G7 Ocean Plastics Charter fails zero waste goals

It’s estimated as much as eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans each year; this massive problem of plastic pollution will not be solved without strong commitments to reduce single-use plastics. Recycling will not solve the problem at source.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a joint communiqué at the end of the G7 summit that he and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. agreed to a plastics charter that meant to deal with ocean pollution caused by plastic.

The G7 Ocean Plastic Charter is a non-binding voluntary agreement consisting of vague commitments and few targets. The G7 does not go far enough to protect oceans nor does it address the other impacts of plastic production and pollution including impacts on human health, air and soil quality. Instead of setting clear, binding targets for the reduction of virgin plastic, the G7 embraces “end of the pipe” waste management and destructive disposal waste management practices.

The G7 Charter fails to create a Zero Waste solution that is based on the guiding principles of conserving resources and doing no harm to environment. Advocates around the world are particularly concerned with a word hidden in the charter’s fine print: “recovery.”

“The use of the word “recovery” in the G7 pledge is code for incineration of plastic – burning plastic. Burning plastic waste; whether it be in an incinerator, cement kiln, gasification, pyrolysis or a thermal waste to energy plant. These options are one and the same and they will inevitably transform plastic waste into a toxic, polluting and greenhouse gas emissions nightmare,” says Zero Waste Canada director, Buddy Boyd.

“Plastic pyrolysis and other forms of incineration cannot possibly keep up the existing and expanding production of plastic, yet it is frequently held up as a way to justify the production of more and more plastic garbage…and more environmental devastation.”

The Charter’s signatories aim to “recycle and reuse at least 55 percent of plastic packaging by 2030 and recover 100% of all plastics by 2040.” This commitment is in line with the American Chemistry Council’s strategy on plastic pollution and the Canadian Plastic Industry.

Jaimie Kaminski, director of Zero Waste Canada explains, “Zero Waste Canada reiterates the importance of preserving the material value (thus economic and environmental value) of products and resources by pushing them further up the Zero Waste Hierarchy towards durable reusable products and reprocessing as opposed to energy recovery and/or incineration. Following a very basic thermodynamic logic, the energy embodied in a product or material which is retained through reuse and recycling, is exponentially higher than the energy that may be extracted from that material through thermal treatments such as incineration.”

Barbara Hetherington, educational co-ordinator for Zero Waste Canada says: “We must not only keep plastics out of landfills but incinerators. As Canadians we must insist that the solutions conserve resources for the future and eliminate pollution. Zero Waste Canada strongly urges these governing entities to refrain from resorting to energy recovery as a quick-fix solution for the plastic crises. We can do better – we can create a Zero Waste world but we need to reduce!”