Michael Stephen Column

Big Trouble Brewing for Resin Suppliers and Plastics Manufacturers (FREE)

Today Michael writes about big trouble brewing for the resin-suppliers and the plastics manufacturers.

On 29th April the Attorney-General of California made a very aggressive attack on the industry. 

For years the oil companies and plastic manufacturers have been warned that their business is under threat because plastic creates microplastics and is very persistent in the environment.  The only way to respond to this threat is to use and support biodegradable masterbatch technology, which can be put into their products so that they will no longer be persistent in the open environment.  They have not listened, and have continued to place their faith in recycling. 

I wrote about this in Bioplastics News on 8th April 2020  Dumb Oil and Gas Majors, Scrapping Plastic Bans and Taxes and San Francisco in an article headed “How could the oil & gas majors be so dumb?”  This issue has now been taken up by the State of California

Now the industry faces a serious and immediate threat, which could easily spread beyond California.  The Attorney-General said:

“My office is subpoenaing Exxon Mobil, a major source of global plastics pollution for information related to the decades-long plastic deception campaign. Our investigation will examine the industry’s historic and ongoing efforts to deceive the public, and whether and to what extent these actions may have violated the law. This investigation could not have come at a more urgent moment. We are in a global plastics pollution crisis – there’s no other way to put it.

More than 300 million tonnes of plastic oil-based products are produced annually – a nearly 20,000% increase since the 1950s. This is unsustainable. As fossil fuels continue to be replaced by clean energy, big oil has doubled down on plastics as their revenue lifeline, recently investing an additional $208 billion to expand plastic production worldwide.

First; big oil’s plastics pollution crisis is harming our environment. Every year tens of millions of tonnes of plastic pervasively pollute our oceans our rivers our beaches our bays, our coasts – costing the state an estimated half a billion dollars each year.

Second; big oil’s plastic pollution crisis may be harming our health. [Ordinary] plastic does not fully degrade – instead breaking down into smaller pieces called micro plastics.  Every week we consume the equivalent of a credit card’s worth of plastic through the water we drink the food we eat, and the air we breathe – each of us consuming more than 40 pounds of plastic over our lifetimes.

This crisis is happening as recent reporting has uncovered internal documents from the 1970s warning industry executives that recycling was infeasible and that there was serious doubt that plastic recycling can ever be made viable on an economic basis.  Indeed despite the industry’s decades-long recycling campaign, plastic pollution is as pervasive and as harmful as ever.

Our investigation will focus on this half-century campaign of deception and the ongoing harm cause to the state, our residents, and our natural resources.  We’re going to target companies that have caused and exacerbated the global plastics pollution crisis, we’re going to investigate their role in perpetuating myths around recycling, and then we’re going to investigate the extent to which this deception continues and is still on going.  We will not hesitate to hold these companies accountable if the law was violated.”

It is time for the industry, and organisations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to stop relying on recycling and start talking to experts in biodegradable technology such as the scientists at Symphony Environmental.

Plastics marketed as compostable will not solve this problem.  See Composting

Michael Stephen

Michael Stephen is a lawyer and was a member of the United Kingdom Parliament, where he served on the Environment Select Committee. When he left Parliament Symphony Environmental Technologies Plc. attracted his attention because of his interest in the environment. He is now Deputy Chairman of Symphony, which is listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, and is the founder and Chairman of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association.

Earlier Postings in this Column

All articles of Michael Stephen can be found here

Interview with Michael Stephen


The opinions expressed here by Michael Stephen and other columnists are their own, not those of Bioplasticsnews.com.

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