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Compostable Plastic on Plastic Wall of Shame

Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Snapple, Loblaws, and Booster Juice are the first seven companies to be featured on the Plastic Wall of Shame. Loblaws is blamed for using compostable plastics.

As more and more consumers demand that companies drastically reduce their plastics footprint, a new online initiative is putting a spotlight on companies that are doing the complete opposite.

The Plastic Wall of Shame, launched today by Environmental Defence, calls out companies for having plastic-reducing tactics with no substance and encourages them to make changes that have a real positive impact.

“The world is in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis. Right now, we need companies to step up, show leadership, and be accountable for the plastic products they make,” said Vito Buonsante, Plastics Program Manager with Environmental Defence. “Unfortunately, instead, the companies on the wall are either using greenwashing tactics or have just entirely turned a deaf ear to solving this massive problem.”

Companies on the Plastic Wall of Shame come from several different sectors and all use single-use plastics in their products and/or packaging. The first seven companies to make the wall are:

Tim Hortons: for designing new lids that contain 59 per cent more plastic than its previous ones, instead of focusing on reducing plastic waste. Tim Hortons is the second biggest generator of plastic litter according to a 2019 brand audit by several environmental NGOs.

Starbucks: for designing new plastic lids to substitute for straws and investing in compostable cups that end up in the garbage, instead of implementing real solutions to reduce plastic waste.

Nestlé: for being the biggest plastic polluter in Canada, according to a brand audit by environmental NGOs in 2019. Nestlé also refuses to support collection systems that stop plastic from entering the environment, including a deposit return program for plastic bottles in Ontario.

Coca-Cola: for failing to support a deposit return system that would collect and recycle 90 per cent of the plastic containers it sells. It also won’t commit to using reusable options for its products. Coca-Cola is the biggest plastic generator in the world as it places about two million tonnes of plastic on the market every year.

Snapple: for recently changing its iconic bottles from glass to plastic in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis.

Loblaws: for failing to significantly reduce plastic generation from its operations and brands while promoting greenwashing solutions like its compostable PC coffee pods. These pods aren’t accepted in municipal green bins, therefore ending up in landfills.

Booster Juice: for its greenwashing compostable plastic straw. There are currently no municipalities in Canada that accept compostable plastics, so these straws just end up in the garbage. Instead, it should commit to reducing the amount of plastic it generates, including promoting reusable options.

“Companies need to stop creating new problems and adopt solutions that work: reduce the amount of single-use plastics they generate, nudge their customers towards reusable options, and support collection systems that would avoid plastic pollution,” said Buonsante.

Each month, a new company will be added to the wall. Members of the public are invited to nominate companies to be included by using a form on the website.

To see all the companies on the wall, and to learn more about why they were included, or to nominate a company, visit environmentaldefence.ca/wallofshame.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca):

Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry, and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate, and healthy communities.

Plastic pollution is a growing crisis around the world. Plastics are everywhere. They are in the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe. A major source of this pollution is single-use plastics.

Some companies have taken some good steps to reduce throwaway plastics. However, a number of the biggest companies in Canada are doing the complete opposite. Their efforts to reduce plastic waste are plain greenwashing or just downright dismal. In fact, we can call them one word: Shameful.

Loblaws

Loblaws is one of the biggest grocery chains in the country. And while it appears at first glance to be eco-minded, the company could still take further steps to reduce its impact on the environment—especially when it comes to plastics.

  • Here are a couple of examples:

For the past several years, Loblaws has been charging customers five cents for a plastic bag. However, one of its competitors, Sobeys, has gone much further by announcing its plans to ban plastic bags from all its stores by 2020.

Also, back in 2016, Loblaws announced that it would use compostable plastic for its President’s Choice coffee pods. But municipal waste systems can’t handle compostable plastic.

In order for the coffee pods to be composted, they need to be collected and processed at an industrial composting facility—a service not available in many communities across Canada.

In Toronto, for example, these compostable pods are not accepted in the green bins. Toronto’s Waste Wizard says they go in the trash.

  • What they should be doing instead

Loblaws could up its efforts to reduce plastic pollution by doing the following:

Ban plastic bags – Loblaws should follow Sobeys’ lead and ban plastic bags from its stores
Rethink the pods – Loblaws should only sell their compostable coffee pods in municipalities that accept these pods in their green bins. In municipalities that don’t, Loblaws should have a take-back program. The company should also promote/sell reusable pods

Tim Hortons

  • Why they are on the wall

There isn’t a more well-known Canadian coffee fast-food chain than Tim Hortons. Canadians like to drink Tim Hortons coffee en masse. In fact, according to their website, the coffee chain sells approximately two billion cups of it every year. But with all these sales comes a whole lot of plastic waste.

First of all, Tim Hortons takeaway cups cannot be recycled because they are lined with plastic.

So, if a large majority of the two billion cups of coffee Tim Hortons sells are in takeaway cups, that’s a lot of garbage heading to landfills.

Secondly, Tim Hortons recently redesigned its coffee cup lids to much fanfare.

But instead of spending its research and development dollars on waste reduction, it created a lid that contains 59 per cent more plastic than its previous one.

Even though the company claims that the lids are recyclable, it doesn’t mean they are actually recycled.

Canadian cities such as Hamilton and Calgary are telling residents to throw the lids in the trash.

That’s because it’s difficult for sorting machines to detect the lids at recycling plants.

Lastly, the company offers many other single-use plastic items in its restaurants, such as cutlery, straws, and plastic cups for cold beverages. And while Tim Hortons is starting to sell a reusable $1.99 cup, that’s only one small step to try to reduce plastic waste.

  • What they should be doing instead

Tim Hortons could up its efforts to reduce plastic pollution by doing the following:

Invest in creating sustainable solutions: Tim Hortons should spend its research and development dollars on improving sustainability at its restaurants, instead of creating new single-use items that contain way more plastic (like its new lids).

Charge customers for single-use items: Right now, Tim Hortons customers get 10 cents off their bill if they bring their own cup. The initiative isn’t well advertised. And even more, 10 cents isn’t a big enough incentive for customers to bring their own cups or purchase one of the reusable cups. Instead, Tim Hortons should charge between 25 to 50 cents for a takeaway cup or other single-use plastic items.

Develop a Deposit Return Program: Additionally, Tim Hortons should create a deposit system in which customers pay for a reusable cup and get their money back when they return it, similar to the program by Quebec non-profit La Tasse. They should also make sure that any coffees consumed in the store are served in ceramic mugs, not single-use ones.

Booster Juice

  • Why they are on the Wall

For many Canadians, Booster Juice is a healthier fast food option. And while the company’s current plastic practices might seem good for the environment, if you scratch beneath the surface you will see that’s not really the case.

The company recently boasted about now having straws that compost in 180 days. While this might sound good, it’s actually not. In order for them to be composted, they need to be collected and processed at an industrial composting facility—a service not available in most communities across Canada. In Toronto, for example, these compostable straws are not accepted in the green bins. Toronto’s Waste Wizard says they go in the trash.

So, unfortunately, these straws are essentially the same as your average plastic straw. They can’t be recycled, they can’t go in your green bin, and they do not degrade safely in natural conditions. Booster Juice is giving a false impression that they are offering an environmentally-friendly option, while they continue to pollute our environment.

Booster Juice also recently made the switch from polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups to paper cups (the company claims they can be recycled). This is great since polystyrene is extremely difficult to recycle. However, the company is still using the same lids. The lids are also a form of polystyrene, which means another piece of plastic still destined for the trash.

  • What they should be doing instead

Booster Juice could up its efforts to reduce plastic pollution by doing the following:

Charge customers for single-use items: Booster Juice should charge its customers for single-use takeaway items, like cups and straws. This would encourage them to bring their own cup.

Develop a deposit return system: The company does sell Enviro-Mugs—reusable plastic cups—to its customers. However, it should go one step further and create a deposit system in which customers pay for a reusable cup and get their money back when they return it, similar to the program by Quebec non-profit La Tasse.

Invest in creating sustainable solutions: If Booster Juice wants to be a healthy option for consumers and the environment, it needs to invest in alternatives that reduce the use of takeaway items and single-use plastics.

Starbucks

  • Why they are on the wall

Starbucks has been getting a lot of attention for its efforts to reduce plastic waste. The company has committed to phasing-out straws from its stores by 2020 and also recently launched a new strawless lid. It is also working on developing a “greener” cup that will either be recyclable or compostable. However, it still offers plastic lid-stoppers for coffee, and hands out single-use plastic cups, plastic cutlery, plastic food containers, and cellophane wrapped snacks and sandwiches.

Even if you’re planning to hunker down in the shop to enjoy a nice coffee, it will most likely be served to you in a disposable cup instead of a ceramic mug. Additionally, Starbucks popular mobile order service is also adding to the plastic problem. Consumers can place an order through the Starbucks app and have it ready for pick-up, avoiding the hassle of waiting in line. There’s no option to use a reusable cup with this service. That means, more single-use cups going out the door.

At the end of the day, Starbucks really needs to focus on how to reduce the amount of takeaway items and single-use plastics at its stores.

  • What they should be doing instead

Starbucks could up its efforts to reduce plastic pollution by doing the following:

Develop a deposit return system: The company needs to develop a deposit return program where consumers pay a deposit for a reusable Starbucks cup and get it back when they return the cup to any Starbucks location. Other companies are already doing it so a massive corporation like Starbucks can surely figure this one out.

Charge customers for single-use items: First, Starbucks needs to offer consumers staying in the shop reusable cups, plates, and cutlery. And it needs to offer a better solution to consumers using its mobile order service. Furthermore, instead of giving consumers a discount for bringing their own mug, it should charge consumers for all single-use takeaway items. Paying a fee for something, which you’re going to throw out after one use, is a better disincentive than receiving a small discount.

Snapple

  • Why they are on the wall

For years, Snapple has been known for serving its customers up to 35 different varieties of flavoured tea and juice in its iconic 16 oz glass bottle.

But in the midst of a global plastic pollution crisis, Snapple made the move from glass to plastic bottles. Talk about an epic fail.

The company claims the switch to lightweight, shatterproof plastic bottles were made in an effort to make drinking Snapple on-the-go more convenient for consumers. It seems Snapple is asleep at the wheel when it comes to understanding what consumers want. Snap out of it Snapple! No one wants more plastic, thanks.

  • What they should be doing instead

Snapple could up its efforts to reduce plastic pollution by doing the following:

Switch back to glass: For over 40 years, consumers have happily enjoyed Snapple drinks from glass bottles. The switch to plastic bottles at the peak of a plastic pollution crisis is unnecessary, irresponsible, and downright shameful.

Support a deposit return in Ontario: A deposit return program would help recover over 90 per cent of the plastic bottles sold in Ontario every year. This solution is a no-brainer. At the very least, Snapple should support one since its latest switch will now contribute to the thousands of plastic bottles polluting our environment and Great Lakes.

Nestle

  • Why they are on the wall

Nestlé is one of the biggest food brands on the planet. From frozen food to cereal, coffee, and chocolate, the mega-corporation’s products can be found all over store shelves. And many of these products are packaged in plastic, making Nestlé a major contributor to the global plastic pollution crisis. In fact, the company ranked first in a Canadian audit of plastic pollution collected at various spots across the country

In 2018, the company announced that it would make its packaging either 100 per cent recyclable or reusable by 2025. It also committed to phasing-out many problematic materials from their packaging. While these steps are heading in the right direction, the company could do even more to reduce its plastics footprint.

For example, one of Nestlé’s biggest plastic pollution offences is bottled water. According to its website, Nestlé Pure Life is the largest bottled water brand in Canada—which means they are selling a lot of plastic water bottles. In Ontario alone, 1.5 billion plastic bottles are not recycled each year and end up in landfills or the environment. A large share of these bottles belongs to Nestlé.

We asked Nestlé if they would support a deposit return program for plastic bottles to increase recycling. They declined to answer, but the association that represents Nestlé’s bottled water brands in Canada (the Canadian Beverage Association) has said that it won’t support a deposit return program for plastic bottles in Ontario. Eight out of ten Canadian provinces already have deposit programs, and they’re a proven way to reduce plastic waste. So, why doesn’t Nestlé want to see one in Ontario? Especially if it says it is “taking an active role in developing a well-functioning collection, sorting, and recycling system so that all of [its] packaging gets recycled.”

  • What they should be doing instead

Nestlé could up its efforts to reduce plastic pollution by doing the following:

Support a deposit return program in Ontario: A deposit return program would help recover over 90 per cent of the three billion plastic bottles sold in Ontario every year. This solution is a no-brainer and Nestlé should support it.

Reduce the amount of plastic packaging it places on the market: Nestlé places approximately 1.7 million tonnes of plastic on the market around the world every year. Without clear reduction targets and investments in alternative solutions to single-use plastics (such as refill or reuse), Nestlé is likely to remain among the worst offenders.

REFS

Published on environmentaldefence.ca

The Plastic Wall of shame

New online initiative shames companies for their poor efforts to reduce single-use plastics

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