In the ground and off the page: why we’re banning ads from fossil fuels extractors | Membership | The Guardian

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In a bid to reduce our carbon footprint, confront greenwashing and increase our focus on the climate crisis, the Guardian this week announced it will no longer run ads from fossil fuel extractors alongside any of its content in print or online. The move will come into immediate effect, and follows the announcement in October last year that we intend to reduce our net emissions to zero by 2030.

Once upon a time, a newspaper was a rather straightforward business. You generated enough material of interest to attract a significant number of readers. You then ‘sold’ those readers to advertisers happy to pay to get their ideas, products or brands in front of consumers with cash to spend.

Of course, digital disruption over the past 20 years has upended that model, but advertising remains an important part of the media business ecosystem. At the Guardian, it is still responsible for about two-fifths of our income.

But what happens when the readers don’t like the adverts? What do you do when the message that advertisers want to spread jars awkwardly with the work your journalists are doing?

What if your journalists are some of the best in the world at revealing and investigating the deepening climate catastrophe and the disaster that is fossil fuel growth, while some of your advertisers are the very people digging the stuff out of the ground?

This contradiction has bothered us – and some of you – for some time. We came up with a rather bold answer this week: turn away the money and double down on the journalism.

“It’s something we thought about for a long time,” says Anna Bateson, the interim chief executive officer of Guardian Media Group, the Guardian’s parent company. “We always felt it was in line with our editorial values but were cautious for commercial reasons.”

She said it was the logical next step after the Guardian committed last year to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and was certified as a B Corp – a company that puts purpose before profit. But she added that the move had to be weighed carefully, given the fact that the Guardian only recently returned to breakeven after years in the red.

“You have to be careful you are not making cavalier decisions,” she said. “ We are still having to fight for our financial future. But because of the support we get from our readers, it is less of a risk.”

On the advertising side of our business, Adam Foley said there were no complaints at all that potential customers were suddenly off-limits, adding that staff felt that “being part of a company that shares their values” was the biggest motivation for his teams.

“A statement like this reaffirms to all of us that we’re contributing to a business that really lives those values – to the extent where it is prepared to sacrifice profit for purpose.”

The response from the wider world has been a pleasant surprise. Hundreds of you have written in, pledging your support, and in some cases, one-off contributions to start making up the shortfall. (EDS: See below – I’m going to append the best responses below. In print you can use as the panel)

The environmental movement was instantly appreciative, with activists quickly urging our peers to follow suit. “The Guardian will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies,” Greta Thunberg tweeted. “A good start, who will take this further?” Greenpeace called it “a huge moment in the battle against oil and gas for all of us.”

Some readers have been calling for the Guardian to go the whole hog and forsake advertising from any company with a substantial carbon footprint. Bateson said that was not realistic, adding that such a move would result in less money for journalism. She said the fossil fuel extractors were specifically targeted because of their efforts to skew the climate change debate through their lobbying effort.

“We are committed to advertising,” she said. “It will continue to be part of our future. We want advertisers who want to be appear alongside our high quality journalism.”

And how will we know if this has worked?
“We will listen to our readers, we will listen to our advertisers. The response so far has been gratifying. If we continue to hear positive noises from our readers and supporters, then it will have been a success.”




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Responses from our supporters

That is such a brilliant decision and it will be tough, but it is the correct one and I am very proud of The Guardian. Barbara Syer

Following the Guardian’s decision to ban ads from fossil fuel companies I’m making a monthly contribution to support its fearless journalism: reader support is essential for independent scrutiny of the powerful in business, finance and politics. Titus Alexander, Hertfordshire, England

I live at present in Canada, home to the Alberta Tar Sands: another name for ecological devastation resulting from fossil fuel extraction. I fully support The Guardian’s action in ceasing to be a vehicle for advertising by fossil fuel extractive companies, and I’m proud to be a supporter. My monthly donation is small, but when I can I will make it much greater. Rosemary Delnavine, Canada

Congratulations. At this time it may be a bold step, indeed, within this industry, but true leaders have to take bold steps for the betterment of the quality of life, and more importantly for the life of future generations. I applaud this decision, and will spread the word. Raphael Sulkovitz, Boston MA

What a bravery! This is what the life on earth needs, thank you. Karri Kuikka, Finland (EDS: please leave her wonderful Finglish intact!)

Keep it up. Here in Canada, we’re still trying to have it both ways — sell the product internationally but discourage buying domestically. As I recall, it was the same with tobacco. Eventually, it took a change in public opinion to solve the problem. As a news source, your efforts are part of this solution. Robert Shotton, Ottawa

I applaud your decision to”walk the talk.” I will therefore continue to contribute to The Guardian. Bob Wagenseil

Bravo yr decision to eschew $ from the FFI. Please do continue to hold to the fire(s) the feet of the deniers and the willfully ignorant. Sydney Alonso, Vermont, US

I am very happy to hear that good news. It’s quite courageous on your part, and I’m happy to support you! Have a great year ahead, you’ll have my continuous support! Julien Psomas

I completely support your plan to refuse ads from fossils, despite the
financial hit to the Guardian. I have made a donation to help out. David Thompson

A very commendable decision, very much in keeping with the Guardian’s position as leader of green issues to leave a better planet for following generations. Richard Vernon, Oxford

Yay! I’m so proud of the Guardian! We can no longer support or fund in any manner the fossil fuel industry if we have any chance of survival as a civilization on this planet. You’ve taken a courageous and moral step that will hopefully embolden others to join you. Good on you! Best, Carol Ross, Missouri, US

Good decision. I’ll support you as much as I can, which unfortunately is not much as I live on age pension only. Keep up the good work, we need it desperately! Ursula Brandt, South Australia

I am absolutely delighted by this decision. So many people pledge to do something about Climate Change, but few actually are willing to get uncomfortable and DO it. I am very proud of you as my favourite source of Information and this only makes a case for me to donate next time to you again. Christiane Gross

It was great reading what The Guardian is doing re the climate. As a Guardian on-line reader from The Netherlands I’m going to contribute monthly now instead of ‘now and again’. The amount will be relatively small as I do not have a great income. I really hope more of your supporters will do so, because it is really great what you are doing.
With kind regards, Aleida Oostendorp, Netherlands

I congratulate you and your team on taking this step regarding fossil fuel companies. The Guardian’s stance on the environment and its excellent coverage of related stories and events is the major reason for my support. Well done, and good luck in the future. Deirdre Moore

Love your new policy about accepting money from fossil fuels. Will contribute more to help make up for the shortfall. Todd Misk

I live on a fixed income with a strict budget so my continuing support of your excellent news organisation represents my commitment to the fight to address climate change. Every step counts. Barbara Hirsch, Texas, US

Only when we speak truth to power can change take place. thank yo for your courageous and expensive decision. Nancy Shepherd, Vermont, US

Love your journalism, especially your investigative work and the climate change topic. And with the bold statement about not receiving any more sponsorship from the fossil extracting companies? Well, the already great newspapers became even more impressive now. Keep up the good work. Miroslav Řezníček, Czech Republic

Thank you for taking the bold step of refusing advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies. I think it is the right thing to do & hope many more companies do the same. We must all work together if we want to save our planet. It is one of the most important issues of our times. Ginger Comstock, New York, US

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Apostle Who Predicted Pastor Adeboye’s Death Reveals Fresh Prophecy On Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Apostle Paul Okikijesu of the Christ Apostolic Miracle Ministry has revealed what God told him about President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a series of 2020 prophecy he released to DAILY POST on Saturday, he said God has asked Buhari not to rely solely on his wisdom.

He said Buhari must have a meeting with religious leaders, including his religious advisers in order for his government to be meaningful.

He said, “Thus says the Lord: Tell the President of this country to seek advice from those that I established as my ambassador and representatives that are telling the truth, and not the gluttons.

“The gluttons did not allow Buhari to listen to the truth and he did not count Christianity as something valuable, because the acts/behaviors of Christian leaders are different from what he thought.

“He should think deeply concerning his administration because the messages which I sent to him, he carried out some of my instructions and left the rest, that was the reason that his tenure was in this precarious state.

“Send these messages to him the third time that I want the fear of I the Lord in the heart of this man, and he should not see himself as the president. He should realize that God alone is the President of the world.

“Thus says the Lord: I have sent these messages to him in the past to give these three arms of the government the power to work effectively.

“These arms of the government are the executive, the judiciary and the law enforcement.

“This judicial arm includes the human rights advocates and I instructed him to give them free hand to operate; these are the things which I requested from him, and this is what can make his regime to be meaningful.

“I send this message to him the second time that he should invite the ex-presidents, and he must not commonize anyone if he wants his government to be peaceful.

“According to My previous messages, he complied partly but not fully. I instructed him to invite and have meeting with the banking sector, stock exchange sector, the oil and gas sector and the foreign exchange sector for the growth of the nation.

“He should then present the outcome of the meetings to the spiritual people for advice.

Thus says the Lord; remember that those I installed as rulers during the ancient period did not use only their wisdom, but they asked for direction from I the Lord.

“It is when he calls these people that his regime will be meaningful and he will have a successful tenure. If he uses power to do things, some people will be sabotaging his government.

“The executive that I said are the ex-presidents, he should call them and have meeting with them; then get the opinions/advice of the people in his administration separately.

“It is the wisdom derived from these meetings that will cause growth/development in Nigeria. He must have meeting with the business community including the expatriates, these are the steps that will make the economy of Nigeria to rise and grow.

“He should have meeting with ex-ministers, ex-senators, ex-presidents, and ex-governors, the outcome of the meeting will have positive effect on the economy and restore the economy to a buoyant position.

“He should have a meeting with judicial personnel, including the attorney general to find way that will make the law of the country to be effective.

“If Buhari can take these steps and have meeting with religious leaders, including his religious advisers, his government will be meaningful for good.

“Thus says the Lord; Buhari should have meeting with ex-party leaders and the current party leaders concerning the issues of Nigeria and how she can progress.

“These steps are the things that can make him to be successful and prolong his life, so that I will halt the judgment hand that I intend to use in year 2020.”

In his last prophecy, Okikijesu had declared that God told him that Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG; Pastor W.F Kumuyi of Deeper Life Bible Church and Bishop Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church, will die soon and would not make heaven. 

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OML 25 OCCUPATION: ‘Some of us gave birth to babies here!’ – Vanguard News

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…N-Deltans set new standard for prosecuting resource control

By Egufe Yafugborhi

For two years, resolute host communities to Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 in Akuku Toru Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State  sacked on duty personnel, shut down operations and occupied key assets.acquisition

Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), lead stakeholder in the OML 25 Joint Venture (JV) with Shell Petroleum Development Company as Operator, lamented  that the shutdown resulted in consequential “loss of 25, 000 to 35, 000 barrels of oil per day (bpd);  in monetary terms, that is about $1.7billion.”

The  fulcrum of the assets occupation by Belema, Offoin-Ama and Ngeje host communities was that, for four decades, such humongous accrued income as Kyari declared lost to the JV partners in two-year of shutdown failed to provide schools, hospitals, potable water, capacity building or meaningful employment for the host communities.

Mrs. Ogbumate Opumabo, among the womenfolk who occupied the flow station, narrated: “Since good things don’t come easy, as living conditions in our community got more pathetic, we subjected ourselves to suffering, even set up church where we fasted and prayed to God everyday at the occupied facility. Some of us gave birth to babies here where we also had our pots, plates, mats, everything needed to aid our occupation. Our experience there is unexplainable, but God answered us in the end”

October 10, as the teeming community protesters eventually pulled out of OML 25 for its formal reopening, following, the  win-win resolution of the conflict among stakeholders, the original demand to evict Shell was not met as set, but the protesters won even a bigger prize, an awakening of a new narrative for prosecuting the struggle for gainful resource control in the Niger Delta.

Checkered  history of long suffering

According to the communities, their hardship was rather aggravated by avoidable oil pollutions that degraded their land and aquatic environment, jeopardising their livelihood which depends on fishing on the rivers and cropping on the soils. Their clear demand was, “Shell must go”, relinquish OML 25 to preferred competitor, Belemaoil Producing Limited (BPL), to farm the assets.

Publicity Secretary, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, who hails from the OML 25 host communities, said, “We have been agitating for long. The flow station was shut down as far back as 2004. Government intervened and we let them re-open it. 2008, it was again shut, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed, and we let them resume. In 2014, same thing happened, so in 2017, the communities said we have had enough.

“There was no time Shell provided us water. Infrastructure in our communities were poor. Government under military regime gave us water, but it was laden of iron, not healthy for consumption. Fetch it today, the following day the whole water will be coloured. So, we have not been using the water. In recent times, state government has not done anything for us.”

At the latest reopening of the assets, Sen Ita Enang, Presidential Adviser, Niger Delta, representing President Muhammadu Buhari, attested to the health dangers at ‘Opusuya”, the age-long pond water that sustains Belema people in the absence of functional modern taps from government and Shell, which was laden with crude oil when Enang scooped it with bare hands.

At the co-host communities of Offoin-Ama and Ngeye, the story of squalor, deprivations and neglect was pretty much same. At Offoin-Ama, the only educational institution present, a piteous makeshift basic school, made of wooden structure was said to be from communal effort. The European Union and Rivers State Government had erected in the village square, a water project five years back, but Amayanabo of Offoin-Ama, HRH King Sibia Sukubo Aaron, Kilima Diaba Offo XIII said, “It was never completed.”

King Sibia, in unison with his Belema counterpart, King Boudilion Ekine, Oko XXVIII, Amayanabo of Kula, alleged that SPDC had  always reneged on its agreements with the community.

However, the reality of pervasive emptiness and squalor in the community supported the perception of his Highness, Ibinabo Daniel Kiliya, Regent of Ngeje Community when he said, “Shell in 40 years never thought of tangible projects in the community.”

Belemaoil, Jack-Rick Jr as game changers

Before now, oil communities in the Niger Delta, even in the days of  the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, have hardly been taken serious by government and industry regulators in agitations for control of their oil and gas endowment chiefly because they prosecuted such struggles in the absence of adequate home capacity (technical or financial) to farm those oil fields on their own. The common approach was to call for eviction of one operating IOC whenever relationship are strained in the hope of patronizing another to take over.

The coming, into the oil and gas space, of Belemaoil changed that narrative. Founded by Jack-Rick Tein Jr, a son of the soil, who has felt the hardship among his Belema folks, Belemaoil wasted no time in building confidence among the host communities the moment it acquired 40% participating interest in neighboring OML-55 from Chevron Nigeria Limited in the Joint Venture (JV) with the NNPC.

Within a year of taking over OML 55 five years ago, the host communities in Kula claimed Belemaoil surpassed 40 years of both International Oil Companies (IOCs) Chevron and Shell interventions in their respective assets host communities through infrastructural transformation and human capital development among the people.

In  its  core business, Belemaoil also grew production from 7000bpd under Chevron to as much as 12000bpd, and  added to more than 70 MMscfd recoverable volume of gas, generating more revenue and sacrificing more funds to develop and carry the communities along in the process. The company through gainful engagement of community youths in facility surveillance has also eliminated rampant oil theft and vandalism on OML 55.

Today the company is reputed as the first upstream major to have began construction of its head office in its operating field while also constructing its own oil terminal, hitherto the exclusive preserve of the IOCs. So, beyond fraternal attachments, these attributes informed OML 25 host communities insistence on “Shell must go” for Belemaoil replicate the achievement in OML 55 in their communities.

A leader among the protesting youths, Iselema Ekini, said,

“We see how Belemaoil employed youths, built markets, clinics, in the places they operate, proving that an indigenous oil company would look after its host communities better. We therefore urged Shell not to seek renewal of OML-25 license, but allow Belemaoil to take over. All the IOCs have been doing is how to repatriate as much revenue to their home offices abroad while we suffer.

Win-win resolution of conflict

In the win win resolution of the OML 25 crisis, Shell, having renewed its ownership of the lease, wasn’t displaced, but Belemaoil with 7.7% stakes on that lease got the privilege of maintaining operations and earning the communities confidence to be the oil firm with right of first refusal to acquire Shell stakes at any point SPDC decides to divest her stakes.

Already Belemaoil has hit the ground running with the sustained commitment to make the difference, facilitating the groundbreaking for 1.5million liters potable water and 12Km treated water reticulation project for Oko-Ama and Belema by the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari. Kyari, represented by Group General Manager, National Petroleum Investments Management Services (NAPIMS), Musa Lawan who also hoisted the Nigerian Flag and those of key stakeholders at the OML 25 platform to signal its reopening.

HRM King Boudilion Ekiye Okor, Amayanabo of Belema, said in the occasion, “Today, I am the happiest man. Belemail, owned by our son is now in charge of maintaining operations. Now we know who to hold if we are disappointed. If he (Jack-Rich) fails us, we go to his mother and father’s house to complain, but he has given us so much confidence that we know he can’t fail.

Chief E K Clark, Leader of PANDEF which prominently provided motivation for shutdown of the OML25 thanked key stakeholders for the peaceful resolution. Clark represented by PANDEF’s Vice Chairman, Godknows Igali, particularly recognised the role of federal government, host communities, BelemaOil, NNPC and the Petroleum Ministry under Timipre Sylva.

“When the GMD NNPC, Kyari came 28 of last month, he promised to grant all your wishes. I am happy you are already attesting to some being meant already. PANDEF is grateful we are all winners. We have, by this struggle of the past two years, redefined the struggle for resource control”, Clark told the communities.

I am sorry, Buhari empathises with host communities

President Mohammadu Buhari, represented by Sen Ita Enang, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, tendered apology on behalf of the nation to the host communities over their long suffering in the midst of plenty all these years.

Buhari said at the formal reopening of OML 25 that, “We’ve been to the communities. I felt touched that they are asking for for a school, hospitals in 2019 after 40 years of oil and gas being taken from their soils. I scooped the water from pond which you people drink. It is smeared with oil.

“On behalf of the nation, I apologise to you. We will change for the better for you, for us all as a nation. We will not only build schools, hospitals for you, we will provide complete communities for you. Working with state government, Niger Delta Development Commission, Amnesty, Ministry of Niger Delta Affair, we will ask to know what they are doing.

“We are coming here at a very good time. Just two days ago, the President presented the draft 2020 budget to National Assembly (NASS). Now that I have seen what you go through, we are going to take this message to the NASS, to redirect the budget to know what they are providing for you.”

At the OML25 Platform and Flow station where hundreds of community protesters, mainly women formally vacated the flow station and other key assets they have occupied and shutdown since August 2017, Sen Enang expressed Buhari’s gratitude for their peaceful disposition while it lasted.

He also cautioned, “The whole struggle has come to conclusion. We thank you for your peaceful disposition through the struggle. We can now vacate peacefully and allow work to continue, as the issues are being addressed. You are aware that some immediate demands have already been met.”

Lifting up the hand of Jackrich Jr, Enang also told the host communities, “Every community who has sons as Jackrick who care this much for his people should take care of him and pray for him to remain safe, healthy and blessed to continue to move your communities forwards.”

Founder of Belemaoil, Mr Jack-Rich Tein Jr, hardly involved in comments and speeches over the unfolded drama has maintained that, “If you engage the community and make the people an important element of your business, the communities and you will have mutual values and mutual gains.

“If the communities are happy, your business can thrive, but if the communities are not happy, you have lots of operational bottlenecks, sabotage and all that. The most important thing for us today is to see that the resolution, reconciliation has taken place.”

Already, stakeholders in Ogoni, Rivers are canvassing the Belemaoil CSR model to agitate for who takeovers OML 11 that had abandoned for years over the conflict conflict which claimed the lives and Ken Saro-Wiwa and co agitators under Movement For Survival of Ogoni People. Governor Wike, though, had already announced Rivers Government acquisition of Shell’s stakes on that lease.

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How Fossil Fuel Companies Are Killing Plastic Recycling

So many things we buy come packaged in plastic containers or wrappers that are meant to be used once, thrown away and forgotten ― but they don’t break down and can linger in the environment long after we’re gone. It’s tempting to think that we can recycle this problem away, that if we’re more diligent about placing discarded bottles and bags into the curbside bin, we’ll somehow make up for all the trash overflowing landfills, choking waterways and killing marine life.

For decades, big petrochemical companies responsible for extracting and processing the fossil fuels that make plastics have egged on consumers, reassuring them that recycling was the answer to our trash crisis. Just last month, Royal Dutch Shell executive Hilary Mercer told The New York Times that the production of new plastics was not the problem contributing to millions of tons of plastic waste piling up in landfills and drifting in oceans. Instead, she suggested, the problem is one of improper waste disposal. Better recycling, she implied, is the solution.

“We passionately believe in recycling,” Mercer told the Times.

But plastic recycling is in trouble. Too much of the indestructible material exists in the world, more than our current recycling networks can handle. And the very same companies that say recycling is the answer are about to unleash a tidal wave of fresh plastics that will drown recyclers struggling to stay afloat.   

“We’ve been trained [to think] that we can purchase endlessly and recycle everything,” said Genevieve Abedon, a policy advocate at the environmental nonprofit Californians Against Waste. “There is no way that recycling can keep up.” 

Big oil, natural gas and chemical companies have poured an estimated $200 billion into more than 300 petrochemical expansion projects across America from 2010 to 2018, according to the American Chemistry Council. Fossil fuel giants ExxonMobil and Shell, as well as plastic makers like SABIC and Formosa Plastics, are building and expanding at least five ethane cracker plants in Appalachia and along the Gulf of Mexico. The facilities will turn ethane, a byproduct of natural gas fracking, into polyethylene pellets, which can be made into a variety of products, including milk jugs, shampoo bottles, food packaging and the air pillows that protect your Amazon orders.

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Many consumer goods companies would rather purchase newly made plastic resin pellets than those made from recycled materials.

Already, over 350 million metric tons of new plastics are produced worldwide annually. In the next decade, production will jump 40%, spurred in part by the new manufacturing plants, according to an analysis by The Guardian. 

Current rates of recycling are dismal. In Europe, about 30% of plastics are recycled, but the U.S. recycles only 9.1%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s about all our networks can manage without significant improvements and investments in recycling technologies and infrastructure.

Recycling will suffer when the new manufacturing plants begin pumping out more virgin plastic, said Ted Siegler, a resource economist at waste management company DSM Environmental Services Inc., based in Vermont. 

“They will hurt recycling,” he said.

The Making Of A Recycling Emergency

In theory, more plastics should be good for recyclers. But the industry is already in the midst of a crisis.

America has grown accustomed to shipping low-value trash overseas for recycling. This practice began on a large scale in the early 2000s. Last year, that system fell apart, leaving recyclers scrambling and consumers confused.

The country never developed recycling networks that would handle all kinds of plastics, according to Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the nonprofit National Stewardship Action Council. Instead, local recyclers process only the stuff they can make money off of. Most high-value plastics, like soda bottles (which come stamped with a “1” symbol) and milk cartons or shampoo bottles (which bear a “2” stamp), are pulled out and recycled domestically. Everything else ― that’s anything stamped with the numbers 3 through 7 ― remains unsorted and gets shipped as “mixed plastics” to other countries, where they can still turn a profit. (Things like potato chip bags and candy bar wrappers are practically worthless and aren’t considered recyclable. People still try to mix them in with their household paper and plastic, much to the consternation of recyclers.) 

“We did the world a disservice by not doing our due diligence and saying it’s worth paying American citizens to do the work and keep the jobs and the recycling infrastructure solid at home,” Sanborn said.

Plenty of other countries export their recyclables as well. Until recently, China had been the world’s largest buyer of recyclables, taking 40% of America’s scrap paper and plastic. At the end of 2017, however, China blocked shipments of foreign recyclables, causing mixed plastics (numbers 3 to 7) and paper to pile up at ports around the world. Prices for these scrap materials tanked, wiping out what little value the plastics had to begin with.

In the wake of China’s ban, with no place for mixed paper and plastics to go, curbside collection programs from Maine to Michigan to Florida were suspended. Reports have emerged from cities and towns across the country about collected recyclables ending up in landfills and incinerators.

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Recyclers across America have had to cancel service or scale back after China’s clampdown on imports of contaminated foreign waste. Some have had to send recyclables to landfills. 

The latest big blow to recycling came in early August with the closure of rePlanet, California’s largest chain of recycling centers where consumers could return empty containers and redeem bottle deposits. Even though plastic bottles still have some value in the States, it’s not what it was before the China ban.

“The scrap value of recycled materials has dropped across the board for every material, some much worse than others,” explained Martin Bourque, who heads up the Berkeley, California-based Ecology Center, home to one of the country’s oldest curbside recycling programs. 

For recyclers like rePlanet, which made money only on the materials it sold, low scrap prices make it difficult to cover operating costs. In rePlanet’s case, there were other factors at play: For one, a state-run mechanism designed to help recyclers ride out hard times didn’t adapt quickly enough to save the company. 

But there was another problem, too: Consumer goods companies don’t necessarily want to source recycled plastics for their products, not when they can save money by purchasing freshly made plastic.  

“It’s so much cheaper to buy new, virgin resin,” Bourque said. 

A Glut Of Virgin Plastics

Since oil and natural gas are the raw materials for making plastic, the price of virgin plastic is tied to oil and natural gas prices, which are currently low. Natural gas, in particular, is now very cheap due to the fracking boom in the U.S. Remember the ethane crackers getting built in Appalachia and the Gulf of Mexico? They will only make virgin plastic cheaper, according to Siegler. 

“All the new plants that are coming online are just going to continue to drive the price of virgin plastics down, which will encourage consumption on new plastic and discourage recycling,” Siegler told HuffPost.

Some contend that virgin plastic prices are already artificially low. 

“The government has intervened and subsidized virgin materials extraction and made it impossible for recycling to compete,” said Sanborn. 

Companies that are building new plastic manufacturing plants are getting help from the government, too. Oil and gas giant Shell is building a massive complex in Pennsylvania that will open in 2020 and produce 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene every year. The plant will also receive $1.65 billion in tax breaks over 25 years. A Shell official told the Northeast U.S. & Canada Petrochemical Construction Conference in 2016 that without this fiscal package, the company may not have gone ahead with the project. (The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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Part of a petrochemical plant being built on the Ohio River in Monaca, Pennsylvania, for the Royal Dutch Shell company. The plant, which is capable of producing 1.6 million tons of raw plastic annually, is expected to begin operations by 2021.

Recycling efforts, from collection to sorting to reprocessing, have not received comparable subsidies, Sanborn said.

Some of the big fossil fuel and chemical corporations are funneling money into projects meant to improve recycling ― though not nearly as much cash is going toward this effort. In January, 28 oil and gas, chemical and plastics companies, including Exxon, Shell, SABIC and Formosa, formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and collectively pledged $1.5 billion over five years for improving recycling infrastructure. That amount is far short of what’s needed to see real change start to ripple across the recycling industry, Siegler says. 

Petrochemical companies, if they wanted to, would need to make investments of up to $20 billion every year for a decade to make sure that 50% of global plastics get recycled or reused, according to a McKinsey analysis. The Alliance said in a statement to HuffPost that it hopes its initial investment will encourage governments, banks and other big corporations to spend more on recycling. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Conservationists still believe that recycling is a worthwhile endeavor, just not a silver bullet to fixing our plastic waste crisis.

Recycling definitely has to be a part of the solution,” Genevieve Abedon, of Californians Against Waste, told HuffPost.

Siegler years ago proposed a plastic tax to pay for much-needed recycling infrastructure. Charging plastic producers just a penny a pound ― roughly a 1% tax, since most resins cost a dollar a pound ― would raise $4 billion to $5 billion per year, Siegler estimated. 

“The price of plastic is too low,” he told HuffPost. “It doesn’t reflect the environmental damage associated with plastic.” 

His idea has not caught on.

A landmark pair of bills in the California Legislature would help recyclers compete with virgin plastic producers by boosting demand for recycled plastic. The measures seek to force manufacturers to use more recycled materials in their plastic products.

“If we can increase the demand for recycled plastic, investment will then flow through the whole recycling chain,” said Kara Pochiro, of the Association of Plastic Recyclers.

Though the bills failed to pass before the end of the legislative session, they’ll be eligible for a vote again next year. 

Consumer goods companies could make a big difference by signing long-term contracts with recyclers for material, Pochiro says. This would help insulate recycling companies from fluctuations in the commodity market and potentially stop more collapses like that of rePlanet. 

Last November, beverage maker Nestle Waters North America signed a multiyear contract with CarbonLITE, a company that recycles and produces food-grade PET plastic. With this guaranteed demand, CarbonLITE is now building a new facility in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, that is expected to recycle more than 2 billion used bottles every year. 

There are things that shoppers can do, too. 

“Buy recycled,” Pochiro recommended. 

Sanborn said that consumers who don’t like the plastic packaging they receive with their products should lay it all out on the floor, take a photo of the plastic, upload it to social media, tag the company that sent it to them and complain. 

“Be really loud and squeaky. The squeaky wheels get greased,” she said. 

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