While I was at the Plastics Pioneers Association meeting last week from Sept. 26 to 28, someone mentioned hearing that the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) had just lost another big brand-owner member. I did a bit of research and found that S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. is the latest consumer goods manufacturer to drink the Kool-Aid.
An article in Newsweek noted “pressure from activists” had finally gotten to the company. S.C. Johnson, which owns numerous household brands such as Glade, Pledge, Windex and more, “told Greenpeace USA that it will be allowing its membership with the group to lapse following disagreements with some policies,” said the Newsweek article.
In a statement to Greenpeace USA, “S.C. Johnson said that governments should be able to ‘democratically have bans if that is what citizens want,’” reported Newsweek.
Well, I’m not sure the citizens want bans on plastic bags, straws, stirrers, take-out containers and other single-use plastic (SUP) items. Typically, city or state officials just write a bill, have a couple of hearings on the matter and then vote. Do citizens really get a voice in this?
And would citizens actually vote for banning SUPs if they understood the science behind the use of plastic for these “disposable” items?
Newsweek quoted Greenback USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar: “This should be a wake-up call for the plastics industry. S.C. Johnson, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have all recognized that standing alongside a group working to strip away the rights of communities to reduce our reliance on dangerous plastics is not good for business.”
“Dangerous plastics?” Hey, folks, we’re not talking nuclear waste here! And no one is stripping "away the rights of communities to reduce our reliance” on plastic. If anything, few cities or states have given their citizens the right to vote on this matter!
A letter from Tony Radoszewski, President and CEO of PLASTICS, came into my inbox on Sept. 26 in response to the latest press reports on this problem. “Brand owner engagement with the supply chain is critical not only for achieving their own sustainability goals, but also driving sustainability investment across the industry,” wrote Radoszewski, who also noted that while Greenpeace wants citizens at the local level to have the right to ban items, “Greenpeace has supported statewide bans on plastic products, which also take away local choice.”
Radoszewski said that the “majority” of the organization’s brand-owner members have stood by the organization, and he encouraged all of us to tell the industry’s story. “We know all too well that others are willing to tell the industry’s story if we aren’t equipped to do it ourselves,” he stated.
Newsweek noted that Timothy Smith, director of ESG shareowner engagement at Boston Trust Walden, one of the groups that has been pressuring companies to leave the Plastics Industry Association, added: “The urgent need to drastically curtail plastic pollution is an issue that has captured the attention of the public, environmental organizations and investors.’”
Did you get that? By his own statement, Smith said there is a need to “curtail plastic pollution”—not ban all plastics! Curtailing plastic pollution involves educating the consuming public on how to take care of the environment. Don’t litter! Find the recycling bins! Or the trash bins! Don’t leave waste of any kind—paper, glass bottles, metal cans or plastic items—on the beach!
If it’s not plastic it will be other types of litter, such as metal cans and glass bottles. I remember a time when glass bottles laying around everywhere was a big problem, so stores began charging a fee to encourage people to return the bottles.
Plastic is safe (as has been proven countless times in studies over the past three decades); it is energy efficient to manufacture; it saves vital resources, such as water and trees; and it improves food safety and extends shelf-life to mitigate food waste. The benefits of plastic are myriad!
As I’ve said dozens of times in many blogs: Plastic pollution isn’t a “plastic” problem—or a paper, glass or metal problem—it’s a people problem. Until people actually care enough about the environment, we’ll continue to see waste pollution of all types, not just plastic. Remember, only you can prevent plastic pollution!