operation Clean Sweep. Lou Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association, then called the Society of the Plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions. But quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating that what the results were, so it was a voluntary program without any metrics. Yeah, I would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But I'd also be naive if I didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by, you know. Keeping the regulators off our back today. The EPA doesn't regulate pallets and in the almost 30 years since, the agency told NPR it has brought just 10 Clean Water Act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. How would anyone really know if pellets were leaking? If you head down to the Gulf of Mexico pellet manufacturers like Chevron Phillips say they're not. I can tell you that. It's not a problem here at Chevron Phillips, we have almost no pallets, leaving our sights. Jim Becker is the vice president of sustainability for Chevron Phillips. He met me in a warehouse after plant officials showed me ponds and drains, they said, catch all of the pellets. You. You've heard a little bit about Operation Clean sweep. We've been practicing that since the company was formed. How do you know that? That you had almost no hell,.

Theo industry Chevron Phillips EPA vice president Formosa vice president of plastics Society of the Plastics indust Chevron Ronnie Hamrick Steve Russell Jim Becker Lou Freeman American Chemistry Council Mexico Exxon Louisiana South Carolina DuPont NPR
"lou freeman" Discussed on KCRW

KCRW

03:47 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KCRW

"They say they've done it. Thanks again for signing on the operation Clean Sweep Operation Clean Sweep is a voluntary program the industry came up with in 1991. Companies that joined watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling from plant truck ships and rail cars. There's no data required. No numbers, nothing public. The operation Clean sweep is truly making a difference. Together, we can achieve zero pellet flake and proud of us. The industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve Russell was until recently the vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which jointly runs the program, Nobody wants plastic in the environment. And if it still happens, and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release, then it will be reported and remediation steps could be taken. Formosa is an operation Clean sweep member. So I asked to former workers and Ronnie Hamrick about it. I have no idea what you even talking about. I've never heard it. There's evidence the industry does, in fact, have a pellet problem. Recent spills on beaches in Louisiana and South Carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating oceans, killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's also evidence the industry has known about this problem all along. In 2005, the industry participated in a study of 10 pellet plants. It found pellets washed away in heavy rain at every single facility and called Operation Clean Sweep inadequate. But even long before that, there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents left over from old industry lawsuit. It was written in March 1991. The industry's trade association, warrants top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Dow, DuPont and others that the EPA had recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment. Regulation and permits are likely coming, the memo says. Unless they act quickly, it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue, it says. Unless this occurs, it is likely EPA will act independently. Then, just four months later, we developed a program that was called Operation Clean Sweep. Lou Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association, then called the Society of the Plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions. About quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating that what the results were, so it was a voluntary program without any metrics. Yeah, I would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But it also be naive if I didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by, you know, Keeping the regulators off our back today. The EPA doesn't regulate pellets and in the almost 30 years since, the agency told NPR it has brought just 10 Clean Water Act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. How would anyone really know if pellets were leaking? If you head down to the Gulf of Mexico pellet manufacturers like Chevron Phillips say they're not. I can tell you that. It's not a problem here at Chevron Phillips, we have almost no Let's leaving our sights. Jim Bakker is the vice president of sustainability for Chevron Phillips. He met me in a warehouse after plant officials showed me ponds and drains, they said, catch all of the pellets. You. You've heard a little bit about Operation Clean sweep. We've been practicing that since the company was formed. How do you know that? That you.

Chevron Phillips EPA vice president vice president of plastics Jim Bakker Formosa Chevron Ronnie Hamrick Society of the Plastics indust Steve Russell Lou Freeman American Chemistry Council Mexico Exxon Louisiana South Carolina DuPont NPR
"lou freeman" Discussed on WNYC 93.9 FM

WNYC 93.9 FM

03:49 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on WNYC 93.9 FM

"Again for signing on the operation Clean Sweep Operation Clean Sweep is a voluntary program the industry came up with in 1991. Companies that joined watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling from plant truck ships and rail cars. There's no data required. No numbers, nothing public. The operation Clean sweep is truly making a difference. Together, we can achieve zero pellet flake and proud of us. The industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve Russell was until recently the vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which jointly runs the program, Nobody wants plastic in the environment. And if it still happens, and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release, then it will be reported and remediation steps could be taken. Formosa is an operation Clean sweep member. So I asked to former workers and Ronnie Hamrick about it. I have no idea what you're even talking about. I've never heard it. There's evidence the industry does, in fact, have a pellet problem. Recent spills on beaches in Louisiana in South Carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating oceans, killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's also evidence the industry has known about this problem all along. In 2005, the industry participated in a study of 10 pellet plants. It found pellets washed away in heavy rain at every single facility and called Operation Clean sweep. Inadequate. But even long before that, there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents left over from old industry lawsuits. It was written in March. 1991 Thean Mysteries Trade Association warns top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Dow DuPont and others. But the EPA have recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment. Regulation and permits are likely coming, the memo says. Unless they act quickly, it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue, it says. Unless this occurs, it is likely EPA will act independently. Then, just four months later, we developed a program that was called Operation Clean Sweep. Lou Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association, then called the Society of the Plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions. But quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating that what the results were, so it was a voluntary program without any metrics. Yeah, I would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But I'd also be naive if I didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by, you know. Keeping the regulators off our back today. The EPA doesn't regulate pellets and in the almost 30 years since, the agency told NPR it has brought just 10 Clean Water Act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. How would anyone really know if pellets were leaking? If you head down to the Gulf of Mexico pellet manufacturers like Chevron Phillips say they're not. I can tell you that. It's not a problem here at Chevron Phillips, we have almost no Let's leaving our sights. Jim Bakker is the vice president of sustainability for Chevron Phillips. He met me in a warehouse after plant officials showed me pawns and drains, they said, catch all of the pellets. You've heard a little bit about Operation Clean sweep. We've been practicing that since the company was formed. How do you know that? That you had almost no Hell,.

Chevron Phillips EPA vice president Thean Mysteries Trade Associat vice president of plastics Jim Bakker Formosa Chevron Ronnie Hamrick Steve Russell Society of the Plastics indust Lou Freeman American Chemistry Council Mexico Exxon Louisiana South Carolina Dow DuPont NPR
"lou freeman" Discussed on WNYC 93.9 FM

WNYC 93.9 FM

05:59 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on WNYC 93.9 FM

"Plastic pellets have been spilling into oceans and rivers. The world over where birds and fish eat them. They are the building blocks of all plastic melts 350 of them. You get a yogurt cup 1000 gets you a water bottle. But an NPR and PBS frontline investigation found the oil and plastic industry has long known there an environmental problem. NPR's Laura Sullivan brings us this story about how the oil in plastic industry evaded regulation. Despite decades of spills. You probably haven't spent a lot of time standing on train tracks looking at your feet. We're looking at the edge of a highway outside of plastic manufacturer. If you did, there's a good chance you'll see them little plastic pellets. This is Kocsis Creek, and we're looking at fresh pellets. It has fallen out of the Terps. Ronnie hammering is standing on state Road 35 in Southeast Texas, rising four square miles. Behind him is the petrochemical plant, Formosa Plastics. And they're not just here. There over there. They're important Lakha. You're gonna find him down the road Hand looks not an anti plastic environmentalist. He's a former supervisor who worked to Formosa for 25 years, And while he worked there, he says he was told to cover up spills of classic pallets. I want you to put down a certain number. You know what I'm saying? They want to keep it love. So So you line so would you like That's my job. That's my bread and butter, so I got to do what they think. I got a family. What's striking about standing outside Formosa and finding pellets? 100 yards from the plant's edge is that last year for most agreed to pay $50 million to settle a lawsuit in which it agreed to zero discharge of pellets. And yet, here they are and down in the creek, where the plant drains thousands more. Ah federal judge called Formosa, a serial offender for most of says it's working to improve its containment systems. But Formosa is just one of thousands of companies that either make or use plastic pellets in the United States. The oil and plastic industry says it doesn't have a problem, Officials told me for most of it was simply a quote bad actor, while leading companies like Exxon and Chevron recently told shareholders that at their dozens of facilities worldwide Either lose, not a single pellet or just two sandwich bags full. And here's how they say they've done it. Thanks again for signing on the operation Clean Sweep Operation Clean Sweep is a voluntary program the industry came up with in 1991. Companies that joined watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling from plant truck ships and rail cars. There's no data required. No numbers, nothing public. The operation Clean sweep is truly making a difference. Together, we can achieve zero pellet flake and proud of us. The industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve Russell was until recently the vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which jointly runs the program, Nobody wants plastic in the environment. And if it still happens, and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release, then it will be reported and remediation steps could be taken. Formosa is an operation Clean sweep member. So I asked to former workers and Ronnie Hamrick about it. I have no idea what you're even talking about. I've never heard it. There's evidence the industry does, in fact, have a pellet problem. Recent spills on beaches in Louisiana in South Carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating oceans, killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's also evidence the industry has known about this problem all along. In 2005, the industry participated in a study of 10 pellet plants. It found pellets washed away in heavy rain at every single facility and called Operation Clean sweep. Inadequate. But even long before that, there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents left over from old industry lawsuits. It was written in March. 1991 Thean Mysteries Trade Association warns top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Dow DuPont and others. But the EPA have recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment. Regulation and permits are likely coming, the memo says. Unless they act quickly, it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue, it says. Unless this occurs, it is likely EPA will act independently. Then, just four months later, we developed a program that was called Operation Clean Sweep. Lou Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association, then called the Society of the Plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions. But quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating that what the results were, so it was a voluntary program without any metrics. Yeah, I would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But I'd also be naive if I didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by, you know. Keeping the regulators off our back today. The EPA doesn't regulate pellets and in the almost 30 years since, the agency told NPR it has brought just 10 Clean Water Act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. How would anyone really know if pellets were leaking? If you head down to the Gulf of Mexico pellet manufacturers like Chevron Phillips say they're not. I can tell you that. It's not a problem here at Chevron Phillips, we have almost no Let's leaving our sights. Jim Bakker is the

NPR Ari Shapiro Mary Louise Kelly Ronnie hammering Kocsis Creek Laura Sullivan Terps
Big Oil Evaded Regulation And Plastic Pellets Kept Spilling

All Things Considered

05:59 min | 1 year ago

Big Oil Evaded Regulation And Plastic Pellets Kept Spilling

"Plastic pellets have been spilling into oceans and rivers. The world over where birds and fish eat them. They are the building blocks of all plastic melts 350 of them. You get a yogurt cup 1000 gets you a water bottle. But an NPR and PBS frontline investigation found the oil and plastic industry has long known there an environmental problem. NPR's Laura Sullivan brings us this story about how the oil in plastic industry evaded regulation. Despite decades of spills. You probably haven't spent a lot of time standing on train tracks looking at your feet. We're looking at the edge of a highway outside of plastic manufacturer. If you did, there's a good chance you'll see them little plastic pellets. This is Kocsis Creek, and we're looking at fresh pellets. It has fallen out of the Terps. Ronnie hammering is standing on state Road 35 in Southeast Texas, rising four square miles. Behind him is the petrochemical plant, Formosa Plastics. And they're not just here. There over there. They're important Lakha. You're gonna find him down the road Hand looks not an anti plastic environmentalist. He's a former supervisor who worked to Formosa for 25 years, And while he worked there, he says he was told to cover up spills of classic pallets. I want you to put down a certain number. You know what I'm saying? They want to keep it love. So So you line so would you like That's my job. That's my bread and butter, so I got to do what they think. I got a family. What's striking about standing outside Formosa and finding pellets? 100 yards from the plant's edge is that last year for most agreed to pay $50 million to settle a lawsuit in which it agreed to zero discharge of pellets. And yet, here they are and down in the creek, where the plant drains thousands more. Ah federal judge called Formosa, a serial offender for most of says it's working to improve its containment systems. But Formosa is just one of thousands of companies that either make or use plastic pellets in the United States. The oil and plastic industry says it doesn't have a problem, Officials told me for most of it was simply a quote bad actor, while leading companies like Exxon and Chevron recently told shareholders that at their dozens of facilities worldwide Either lose, not a single pellet or just two sandwich bags full. And here's how they say they've done it. Thanks again for signing on the operation Clean Sweep Operation Clean Sweep is a voluntary program the industry came up with in 1991. Companies that joined watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling from plant truck ships and rail cars. There's no data required. No numbers, nothing public. The operation Clean sweep is truly making a difference. Together, we can achieve zero pellet flake and proud of us. The industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve Russell was until recently the vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which jointly runs the program, Nobody wants plastic in the environment. And if it still happens, and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release, then it will be reported and remediation steps could be taken. Formosa is an operation Clean sweep member. So I asked to former workers and Ronnie Hamrick about it. I have no idea what you're even talking about. I've never heard it. There's evidence the industry does, in fact, have a pellet problem. Recent spills on beaches in Louisiana in South Carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating oceans, killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's also evidence the industry has known about this problem all along. In 2005, the industry participated in a study of 10 pellet plants. It found pellets washed away in heavy rain at every single facility and called Operation Clean sweep. Inadequate. But even long before that, there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents left over from old industry lawsuits. It was written in March. 1991 Thean Mysteries Trade Association warns top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Dow DuPont and others. But the EPA have recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment. Regulation and permits are likely coming, the memo says. Unless they act quickly, it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue, it says. Unless this occurs, it is likely EPA will act independently. Then, just four months later, we developed a program that was called Operation Clean Sweep. Lou Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association, then called the Society of the Plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions. But quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating that what the results were, so it was a voluntary program without any metrics. Yeah, I would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But I'd also be naive if I didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by, you know. Keeping the regulators off our back today. The EPA doesn't regulate pellets and in the almost 30 years since, the agency told NPR it has brought just 10 Clean Water Act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. How would anyone really know if pellets were leaking? If you head down to the Gulf of Mexico pellet manufacturers like Chevron Phillips say they're not. I can tell you that. It's not a problem here at Chevron Phillips, we have almost no Let's leaving our sights. Jim Bakker is the

Formosa Laura Sullivan NPR Kocsis Creek Formosa Plastics Lakha Terps Exxon PBS Chevron Ronnie Hamrick Ronnie Steve Russell American Chemistry Council Thean Mysteries Trade Associat Dow Dupont
Big Oil Evaded Regulation And Plastic Pellets Kept Spilling

Environment: NPR

08:11 min | 1 year ago

Big Oil Evaded Regulation And Plastic Pellets Kept Spilling

"Of tiny plastic pellets have been spilling into oceans and rivers the world over where birds and fish eat them. They are the building blocks of all plastic melts. Three hundred fifty of them. You get a yogurt cup thousand. Get you a water bottle. But an npr pbs frontline investigation found. The oil and plastic industry has long known there an environmental problem. Npr's laura sullivan brings us this story. About how the oil and plastic industry evaded regulation despite decades spills. You probably haven't spent a lot of time standing on train tracks looking at your feet or looking at the edge of a highway outside a plastic manufacturer. But if you did. There's a good chance you'll see them little plastic pellets. This is kocsis creek. In looking at fresh pellets that has fallen out of the turks. Ronnie hammer is standing on state road. Thirty five in southeast texas rising four square miles behind him as the petrochemical plant formosa plastics. There're not just here. They're over there. They're in portable alaka. You're gonna find them down the road not an anti plastic environmentalist. He's a former supervisor. Who worked at formosa for twenty five years. And while he worked there he says he was told to cover up spills of plastic pellets. I won't do to put down the phone number. You know what i'm saying. They want to keep it low. So so you lie. That's my job. This britain butter so i got to do what they say. You got a family. What's striking about standing outside formosa and finding pellets. A hundred yards from the plants edge. Is that last year. Formosa agreed to pay fifty million dollars to settle a lawsuit in which it agreed to zero discharge of pellets. And yet here they are and down in the creek where the plant drains thousands more a federal judge called formosa a serial offender. Formosa says it's working to improve its containment systems but formosa is just one of thousands of companies that either make or use plastic pellets in the united states. The oil and plastic industry says it doesn't have a problem. Officials told me formosa was simply a quote bad actor while leading companies like exxon and chevron recently told shareholders that their dozens of facilities worldwide the either lose not a single pellet or just to sandwich bags full. And here's how they say they've done thanks again for signing onto operation operation. Clean sweep is a voluntary program. The industry came up with in nineteen ninety-one companies that join watch videos and promised to keep pellets from spilling plants trucks ships and railcars. There's no data required no numbers nothing public. The operation clean sweep is truly making a difference together. We can achieve zero pellet flake and powder the industry says it's been a success. Pellet containment is incredibly important to our members. Steve russell was until recently the vice president of plastics. For the american chemistry council jointly runs the program. Nobody wants plastic in the environment. And if a spill happens and if we're gonna assume it's an accidental release then it will be reported and remediation steps can be taken for most. Isn't clean sweep member. So i asked to former workers an ronnie hammer about it. I have no idea what jeevan talking about. I've never heard of. There's evidence the industry does in fact have appellate problem recent spills on beaches in louisiana and south carolina and studies show pellets are contaminating killing birds and fish and carrying toxins through rivers. There's no evidence. The industry has known about this problem. All along in two thousand five industry participated in a study of ten pellet plance it found pellet washed away in heavy rain at every single facility and called operation clean sweep inadequate but even long before that there's a memo buried inside thousands of documents. Leftover from old industry lawsuits. It was written in march. Nineteen ninety-one the industry's trade association warns top executives from chevron dow dupont and others that the epa had recently found pellets to be quote ubiquitous in the environment regulation. Permits are likely coming. The memo says unless act quickly it may still be possible to institute voluntary programs to address the pellet issue it says unless this occurs. It is likely. Epa will act independently then just four months later. We developed a program that was called operation. Clean sweep lou. Freeman was a vice president at the time for the trade association then called the society of the plastics industry. I don't recall any discussions about quantitatively measuring the success of the program. It was being measured really about who is participating not what the results were. So is a voluntary program. Yes without any metrics. Yeah i would like to think that they were also doing it because it was the right thing to do. But it also be naive. If i didn't think that much of the motivation was was governed by keeping the regulators offer back today the epa doesn't regulate pellets and in the almost thirty years since the agency told npr. It has brought just ten clean water act enforcement cases against facilities accused of spilling pellets. But how would anyone really know if pellets wurley if you head down to the gulf of mexico pellet manufacturers like chevron phillips say they're not I can tell you that it's not a problem here. At chevron phillips we have almost no kellett's leaving our sites. Jim becker is the vice president of sustainability for chevron phillips he met me in a warehouse after plant officials showed me ponds and drains. They said catch all the pellets. You've heard a little bit about operation. Clean sweep we've been practicing that Since the company was formed having no that that you had almost no hell it's leaving your site. I feel i feel confident. We have multiple layers of protection to prevent that without any data. It's hard to know. But then you could go look hacksaw some and if you're gonna hunt pellets a mile up texas bite. You're gonna wanna bring diane wilson the woman who tracked formosa's leaking pellets for five years.

Laura Sullivan Kocsis Creek Ronnie Hammer Formosa NPR Steve Russell Chevron Phillips Chevron Dow Dupont American Chemistry Council Exxon Chevron Jeevan Britain Trade Association Texas
"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

KQED Radio

03:53 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

"Is about all of us. Understanding that we each have a role to play. We cannot continue with business as usual. But in all those decades, when people did believe something that wasn't true. Your members made billions of dollars in profit and in during that time our members invested in developing the technologies that have brought us where we are today, we're going to be able to make all of our new plastic out of existing Municipal solid waste of plastic, Steve says. This isn't a new public relations plan, he says. This time they will make recycling work, and they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to do it and they'll convince the public to get on board. Which, of course starts with a new ad. This is the world we see. Plastic bag floats in the ocean plastic bottles and trash piled high on beaches because world and as the music soars, the smiling young people are picking it all up. We see scientists and recycling plants and blue sorting tubs and we have the tools. We have people that can change the world. I wanted to know what the architect of the last plan the one from the 19 nineties thought of this, So I watched it with Lou Freeman. What do you think? Did you all over again? Sometimes this is the same kind of thinking that ran in the nineties. I don't think this kind of advertising is helpful to live it all. And Larry Thomas, the bigwig who once represented plastic to the public. He said the same thing. Exactly these days. Larry spends a lot of time biking past the ocean has become deeply worried about its future. What will look like in another 20 or 50 years long after he's gone? And he thinks back to those years he spent in fancy hotels and conference rooms with oil and plastic executives. And he says, What occurs to him now is something he says. Maybe should have been obvious all along. He says. What he saw was an industry that didn't want recycling toe work. Because if the job is to sell as much oil as you possibly can as much virgin oil as you possibly can, any amount of recycled plastic Is competition. They were not interested in still armaments for some concern and putting any riel. Money or effort in the recycling because They want to sell virgin material. Nobody is producing a virgin product on something that come along that replace it Produce more virgin material. That's their business. Every year. They want to say they produced X number of million more pounds because that meant business was growing, and it is growing. We're making more plastic buying more plastic using more plastic that's not going to go away anytime soon. It is the industry dust off their new ads and makes their new promises. There is one difference. The difference this time is whether or not the public will still believe them. You can find us on Instagram Twitter, Facebook were everywhere. Today's show is produced by Gary in Woods and James Need. It was edited by Robert Smith and Sara Gonzalez. Intercept edits the show. And Alex Gold Markets are supervising producing way also want to thank our partners, Rick Young and Emma Schwartz and everyone else. A PBS Frontline who helped investigate this story. I'm very honest. I'm Laura Sullivan. This is NPR. Thanks for listening. You know Sarah the story. It's so fascinating and also a little upsetting this idea that the industry doesn't want.

Larry Thomas Lou Freeman Steve Laura Sullivan NPR Facebook Sarah Robert Smith Alex Gold Markets Gary Rick Young Sara Gonzalez Emma Schwartz James Need
"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

KQED Radio

05:57 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on KQED Radio

"Your question. Okay? Why in this section are off. These have so many of these cross out. Because those records are no longer happy. They're not here anymore today or not. Where did they go? The society of the plastics industry asked for them back. Think they really? Yes. It's not unusual. It doesn't happen often. Do you know? Do you know why they took them? Did they say I do not know? Uh okay. Of course. There are all kinds of reasons why an industry lobbying group might want its records back. I did call the society, the plastic folks and ask them if I could see the records they took. They said No. So I headed Tio another library this time at Syracuse University, and they're buried in its stacks are boxes of files donated from an industry consultant. Actually, the industry consultant died and the wife found the boxes and gave them to Syracuse and inside these boxes. I found what I was looking for A report was sent to top oil in plastic executives in 1973. It says recycling plastic is nearly impossible. There is no recovery from obsolete products. It says. Recycling is costly. Sorting. It is infeasible. Plus, it says plastic degrades every time you try to reuse it. So the oil and plastic industry knew they'd known for almost 50 years. And then I found more confidential memos and meetings that echo decades of this knowledge Inside thousands of pages of courtroom discovery, There's a speech from an industry insider in 1974. When it comes to recycling large quantities of plastic. It says there is quote serious doubt that it can ever be made viable on an economic basis Now, okay, sure, anyone can take something plastic melted down and make something else. But what these documents are saying is that it's expensive. It's time consuming. It's chemically problematic and it's just cheaper and easier to make plastic out of new oil instead of plastic trash. There are all kinds of names in these documents. Men who have never spoken publicly before, and there was one name. I kept seeing over and over. He was giving speeches at fancy hotels hosting conferences in Berlin in Phoenix. I called him a bigwig. He was the industry's top lobbyist Larry Thomas. This is the man I had to find. But do you know how many Larry Thomas is there are in the United States. Thousands on call, say, Are you the Larry Thomas who used to work in plastics? Are you the Larry Thomas, who used to be president of the Society of the Plastics industry? And then finally I was a frontman of the plastics industry. No getting around it the bigwig himself. What do you want me to do? That's sure? Yeah, well, personal views. Certainly then always job with the views. I had to take a quantum our job. That's the way it wass. Larry's retired now on the coast of Florida, but I told him I've been reading all about his exploits in the world of plastic. Where were the offices? The officers were. Would you think they would be K Street? Yes. 18 25 K Street Case Tree was the heart of lobbying in Washington and was in those offices that top executives in the world's most powerful oil and plastic company's Met. I had meeting after meeting about a little problem they were having There was just too much plastic trash and consumers didn't like it. In one of the documents I found from 1989. Larry wrote the top oil executives at Exxon, Chevron, Amoco, Dow DuPont, Procter and Gamble on a bunch of others, he wrote. The image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We are approaching a point of no return. The classic notices. I was under fire. We gotta do. What it takes to take the heat off. Because we want to continue to make plastic crawl if they wanted to keep making plastic, But the more you make the more plastic trash you get, and the obvious solution to this is to recycle it, but they knew they couldn't Remember, it's expensive. It's great. There was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to recycle. They knew that the infrastructure wasn't there. You really have recycling amount to a whole lot. So they needed a different plan. Larry decides to call a bunch of meetings at fancy hotels. He summons the society of the plastics, people. Oil executives. Larry doesn't remember the specifics of each particular meeting but one of his deputies at the time, Lou Freeman, he remembers if you could peel back all the layers of my brain. Lou remembers a bunch of meetings. The basic question on the table was you guys is you're our trade Association in the plastics industry aren't doing enough. We need to do more. This one DuPont executive was telling Lou It's your job to fix plastics imaging problem. So what do you need, he said. I think if we had $5 million Which seemed like a lot of money. If we had $5 million we could we could we could solve this problem. And my boss said response. If you had $5 million, you would know how to spend it effectively. Well, they came up with a way to spend $5 million. That and a lot more. Remember this. This is one of these exchanges that sticks with me. 35 years later, however long and it was, you know what we need to do is advertise their way out of it. That was the idea thrown out, the industry decided to advertise its way out of a can't recycle it. Problem possibilities. This.

Larry Thomas Lou It Syracuse University consultant Syracuse Lou Freeman United States Lou Society of DuPont Berlin Exxon trade Association president Florida Washington Gamble Phoenix Amoco
"lou freeman" Discussed on Planet Money

Planet Money

11:28 min | 1 year ago

"lou freeman" Discussed on Planet Money

"How did millions of Americans come to believe that most plastic would be recycled when that's not actually true Laura Sullivan is GonNa take the story from here. . Okay, , it seemed like a good place to start was the plastic industry they make the stuff. . Did they know the truth about recycling plastic? ? I headed to one of the birthplaces of plastic plastic comes from oil. . But really comes from the dupont chemical company and some of the plastic industries old records are housed in the Hagley Library. . It's this stone building on the grounds of the first dupont family home in Delaware. . This is a place that actually used to store sodium nitrate back when Dupont made gunpowder not plastic. . There's an archivist with a bow tie a handlebar moustache named Lucas Clawson, , and he looks like someone would make cocktails. . Lucas wheeled out a cart of boxes. . Thank you. . Files that documented the discovery of a chemical marvel that changed the world, , a product that looked like glass but break a product that could also look like lightweight fluff but keep things hot called Styrofoam and incredible new film that can preserve food for days called. . Saran. . Wrap there were a couple of clues about recycling inside the boxes from the industry's most powerful lobby group at the time the Society of the plastics industry their job was to lobby for the big oil and plastic companies. . So think Exxon Chevron Dow Dupont. . And there's this one memo from one, , thousand, , nine, , hundred, , seventy, , three, , the. . Movement is just being born, , and one of the top people in the plastics industry is talking about how the cost of sorting plastic is high but it seemed like a lot of the documents were were missing I find reference to a memo a report, , but then I noticed that someone had drawn a line through it Lucas. . Can I ask you a question absolute. . Okay. . Why? ? In this section are all. . These APPS. . So many of these. . Cross out because those records are no longer. . Here anymore day or not where did they go the society of the Plastics Industry Astra them back think they really yes is an unusual. . That doesn't happen often. . Do you do know <hes> why they took them. . Did they say? ? I, do , not know. . Okay Of course, , there are all kinds of reasons why an industry lobbying group might want. . It's records back I did call society the plastic folks and ask them if I could see the records they took they said No. . So I headed to another library this time at Syracuse University and they're buried in its tax, , our boxes of files donated from an industry consultant. . Actually the industry consultant died in the why found the boxes and gave them to Syracuse and inside these boxes. . I found what I was looking for a report was sent to top oil and plastic executives in nineteen seventy three. . It says, , recycling plastic is nearly impossible. . There is no recovery from obsolete products. . It says recycling is costly sorting. . It is infeasible plus it says plastic degrades every time you try to reuse it. . So the oil in plastic industry new, , they've known for almost fifty years. . and. . Then I found more confidential memos in meetings echoed decades of this knowledge insight thousands of pages of courtroom discovery. . There's a speech from an industry insider in nineteen seventy four when it comes to recycling large quantities plastic, , it says there is quote serious doubt that it can ever be made viable on an economic basis. . Now. . Okay. . Sure. . Anyone can take something plastic melted down and make something else. . But what these documents are saying is that it's expensive, , it's time consuming it's chemically problematic and it's just cheaper and easier to make plastic out of new oil instead of plastic trash there are all kinds of names in these documents men who have never spoken publicly before and there was one name I kept seeing over and over he. . was, , giving speeches at fancy hotels, , hosting conferences and Berlin. . Phoenix, , they called him a bigwig. . He was the industry's top lobbyist. . Larry Thomas this is the man I had to find but do you know how many Larry Thomas's there are in the United? States. ? . Thousands I'd call say are you the Larry Thomas used to work in plastics? ? Are you leery Thomas who used to be president of the Society of the plastics industry? ? And then finally, , I'll prompt Merrin the plastics industry no getting around it the BIGWIG himself I'll walk. . Do that's for sure. . Yeah. . My personal views certainly didn't always job with. . US I had the quake as part of my job. . That's the way it was there. . He's retired now on the coast of Florida but I told him I've been reading all about his exploits in the world of plastic. . Where would the offices the officers were? ? What would you think they would be K. Street yes. . Twenty Five K. Street Casey was the heart of lobbying in Washington and it was in those offices at top executives in the world's most powerful oil and plastic companies met they had meeting after meeting about a little problem they were having there was just too much plastic trash consumers didn't like it. . In one of the documents I found from nineteen nine, , hundred nine Larry wrote the top oil executives at Exxon Chevron, , Amoco Dow Dupont proctor, , and gamble in a bunch of others he wrote the image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate. . We are approaching a point of no return. . The classic. . I was under fire. . We gotta do. . What it takes to take the heat off. . Because we want to continue to make classic equality, , they wanted to keep making plastic but the more you make the more plastic trash you get and the obvious solution to this is to recycle it but they knew they couldn't remember it's expensive. . It's a great. . Discussion about how difficult it was to recycle. . They knew that the infrastructure wasn't there. . So really have recycling amount to a whole lot. . So they needed a different plan. . Larry Decides to call a bunch of meetings at fancy hotels. . He summons the Society of the plastics people executives Larry doesn't remember the specifics of each particular meeting but one of his deputies at the time Lou Freeman he remembers you could. . Get. . Back all the layers of my brain. . Lou, , remembers a bunch of meetings the basic question on the table was. . You guys you're our trade association in the plastics industry aren't doing enough. . We need to do more. . This one dupont executive was telling Lou. . It's your job to fix plastics imaging problem. . So what do you need? ? You said, , I think if we had five million dollars. . which seemed like a lot of money. . If we had five million dollars we could. . We could. . We could solve this problem. . And My boss said in response. If . you add five million dollars, , you would know how to spend it effectively. . Well, , they came up with a way to spend five million dollars that and a lot more I. . Remember this. . This is one of these exchanges that sticks with me thirty five years later however long it's been. . Anna was <hes>. . You know what we need to do is advertise our way out of it. . That was the idea thrown out. . The industry decided to advertise its way out of a can't recycle it problem. . The possibilities off plastics plastics. . From dense. . Touted the benefits of a product that after it was used for the most part was headed to a landfill incinerator or even ocean. . Look empty yet it's anything but trash it's full of potential. . These commercials carried an environmentalist message, , but they were paid for by the oil and plastic companies eventually leading to fifteen million dollars a year industrywide ad campaign promoting plastic. . So I asked Larry why why spend tens of millions of dollars telling people to recycle plastic when the new recycling plastic wasn't going to work? ? and. That's . when he said it. . The point of the whole thing if the public thinks so recycling is working. . Then they're not going to be concerned about the environment and if they're not concerned about the environment. . Though keep buying plastic it wasn't just Larry in lieu who said this I spoke to half a dozen top guys involved in the industry at the time who all said plan was unfolding and it went beyond at the industry funded recycling projects and local neighborhoods expensive sorting machines that didn't make any economic sense school recycling contests. . All of this was done with great fanfare. . except I decided to go track down almost a dozen of the industry's biggest projects like the one where they were going to recycle plastic and national parks or the one that was going to recycle all the plastic and school lunches in New York they all failed and disappeared quietly but there was one more part of this campaign, , the final piece that did stick around. . That recycling symbol with the numbers in the middle this symbol has. . So. . Much confusion about what is and is not recyclable in the plan to stamp it on every plastic item popped up a lot in the documents I learned of a quiet campaign to lobby almost forty states to require that every single plastic item have this symbol stamped on it. . Even if there was no way to economically recycle it, , I should note that some. . Environmental is also supported. . The symbol thinking would help, , separate and sort plastic but the industry knew the truth the symbols were causing problems. . Warm report told executives in July nineteen ninety-three that the symbol is being misused. . It's creating quote unrealistic expectations about what plastic people can recycle. . It's being used as a green marketing tool, , but the executives decided to keep the symbol anyway. . I did reach out to plastic industry folks and they said that the symbols were only meant to help sort plastic and that they were not intended to confuse people but the symbol in the ads in the projects, , all of this basically convince people Larry says the idea that the vast majority of plastic can be recycled was sinking in. . Say that. . After a while the atmosphere seems to change I. . Don't know whether it was because people thought that recycling has solved the problem. . was that they were just so in love with plastic products that they were willing to overlook the environmental concerns that were were mounting up. . It's been thirty years now since most of those plans have been put into place and the public's feelings about plastic have started to shift again, , people are reading stories about oceans choked with plastic trash and trace amounts of this stuff inside our bodies, , and once again, , people are wanting to ban plastic and the survival of the oil companies is at stake. .

NPR Smith San Diego Koi
How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

Planet Money

11:28 min | 1 year ago

How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

"How did millions of Americans come to believe that most plastic would be recycled when that's not actually true Laura Sullivan is GonNa take the story from here. Okay, it seemed like a good place to start was the plastic industry they make the stuff. Did they know the truth about recycling plastic? I headed to one of the birthplaces of plastic plastic comes from oil. But really comes from the dupont chemical company and some of the plastic industries old records are housed in the Hagley Library. It's this stone building on the grounds of the first dupont family home in Delaware. This is a place that actually used to store sodium nitrate back when Dupont made gunpowder not plastic. There's an archivist with a bow tie a handlebar moustache named Lucas Clawson, and he looks like someone would make cocktails. Lucas wheeled out a cart of boxes. Thank you. Files that documented the discovery of a chemical marvel that changed the world, a product that looked like glass but break a product that could also look like lightweight fluff but keep things hot called Styrofoam and incredible new film that can preserve food for days called. Saran. Wrap there were a couple of clues about recycling inside the boxes from the industry's most powerful lobby group at the time the Society of the plastics industry their job was to lobby for the big oil and plastic companies. So think Exxon Chevron Dow Dupont. And there's this one memo from one, thousand, nine, hundred, seventy, three, the. Movement is just being born, and one of the top people in the plastics industry is talking about how the cost of sorting plastic is high but it seemed like a lot of the documents were were missing I find reference to a memo a report, but then I noticed that someone had drawn a line through it Lucas. Can I ask you a question absolute. Okay. Why? In this section are all. These APPS. So many of these. Cross out because those records are no longer. Here anymore day or not where did they go the society of the Plastics Industry Astra them back think they really yes is an unusual. That doesn't happen often. Do you do know why they took them. Did they say? I, do not know. Okay Of course, there are all kinds of reasons why an industry lobbying group might want. It's records back I did call society the plastic folks and ask them if I could see the records they took they said No. So I headed to another library this time at Syracuse University and they're buried in its tax, our boxes of files donated from an industry consultant. Actually the industry consultant died in the why found the boxes and gave them to Syracuse and inside these boxes. I found what I was looking for a report was sent to top oil and plastic executives in nineteen seventy three. It says, recycling plastic is nearly impossible. There is no recovery from obsolete products. It says recycling is costly sorting. It is infeasible plus it says plastic degrades every time you try to reuse it. So the oil in plastic industry new, they've known for almost fifty years. and. Then I found more confidential memos in meetings echoed decades of this knowledge insight thousands of pages of courtroom discovery. There's a speech from an industry insider in nineteen seventy four when it comes to recycling large quantities plastic, it says there is quote serious doubt that it can ever be made viable on an economic basis. Now. Okay. Sure. Anyone can take something plastic melted down and make something else. But what these documents are saying is that it's expensive, it's time consuming it's chemically problematic and it's just cheaper and easier to make plastic out of new oil instead of plastic trash there are all kinds of names in these documents men who have never spoken publicly before and there was one name I kept seeing over and over he. was, giving speeches at fancy hotels, hosting conferences and Berlin. Phoenix, they called him a bigwig. He was the industry's top lobbyist. Larry Thomas this is the man I had to find but do you know how many Larry Thomas's there are in the United? States. Thousands I'd call say are you the Larry Thomas used to work in plastics? Are you leery Thomas who used to be president of the Society of the plastics industry? And then finally, I'll prompt Merrin the plastics industry no getting around it the BIGWIG himself I'll walk. Do that's for sure. Yeah. My personal views certainly didn't always job with. US I had the quake as part of my job. That's the way it was there. He's retired now on the coast of Florida but I told him I've been reading all about his exploits in the world of plastic. Where would the offices the officers were? What would you think they would be K. Street yes. Twenty Five K. Street Casey was the heart of lobbying in Washington and it was in those offices at top executives in the world's most powerful oil and plastic companies met they had meeting after meeting about a little problem they were having there was just too much plastic trash consumers didn't like it. In one of the documents I found from nineteen nine, hundred nine Larry wrote the top oil executives at Exxon Chevron, Amoco Dow Dupont proctor, and gamble in a bunch of others he wrote the image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We are approaching a point of no return. The classic. I was under fire. We gotta do. What it takes to take the heat off. Because we want to continue to make classic equality, they wanted to keep making plastic but the more you make the more plastic trash you get and the obvious solution to this is to recycle it but they knew they couldn't remember it's expensive. It's a great. Discussion about how difficult it was to recycle. They knew that the infrastructure wasn't there. So really have recycling amount to a whole lot. So they needed a different plan. Larry Decides to call a bunch of meetings at fancy hotels. He summons the Society of the plastics people executives Larry doesn't remember the specifics of each particular meeting but one of his deputies at the time Lou Freeman he remembers you could. Get. Back all the layers of my brain. Lou, remembers a bunch of meetings the basic question on the table was. You guys you're our trade association in the plastics industry aren't doing enough. We need to do more. This one dupont executive was telling Lou. It's your job to fix plastics imaging problem. So what do you need? You said, I think if we had five million dollars. which seemed like a lot of money. If we had five million dollars we could. We could. We could solve this problem. And My boss said in response. If you add five million dollars, you would know how to spend it effectively. Well, they came up with a way to spend five million dollars that and a lot more I. Remember this. This is one of these exchanges that sticks with me thirty five years later however long it's been. Anna was You know what we need to do is advertise our way out of it. That was the idea thrown out. The industry decided to advertise its way out of a can't recycle it problem. The possibilities off plastics plastics. From dense. Touted the benefits of a product that after it was used for the most part was headed to a landfill incinerator or even ocean. Look empty yet it's anything but trash it's full of potential. These commercials carried an environmentalist message, but they were paid for by the oil and plastic companies eventually leading to fifteen million dollars a year industrywide ad campaign promoting plastic. So I asked Larry why why spend tens of millions of dollars telling people to recycle plastic when the new recycling plastic wasn't going to work? and. That's when he said it. The point of the whole thing if the public thinks so recycling is working. Then they're not going to be concerned about the environment and if they're not concerned about the environment. Though keep buying plastic it wasn't just Larry in lieu who said this I spoke to half a dozen top guys involved in the industry at the time who all said plan was unfolding and it went beyond at the industry funded recycling projects and local neighborhoods expensive sorting machines that didn't make any economic sense school recycling contests. All of this was done with great fanfare. except I decided to go track down almost a dozen of the industry's biggest projects like the one where they were going to recycle plastic and national parks or the one that was going to recycle all the plastic and school lunches in New York they all failed and disappeared quietly but there was one more part of this campaign, the final piece that did stick around. That recycling symbol with the numbers in the middle this symbol has. So. Much confusion about what is and is not recyclable in the plan to stamp it on every plastic item popped up a lot in the documents I learned of a quiet campaign to lobby almost forty states to require that every single plastic item have this symbol stamped on it. Even if there was no way to economically recycle it, I should note that some. Environmental is also supported. The symbol thinking would help, separate and sort plastic but the industry knew the truth the symbols were causing problems. Warm report told executives in July nineteen ninety-three that the symbol is being misused. It's creating quote unrealistic expectations about what plastic people can recycle. It's being used as a green marketing tool, but the executives decided to keep the symbol anyway. I did reach out to plastic industry folks and they said that the symbols were only meant to help sort plastic and that they were not intended to confuse people but the symbol in the ads in the projects, all of this basically convince people Larry says the idea that the vast majority of plastic can be recycled was sinking in. Say that. After a while the atmosphere seems to change I. Don't know whether it was because people thought that recycling has solved the problem. was that they were just so in love with plastic products that they were willing to overlook the environmental concerns that were were mounting up. It's been thirty years now since most of those plans have been put into place and the public's feelings about plastic have started to shift again, people are reading stories about oceans choked with plastic trash and trace amounts of this stuff inside our bodies, and once again, people are wanting to ban plastic and the survival of the oil companies is at stake.

Larry Thomas Lucas Clawson Society Of Dupont Chemical Company Lou Freeman Dupont Laura Sullivan Sodium Nitrate Delaware Hagley Library Chevron Dow Dupont Exxon Syracuse University Phoenix Syracuse Consultant Berlin