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Does the Rutte cabinet really want less plastic?

Amsterdam, 6 March 2019 – State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (D66) of Infrastructure and Water Management has promised that in 2025 the Netherlands will use 20% less (packaging) plastic than in 2017. Agreements to that effect were made in the Plastic Pact with plastic producing and plastic using companies. However, real plastic producers such as Dow Chemical, Sabic or Borealis, did not sign the Plastic Pact, did not commit to any reduction.

If you want less plastic, you in the first place need to produce less plastic. You would therefore expect the Cabinet to discourage plastic production. The contrary is the case. Not only did they fail to succeed in convincing individual plastic producers to sign the Pact, behind the scenes the cabinet has even been making efforts to bring new plastic factories to the Netherlands

Late last year, the British chemical giant INEOS faced the choice of location for the construction of new plastic factories that use cheap shale gas from the United States as the raw material for pellets. The choice was between Botlek and Antwerp; the construction involved a 3 billion investment. The company eventually opted for Antwerp. Both Belgium and the Netherlands lobbied hard to get the new get plastic factories, according to research by the journalist collective Follow the Money.

The article quotes Adriaan Visser (D66), alderman for major projects in Rotterdam, who in the municipal meeting on 17 January informed the council about the ways used to convince INEOS to choose for Rotterdam: “I can honestly say that we have done everything in our power to achieve this. And we did not stand alone. The port authority, VNO-NCW, the cabinet including the Prime Minister, the Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency have also made serious efforts to bring the company to Rotterdam.”

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “The cabinet has engaged in double‑speak, a cardinal sin in politics. We want clarity. If the cabinet promises us less plastic, it must first ensure that less plastic is produced, on Dutch territory to begin with. The fact that lobbying for more plastic goes on behind the scenes, nourishes the thought that the Plastic Pact is nothing more than a greenwash-operation for the stage.”

Photo: National Government

Also read: INEOS invests 3 billion euros in plastic plants in Antwerp 


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

Powerful European plastics industry lobby resists European Union measures

Amsterdam/Brussels 24 May 2018 – There is much at stake if the European Union announces measures against growing plastic pollution. The Corporate Europe Observatory researches lobbying activities in Brussels and has analysed that of the plastics industry.

The European Union’s directive was leaked a few weeks ago. It showed that Single Use Plastics (SUP) in particular will be addressed. Products that have alternatives will be banned; other products must have information labels for consumers; and yet others will have to be designed better. The number of SUPs will be reduced and producers will be made responsible for the disposal phase of their products. They will have to pay for the collection and disposal of litter, for example.

It is hardly surprising that the plastics industry started a strong lobby campaign to fight these regulations. The overriding question is whether and to what extent the European Commission will listen to them and propose a strongly reduced package of measures on 28 May.

Corporate Europe Observatory has listed how many times the industry has met with the European Commission and spoken to Euro Parliamentarians; how many full-time lobbyists are employed; and how much money is spent on this. What emerges is that the industry will not comment on voluntary quantitative reduction goals and on what time-scale or what percentage of plastic products should be recyclable or reusable. The comments that the industry does issue hugely diverge from the intentions of the European Commission.

The European Commission says that it will introduce legal measures should the European plastics industry not come up with more ambitious goals itself. The plastics lobby has already responded and has stated that the Commission’s plans are insufficiently founded on scientific evidence and that it would make more sense to voluntarily improve the plastic cycle. The emphasis would then be placed on circularity and the efficient use of resources, thereby continuing the production of unlimited plastic products.

The plastics industry is using all the means it has at its disposal to resist the introduction of a tax on the use of virgin plastics. A tax would make the production of new plastic more expensive and at the same time would make it more attractive to use recycled plastic. These were the Commission’s initial plans, but these have quietly disappeared into the background.

Also read: Investment warning plastic packaging

Investment warning plastic packaging

Amsterdam, 9 May 2018 – For years the plastic industry was considered a safe investment. Good returns were ensured, because worldwide demand for plastic was only increasing. That image is quickly turning around as a result of governments announcing measures against plastic packaging, since plastic is damaging to the (maritime) environment. Moody’s, the leading advice agency for investors, released the rapport Plastic Packaging last month. It states that all impending measures to limit plastic packaging will have direct detrimental consequences for this industry. The companies will become less creditworthy.

Around 3 percent of the world oil consumption is used to make plastic packaging. British Petroleum is already changing their policy. Steve Dale, chief economist at BP, says in an article dedicated to this subject on “We think we’re going to see increasing regulation against some types of petrochemical products, particularly single-use plastics. As a result of that, we have less growth in non-combusted oils than we otherwise would have done.”

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “This is good news. The packaging industry is taking far too little initiative to take responsibility and reduce single-use plastic. Now that the market value of these companies is under pressure, we can expect to see this change.”