From consumer blame to greenwashing, how the giants slow down the reduction of plastic
Some of the world’s largest and most influential companies, including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Adidas and Unilever, have used strategies to delay plastic reduction. The complaint is contained in the new report by Surfrider Foundation Europe, which calls on multinationals to accelerate the “depletion“.
“The global plastic crisis is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time,” reads Surfrider’s report. “Despite growing awareness, some companies have been slow to take significant measures“.
The problem numbers are out of control. In 2020, 368 million tons of plastic were produced, with only 9% recycled globally. Urgent action is essential, because if you consider the current trend, plastic pollution could triple by 2040.
But manufacturers are implementing at least 5 strategies to avoid plastic shrinkage, according to the report. The first is the classic blame game. “To reduce their responsibility, some companies have decided to emphasize the role of consumers, vulnerable communities and local authorities in the plastic crisis,” write the authors of the dossier. “In the narrative of these companies, plastic pollution occurs because the consumer does not sort the packaging in the right container and because local authorities do not handle the waste correctly”.
The second tactic is an excessive expenditure of research and development in technologies that will not completely solve the crisis. These include improving recycling systems or incorporating recycled or bioplastic plastics into products.
Third strategy, misleading marketing. Through slogans and sustainability brands, companies give the impression of being committed to reducing the impact of plastic. They try to convince consumers that they can make a difference by buying their products. But the positive impact has to be proven.
Fourth, the use of sustainability indicators built to deliver positive results. In reality, there is often little real impact behind it.
Finally, the fifth strategy is to have a double agenda. The commitment to the environment is publicly reported, but in reality a group of lobbyists is working to undermine the adoption of public policies harmful to business as usual.