Whether dazzling Christmas tree decorations, artificial snow on the windowsill or vast quantities of candy wrappers: Christmas time is plastic time. Just 100 g of cellophane or coated wrapping paper per person leads to over 8,000 tonnes of additional plastic waste in Germany. Then there are the usual Christmas purchases such as toys, which are often themselves made of plastic or wrapped in it.
We all know by now that single-use plastic pollutes the environment. But dolphins and seals are not the only ones swallowing more and more plastic. According to researchers at Newcastle University, the average human ingests up to 5 grams of microplastic per week through the air and food, which is equivalent to about one credit card.
Many people are already trying to reduce their plastic footprint through conscious consumption. But as important as individual choices are, consumers alone cannot reverse the increasing littering of our planet. That is the task of the actual polluters and smart policies.
An important role is played by energy companies, which extract and sell the fossil resources from which 99% of all plastics are made. The plastics business is becoming increasingly important for these companies as demand for oil as an energy source in industrialised countries declines in the wake of the energy transition. To compensate, major oil companies such as Shell are planning to increase plastic production by a quarter over the next five years with an estimated $400 billion (as of 2020) . A questionable investment even from a purely economic point of view at a time when governments and consumers are increasingly abandoning plastic.
What all companies along the plastics value chain have in common is that they not only pass on the waste, but also the responsibility to the consumers. In this way, they do not have to bear the costs of the waste they produce themselves. The oldest example of this is Keep America Beautiful, a supposed environmental organisation of beverage and packaging companies, and its commercial The Crying Indian from the early 1970s. But it is not only in millions of American households that the narrative of the irresponsible consumer has been shaped. Through aggressive lobbying, the organisation overturned the first deposit law in the US in record time.
Like all companies in the real economy, Gas, Oil and chemical companies as well as consumer goods companies, are dependent on capital. But while more and more banks are establishing financing and investment policies with regard to climate change and human rights, little or no attention is paid to the plastics issue. Companies like BASF or Nestlé, which are among the largest plastic producers or users, are thus unconditionally provided with capital by institutions like Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank.
You want to become active yourself?
Especially at Christmas time, when reflection and good deeds are in the foreground, we should call on corporations to stop spreading unnecessary single-use plastic and thus harming people, the environment and the climate. But banks are also asked to take responsibility for their plastic footprint. You can do this by simply sending a mail to your bank via our website.
More information on this topic can be found in our Dirty Profits Report 8.
This is the first part of our alternative Christmas series. Please support us with your donation so that we can continue to demand more responsibility from corporations and banks. Thank you!
Author: Charlotte Feldmann