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Fossil Fuel Industry Finally Being Investigated

Recycling myths from the fossil fuel industry

fossil fuel industry finally being investigated

Decades of myths from the fossil fuel industry are finally being investigated

Every year the world produces around 400 million tonnes of plastic, equal to the weight of 1,000 Empire State Buildings.

Shockingly, the percentage of which this waste is recycled in the U.S, has gone down from 9% in 2018 to a mere 6% last year. This decrease can partly be put down to the fact that China has now stopped taking America’s plastic, in a struggle to combat their own waste. This means that 94% of America’s plastic waste ends up in landfills, in the ocean or spread across the land. It’s an endlessly indestructible wave of mess that’s polluting our coastlines, infiltrating into critical ecosystems and once eventually broken down, enters our bodies in tiny, damaging fragments.

One would think that these facts are shocking enough to begin a reduction in demand and therefore supply of plastic. However, oil companies plan to invest $400 billion into new petrochemical plants, in anticipation that demand for plastic will keep multiplying. The fossil fuel industry has been turning oil and natural gas into plastic for many years, and for many years, they have denied their impact on the environmental damage. It’s not just denial that’s going on; California’s attorney general has recently opened an investigation into fossil fuel and petrochemical companies, that’s looking into decades of disinformation regarding minimizing the public’s understanding of how harmful the consequences of their products are. The attorney, Rob Bonta, has come out to say “enough is enough. For more than half a century, the plastics industry has engaged in an aggressive campaign to deceive the public, perpetuating a myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis. The truth is: the vast majority of plastic cannot be recycled, and the recycling rate has never surpassed 9%.

A mismatch of data?

An investigation such as this has never been carried out before, and the results are critical. Around the world, 71% of people think that single use plastic products should be banned, so there is a clear mismatch between this figure, and the demand that the fossil fuel industry is anticipating. It makes you wonder how long until society, switches from knowing about the climate crisis, but storing it in a section of our mind for information that’s too overwhelming to deal with, to bringing the sheer severity of the damage we’ve done, to the front of our brains, as something that immediately needs addressing. There are already signs of new hope, whether it’s a viral video of a turtle trapped in a plastic bag that changes hundreds of people’s daily habits, to the campaign for banning single use plastic across Europe, however the plastic that we do still create, will stay with us for hundreds of years. It’s the damage that’s already done that is sadly irrevocable.

The demand for petrochemicals

For the moment, the COVID-19 pandemic has scrambled everyone’s outlook. Petrochemicals demand is expected to retreat this year, just as it did after the 2008-9 financial crisis, but the longer-term impacts aren’t yet predictable. Much depends on the trajectory of the economic recovery. Eventually, however, the usual drivers will kick in: consumer preferences and government action. Here’s to hoping that the former is powerful enough to inform the latter, and that oil companies will be left to suffer.

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