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Jeffrey Levine
Blogger, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist

The war on Plastic. Is it Rational?

This article takes a hard and realistic look at the war on Plastic. It would appear that Plastic is an easy target, but we conveniently forget other environmental concerns.

Setting the scene – The Plastic Tax

In Israel, there is a plastic tax that consumers had to pay. The new minister of Finance has called to “Cancel tax on plasticware and soft drinks, Smotrich instructs. The tax’s intention was to curb consumption of a significant polluting element, as well as decrease diabetes and other diseases.” https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/article-726358

In the UK, Businesses that manufacture or import ten tonnes or more of plastic packaging will have to pay £200 for each tonne of packaging that does not contain at least 30 per cent recycled content by the end of this tax year. The measure is an attempt to encourage firms to use recycled plastic. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/plastic-packaging-tax

In the EU, Each Member State must pay a levy determined by multiplying a rate of EUR 0.80 per kilogram by the weight of non-recycled plastic packaging waste. While some Member States are currently paying the levy out of their national budgets, others have introduced (or are looking to introduce) new taxes, duties, charges, fees or contributions on plastic products or have already extended (or are considering extending) existing schemes to tax plastic products as well Tackling Plastics Pollution and Waste.

At the global level, On 2 March 2022, 175 member states of the United Nations (UN) endorsed a resolution at the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi to create an intergovernmental negotiating committee to commence work on crafting a legally binding international agreement by the end of 2024 to tackle plastics waste and pollution. https://wts.com/global/publishing-article/20220406-plastic-taxation-in-europe~publishing-article?language=en

Why is this such an important issue?

Indeed, The UN highlights Pollution as a major element in the war on plastics.

“Reducing plastic use seems like one of the easiest environmental actions people can take. We re-use bags, put takeout coffee in our own mugs or recycle our plastic bottles, and feel good about ourselves. But it is not so simple. Plastic pollution is still causing immense harm to our planet. There is no corner of the Earth, from mountaintops to sea trenches, left unsullied by plastic. We see it everywhere: disposable bags drifting underwater, pale plastic imitations of jellyfish; crumpled and fading bottles strewn along roadsides; takeout dishes and shampoo bottles spilling from the guts of dead whales. A 1 per cent decline in marine ecosystem services could cause an annual loss of $500 billion in global ecosystem benefits.”

https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/opinion/world-must-unite-war-against-plastic

So what is the solution to this?

THE UN has called for a system change that addresses the full life cycle of plastics, from the extraction of raw materials to alternatives to improved waste management. We need to be innovative and eliminate products that are unnecessary, avoidable or problematic. Design products for reuse and recycling and ensure this happens. Remove hazardous additives. By doing this, we could reduce the volume of plastics entering our oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040 and reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent. We could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent and create 700,000 additional jobs, mainly in the global south.

Consumer Recycling

This has been a success in many countries, encouraging recycling with and with economic incentives, Easy to recycle bottles, but it is harder to recycle one-use plastic plates and cutlery. Where I live, they have removed the plastic bottle recycling facilities, I wonder why, but this is a step back- also in education and habits.

Recycling Plastic Facilities

Today, there are good large-scale recycling options. Look at https://www.ubqmaterials.com/ and other Israel companies recycling plastic.

A 2nd look at how we damage our Oceans

I am further confused as the reason for all the hew haw is pollution. Who is causing this pollution in our oceans? What about Fish? –50% of all fish caught is discarded.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed annually throughout the world, a startlingly high number and one greater than the recovery rate of these populations. I almost choked when I read those 1/4 million sharks are killed EVERY DAY for the sole purpose of making shark fin soup” Stephen Fern of https://ark2030.org who are leading a drive to Restore global whale populations, is the most impactful strategy for restoring ocean health.

The Restoration of Oceans is a critical landmark program in our battle to end the climate crisis and the destruction of eco systems which support life on earth. Restoring global whale populations is the equivalent of planting 100 billion trees. Where is the global activism to stop this?

It is time to be Rational.

A 2nd look at Environment – The E in ESG. Is the criticism of ESG valid? There is an over-focus on E. Not all companies are equal. Not all taxes and solutions are effective. 20% of companies are responsible for 80% of the problem. Probably, closer to 5% and 90%.

Is it fair to put the blame and responsibility on them? Let’s go back to basics. Let’s look at how we consume. At least in the developed world.

Cars – we all use them.

Fly – we like to travel.

Consume, buy – we like to shop and buy goods, clothes

Shipping – is a direct outcome of these needs Houses- we all need housing:

Heating- , cooling, water etc. What have I left out?

Food Waste- The cost of food waste in the UK is GBP 10.2 billion, in Israel, net US$ 4 Billion the USA a staggering $161 billion. This has both huge environmental & social impact. Sometimes we do have choice, but there are some things which are not in control.

So, the question of who is responsible is complex.

For example, should one donate money to offset the Co2 when one fly? or drive? Waste, recycling, consuming less, consider how we travel. Can we push all the blame on the big corporations that provide us with these essentials? So, we can blame Oil and Fossil Fuels. Governments are making EVs compulsory. But wait, is EV so much better for the environment? What about mining the lithium, steel or aluminum or our product’s. What about the massive Fossil Fuel subsidies that go back to the horses and carts to the car revolution still in place?

What about our housing? Concrete, concrete – lots of it, inefficient heating and cooling solutions. Wood – is a problem?

We are driven by economics and convenience – we are encouraged to buy and consume more to keep the economy strong. Who benefits from this? The Mega Rich gets richer. Does the average Joe really benefit? We have Inflation, and now a higher interest rate, higher housing costs, and higher taxes? There is no shortage of innovation, technology and ideas.

More significant subsidies for EV are needed, and the provision of incentives or subsidies for renewable energy – solar panels. Japan just announced compulsory solar panels (What about their Shark killing obssesion?). What about encouraging smart grid, urban agriculture, waste, water recycling, and other innovative water solutions?

We have the phenomenon when this mega-rich over-consume – with private jets, yachts and more. Where have the Agra billions donated by Gates gone? The mega-rich set up foundations to support their pet causes, culture and the 3rd world without providing a real solution for change. Is there a meaningful improvement in the lot of small farm holders (500 million of them with a total of 2 billion dependent on them).

Surely, there is a better way?

Environment also includes our health and what we consume. Agriculture is controlled by Big Agro Chemical Companies – unharmful pesticides and fertilisers. Soil and water mismanagement, the way our meat is grown with more grazing land replacing forests. These also have health side effects. Medical side effects, damage to soil & natural eco systems. There are valid alternative solutions and innovations – let’s call it regenerative agriculture. Agro Business. . Healthy Alternatives to sprays, and more effective too What about Big Pharma supported by the Government? We do not need to back further than Covid with all its continuing conspiracy theories. Is better health being encouraged? Are Gyms subsidised? Electric Bicycles, small electric cars made available for inner city travel. Are healthy alternatives encouraged?

What about waste in supply chains – food, clothing? I saw this headline – Time to unsold disclosure goods – clothing, food etc. https://apparelinsider.com/hm-refuses-to-share-unsold-clothing-figures-to-norwegian-authorities/

And what about the Media – controlled by the Mega Rich and these big 3 – Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street We seem to be in a whirlwind, where COP27, WEF, and UN tell us we need to do more. But something needs to be done. Wink wink. nudge nudge.

So, E also represents Ethics. Without Ethics and a greater focus on S – Society, ESG is doomed to fail. These are still the early days of ESG. There will finetuning. There is not one size shoe fits all solution, but the ESG Movement is gaining momentum.

We can all play a part. I have set up upgradingESG.com which aims to be a leading marketplace for ESG innovation, providers and resources. Topics covered include – ESG Getting started, ESG Data, ESG Accounting, ESG reporting, Mandatory ESG Reporting, ESG Case Studies, Innovation. and more.

Please feel free to reach out and learn and make a difference – ask questions, browse our website, and join our group on LinkedIn. https://upgradingesg.com

 

About the Author
Jeffrey is a Blogger, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist (we can only dream) living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and six grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through https://upgradingesg.com and amongst his activities, he is the CFO at https://www.dreamvalleyglobal.com who are bring Smart Agriculture (The Israel Agro model) to developing countries.
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