McDonald’s says goodbye to plastic straw

Amsterdam, 13 July 2018 – SumOfUs.org campaigned against the plastic straws of McDonald’s and collected more than half a million signatures. At the end of May, the European Commission proposed to ban plastic straws, because alternatives are available. More and more customers worldwide refuse the straws of McDonald’s. The fast-food giant that uses 1.8 million daily straws in the UK alone, could no longer withstand the pressure.

Mid-July, McDonald’s announced that next year all 1361 branches in the UK and Ireland will use paper straw only. The first restaurants make the change as early as September. Later this year, McDonald’s will be testing alternatives for the plastic straw in a limited number of restaurants in the United States, France, Sweden, Norway and Australia. How long it will take until the 36,000 restaurants outside the UK have switched is unclear according to the Guardian. Vice president of McDonalds Francesca DeBiase said: “McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally”.

According to Algemeen Dagblad all restaurants in the Netherlands will have abolished plastic straws next year.

Why did it take so much external pressure before the fast-food chain changed its policy? That question is not hard to answer; the production costs of plastic straws are lower than those of the desired alternatives. However, the disadvantages of reputational damage now surpass the benefits of lower costs. By abolishing plastic straws before a possible legal ban, the company can still claim to have the desire to achieve sustainability goals on its own initiative. That’s what is happening now.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “We are very pleased that McDonald’s says goodbye to the plastic straw. This straw, which is discarded immediately after use and massively spreads into the environment, is one of the symbols of the plastic soup. The step that McDonald’s is now taking shows that it does indeed pay off to put pressure on these types of companies.”

SUPPORT THE PLASTIC SOUP FOUNDATION WITH MBRC THE OCEAN

Together with the Plastic Soup Foundation, Charity Gifts has launched a new brand: MBRC the Ocean. The first product that is for sale as part of this initiative is a bracelet with an important story; the story of the enormous amount of plastic in the oceans, plastic that threatens our earth and our health. Dorian van Rijsselberghe, ambassador of the Plastic Soup Foundation, is one of the first wearers of this special bracelet. During the Volvo Ocean Race and the Ocean Summit in Scheveningen, the Olympic windsurf champion gave the sale a kickstart. 

More Products

MBRC the Ocean makes nautical rope products made from 100% recycled plastic. About half of these recycled plastics come from the ocean, and the other half come from other plastic waste sources. Yarns are made from this plastic in one of the oldest rope factories in the Netherlands (est. 1628). There are several bracelets available with cool, fashionable magnetic closures and key rings available. More models and products are currently being developed; for example, MBRC the Ocean dog leashes will soon be on the market.

“We make doing good look cool,” says Michiel Reinoud, the driving force behind the new brand. “ With a beautiful product, one that makes you want to wear the cool design, we want to create awareness among the younger generation as well as collect a considerable amount of money for the work of the Plastic Soup Foundation”.

Points of Sale

Thirty percent of sales proceeds of MBRC the Ocean go to the Plastic Soup Foundation. The bracelets are for sale online via the webshop at www.mbrctheocean.nl. In addition, a number of shops that stock accessories will sell the product as well. There will also be a special promotional sale in circa 60 EkoPlaza stores starting at the beginning of July; this is the first physical location where you can encounter MBRC the Ocean. MBRC the Ocean will also be sold later this year in the European stores of North Sails and in branches of The Student Hotel. In 2019, a number of major campaigns are already being planned at major retailers in the Netherlands and Germany.

About Charity Gifts

Charity Gifts is the founding father of this initiative. The organization devises concepts “to promote a better world”. In addition, they bring sales channels, charities, and brands together. In the past few years, Charity Gifts has raised substantial sums of money for other good causes such as UNICEF, Better Life Quality Mark, and KiKa with the “KiKadootje” campaign.

BIG PLASTIC MANUFACTURER MIGHT OPEN FACTORY IN BOTLEK AREA

Amsterdam, 6 July 2018 – British chemical giant Ineos announces an investment of 2.7 billion euro in a complex that’s to be built in north-west Europe. The choice is between Rotterdam and Antwerp. It concerns a factory for propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and a so-called ethane cracker. The PDH factory will convert propane into propylene. This is then turned into polypropylene, which is the raw material needed to make plastic for fields such as the automotive industry. The cracker, in turn, converts ethane into ethylene. This is processed into an intermediate product in the shape of pellets, which are used to make a variety of plastic.

The ethane originates from shale gas sources in the United States. According to the press release by Ineos the company profits from cheap shale gas from the United States. To transport the gas, Ineos uses huge multigas carriers: ships that can carry up to 800.000 ton of gas at a time. The first shipment arrived at Ineos’ cracker in Norway in 2016. Back in 2012 Ineos had already signed a treaty with American producers to be the first company in Europe to import ethane, according to a very critical report by Food and Water Europe.

An Ineos factory in Scotland is being held responsible for an enormous pellets pollution on beaches. This May the BBC reported that 450.000 pellets had been found in 2 hours on a beach only 12 miles from the factory. Ineos’ promise of “zero pellet loss” appears to be empty.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “While State Secretary Van Veldhoven announces a Plastic Pact to ban single-use plastic such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds at the front, the door at the back is put wide open for a gigantic investment in even more production of cheap plastic. If the government truly wants to limit plastic, they definitely can’t give Ineos a permit.”


Also read: The European commission and pellet loss

Plastic soup stuck between quay and houseboat: a new landing net solves the problem

Amsterdam, July 5th, 2018 – Floating plastic waste that accumulates between quays and houseboats is difficult to remove. The plastic waste cannot be reached from the water, because the boats are in the way, and removing the waste while remaining on shore is difficult and labour intensive. This is a problem for the authorities and the houseboat community.

In 2014, the approach to plastic waste in open water was examined in the Netherlands, and the report concluded that the situation was especially problematic in urban areas. It concluded furthermore that solutions for urban regions were insufficiently implemented in the policies. The clean-up is expensive and the cooperation between the different organisations and services insufficient. Two possible solutions were suggested to aid houseboat owners:

  • Fit floating barriers between the boat and the quay
  • Equip houseboat owners with suitable tools, such as containers and landing nets for waste

Many houseboat owners are willing to participate, despite the effort needed to collect waste from the water, as it improves their surrounding environment immediately. Thus far, city councils and water management departments have not provided houseboat owners with suitable equipment. Partly because existing landing nets are not suitable for the task. The nets are designed to get fish from the water or leaves from a pool, and therefore unable to cope with heavier waste.

But since a few months, there is a landing net on the market suitable for collecting waste. Goodtogather has been selling this sturdy landing net especially designed for collecting floating waste. A few Amsterdam houseboat owners have developed this net. With the long and sturdy wooden handle (2 to 4 metres), heavier objects, such as buckets, 2-litre soda bottles or jerry cans are no problem for this landing net. The costs are kept to a minimum and the nets are produced in Haiti as part of a community development project.

It is high time these nets should be made available to people living on houseboats. As it is, compared to the alternatives, a very cheap solution.


Also read: Monthly a cleaning day in Sierra Leone

DECLINE IN PLASTIC BAGS ON NORTH SEA SEABED

Amsterdam, 27 June 2018 – The seabed of the North Sea and the Celtic Sea have been monitored for, among others, plastic waste. Recently, the results of this long-term study —25 years’— have been published in Science of The Total Environment.

During the research period (1992-2017), waters surrounding the UK have been trawled 39 times. The contents of the fishing nets trawling the seabed were analyzed for a total of 2461 times. Plastics are widespread, varying from 0 to 1835 pieces of plastic per square kilometre. Oddly enough, there is no clear trend visible regarding the increase or decrease of the amount of plastic on the seabed. However, there are trends visible within certain categories of plastics.

An increase of waste originating from fishing fleets operating in the North Sea has been recorded.

The number of carrier bags found on the seabed of the North Sea has decreased since 2010. The authors of the study mentioned several different possible explanations for this decrease, for instance, a change in the composition of the plastic bags (this influences the speed of decomposition of the plastic) and the implementation of policies that reduced the use of single use carrier bags.

The researchers compared the waste found on the seabed of the two different seas, the North Sea and Celtic Sea. Plastics form the largest share of waste, varying from 65% to 94%. These plastics mainly consist of packaging, bags, bottles and fishing debris. And often organisms, such as muscles and polyps, inhabit this plastic. There were no large differences between the amount of plastic recorded in the North Sea and the Celtic Sea. Furthermore, there was no difference between the coastal areas and the open sea. And, compared to other studies, the amount of plastic found in both seas is relatively low. The current to the northeast of the Atlantic probably carries the plastic away. The study’s findings clearly indicate that there is evidence that implementing policies that decrease the use of plastic lead to a decrease of plastic waste at sea.


Also read: Plastics found in the deepest part of the ocean

 

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Morocco proves: ban on plastic bags is pointless without enforcement

Amsterdam, July 3, 2018 – Today is World Plastic Bag Free Day. On July 3rd, people around the world call for attention to the negative consequences of single-use plastic bags.

More and more countries are taking measures against the plastic bag. That seems like it’s good news. But laws themselves aren’t a guarantee that there’ll be fewer plastic bags being used. Measures are almost entirely useless if they’re not enforced, too. That appears to be the case in Morocco, which adopted a law two years ago banning plastic bags.

The Moroccan NGO Zero Zbel researched the effects of the law. In three large cities, 24 volunteers questioned a total of 235 business owners and consumers at markets. The most important results are:

  • 90% of consumers is aware of the law, and all questioned businessmen are. 60% sees the plastic bags as a serious threat to the environment.
  • Eight percent of people questioned says the use of plastic bags has increased, 41% thinks it’s remained at the same level.
  • The bags are still used at markets, where they’re almost always given away for free. The majority of consumers says they use between 5 and 15 bags per shopping trip.
  • As an explanation for the continued use of the bags, the people questioned explained that it’s because they’re free, while 60% of business owners stated that 80% of their customers expect to be given free plastic bags. Alternative bags are more expensive and less practical.

Zero Zbel recommends the government to deal with the producers of illegal bags. Another recommendation is to have the results of the law be evaluated by an independent organization every year.


Also read: India will abolish single use plastics

Seventh edition of Plastic Free July

Amsterdam/Australia, 1 July 2018 A small and local initiative to live without plastic during the month of July has developed into a worldwide movement with 2 million people in 159 countries. The number of participants has doubled every year. And 90% of the participants continue to less use plastic. Organisations and companies can also participate in Plastic Free July. At the moment, 2000 companies are already participating. Plastic Free July is a big success and the inspiration for the May Plastic Free initiative in Belgium.

Plastic Free July is an independent not-for-profit foundation, whose vision is a world without plastic waste. It is a global grassroots movement that aims for the dramatic reduction of plastic use and to improve the recycling of the plastics that are still used.

Everybody can get involved in the challenge; just go to the site of Plastic Free July. A toolbox, with ideas and examples to reduce your plastic use, is also available on this website. Because reducing your plastic consumption is much easier than you think.

 

We eat, drink, and breathe plastic

NRC Handelsblad, one of the leading Dutch newspapers, published an opinion article on Saturday June 23rd 2018, written by Maria Westerbos (Director, Plastic Soup Foundation). Below you can read the translation of the original article.

Visible and invisible plastic particles penetrate our food chains. We’ve been believing in the fairy tale of recycling for too long, says Maria Westerbos.

The increase of plastic pollution is a threat to ecosystems both in water and on land. Everyone’s surely aware of this by now. But to what extent is plastic soup harmful to human beings as well? A question that’s not asked often enough. We know plastic litter fragments, and never decomposes. The concentration of microplastics in the environment and in the air is increasing exponentially. We breathe plastic, we eat plastic, we drink plastic, and we touch plastic all day long.

The Plastic Soup Foundation started a campaign earlier this month, on World Oceans Day, to inform everyone about the direct relationship between plastic and our health. Significantly less plastic truly is the only solution. Governments, corporations, and consumers; the entire world needs to produce less plastic, needs to go on a plastic diet.

Late 2016, the Health Council of the Netherlands published a so-called letter advice about the health risks of micro- and nanoplastics. The council had observed that we inhale small particles of plastic through the air, and consume them through seafood. Additionally, nanoplastics can pass through the intestine and placenta. Although the consequences are still unknown, it can’t be ruled out that this has a toxic effect on the immune system. The Health Council also expressed its worry about the hormone-disrupting effect of chemicals that are added to plastic, such as plasticizers and flame retardants. Furthermore, microplastics can spread pathogenic bacteria.

Health risks for humans can’t be ruled out, but the Health Council considered the uncertainties were as yet too large to be able to formulate specific recommendations to the Dutch government. The Council came no further than a weak call for more research. Unfortunately. Thankfully, the state secretary of infrastructure and water management Van Veldhoven did take that call to heart: before the year is over, a research tender will follow for short-term research on the health effects.

The reports consistently lack an analysis of the speed at which the concentration of micro- and nanoplastics increases in air, sea, and earth. It’s exponential. Do the math: we use more and more plastic per person, and for more and more purposes, from packaging and clothing to car tires.

Plastic litter fragments into parts that, in turn, collapse into even smaller parts. One plastic bag left behind in the environment means a few million additional microplastics later on. The visible and invisible parts penetrate food chains and are now found everywhere on earth. We produce, for example, millions of microfibers each time we do a simple load of laundry of five kilos of synthetic clothes. Through friction, those fibers are released inside the washing machine, and they’re flushed out with the dirty water. Water treatment facilities can’t stop those minuscule fibers.

While official organizations mostly call the health risks ‘uncertain’, leading to a lack of real measures being taken, the question of the ill effects of the increased concentration of plastic parts is rarely asked, let alone answered. Where will we be in a year, or in five or ten years?

It’s for good reason that an increasing number of scientists and doctors are raising the alarm. They point out that chemicals in plastic could lead to cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, arthritis, infertility, and even damage in unborn babies. The peer-reviewed articles are plentiful, such as an article published in Nature last year, in which Swedish scientists prove that nanoplastics enter the brains of fish through the food chain, and lead to abnormal behavior in them.

There’s actually quite a lot known already.

The Plastic Soup Foundation thinks we shouldn’t wait any longer to act, based on the precautionary principle. What we know is downright alarming. The ball’s in the court of the government: national, European, and global. Politics must acknowledge that plastic in the environment is an unwanted emission, that we need norms for plastic pollution, and that the use of plastic needs to be drastically reduced.

We’ve been believing in the fairy tale of plastic recycling for too long: that we can endlessly make new plastic products from old ones, as long as we collect them and recycle.

Prime minister Narendra Modi of India has already understood that we all need to go on a ‘plastic diet’. In his country, with 1.3 billion inhabitants, plastic pollution has become unmanageable. The air is also extremely polluted, as millions of Indians burn their plastic to simply get rid of their trash, not caring about the toxic dioxins that are released during the process.

On World Environment Day, Modi announced his country will ban all single-use plastic in 2022, because: “Plastic is harmful to the environment, animals, and the health of the people.” Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme, welcomed the step as an inspiration for the rest of the world.

The Plastic Soup Foundation is now calling the Dutch government to take proactive measures. The Netherlands needs to dare to take the lead in the battle against the plastic tsunami threatening our planet. We’re burdening future generations with a gigantic problem, that goes hand in hand with a high price for our health, as long as we keep trivializing, hesitating, and only taking action in dribs and drabs.

The plastic industry and the packaging industry barely even made a single move by themselves. The aim of their business models, of course, is to keep producing unlimited amounts of plastic at low costs. That’s why the government needs to prescribe the plastic diet; to kick our plastic addiction, but especially for self-preservation.

Werknemers in bouw en plasticindustrie riskeren meer gezondheidsproblemen

Employers in construction and plastics industries at higher risk of health problems

Amsterdam, June 24, 2018 – Endocrine Disruptors, or EDs, pose a potential health risk. This group of substances is now being linked to impaired fertility, as well as with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Employees in construction and in the plastics industries come into contact with these substances more than other people regularly would, and are therefore at a higher risk of increased health problems. The substances, which include plasticisers, are added to plastic to give it the desired properties. The construction industry has been using more and more plastics the past few years to, among other things, construct buildings that are more energy-efficient.

Worldwide, millions of people work in these two industries. An international group of scientists argues in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that this group of employees need a separate risk-based approach. They point to a study, for instance, which alleges that employees in both industries are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

It’s not just the amount of exposure that’s relevant; the moment of exposure and the sex of the person being exposed are important, too. Factors like these make it hard to prove causal links. Additionally, it can take time before harmful effects actually start to manifest. This is an important explanation for the fact that there still isn’t any clear legislation which regulates the use of EDs.

Wie bevrijdt de Middellandse Zee van plasticsoep?

Who will free the Mediterranean Sea of the plastic soup?

Amsterdam, 23 June 2018 – The most polluted seas in the world are the enclosed seas. On World Environment Day, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report about the plastic soup in the Mediterranean Sea. The WWF concludes that the concentration of microplastics is four times higher here than the highest concentration in the Pacific Ocean. The plastic that leaks into the Mediterranean Sea remains there forever, trapped in the enclosed sea.

The report, entitled Out of the plastic trap. Saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution, notes that most of the plastic pollution comes from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France. Half of the waste in countries such as France, Spain and Italy still ends up in landfills. Much of it blows into the sea.

Economic sectors such as the fisheries and tourism are experiencing increasing levels of plastic pollution, even as they themselves are contributing to it. The fisheries are facing about 62 million Euros of damage caused by falling fish catches and damage to boats. Half of all sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. For tuna, this is one of five tuna.

The WWF argues for stringent international and national measures. Among the international measures should be an international treaty with binding reduction measures and agreements about trade in plastic waste and criteria for recycling. The national measures should include a 100% recycling target plus a ban on plastic bags and single-use plastics. A ban on microplastics in personal care products should also be passed. The Plastic Soup Foundation has been campaigning on this issue since 2012.