The Influence of the Plastic Industry
For years, environmental organizations and the policy were fighting for an EU-wide ban or guidelines for limited use of plastic packaging.
Any legislative initiative has to lift the enforcement against the "plastic lobby" of the 28 member states from the European Union. The EU Environment Commissioner Potocnik Janesz from Slovakia dared to push for an European-wide ban on plastic carrier bags in the end of 2013.¹ However, from an actual prohibition could be no mentioning. The German lobbyists, represented by the "Handelsverband Deutschland" appealed to the EU competition rule and argued with statements like:
1. Plastic bags are significantly less polluting than often rumors.
2. Germany is with an average consumption of 65 plastic bags the European champion of low fuel consumption (as a negative example the US Americans consume the fivefold of Germany).
3. In Germany, three quarters of plastic bags are being recycled.
4. A ban would not make sense and would go in a completely wrong direction.
5. A more environmentally conscious is not possible!
In fact, Ireland is the European champion in low consumption of plastic bags.²
Mr. Potocniks initiative concerned only plastic bags with a wall thickness of less than 0.5 millimeters, which are imported mainly from Asia. In particular, the company "Papier Mettler" (largest plastic bag manufacturer in Germany) played a role in this decision, because their production with a thicker wall was not affected by the ban. Also an extended ban could be circumvented by increasing the wall thickness.
However, prohibitions not only relate to plastic bags but also dangerous ingredients such as Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical is in almost all packaging of everyday life. If information about the harmful ingredients had become public in the 1930s, the industry would probably never been brought BPA to the retail market.³ Today the plastic lobby relies on statements such as: "This material is cheap and has proven itself in everyday life". They play a waiting game until an valid evidence is proved. Until then the lobby regularly undermined scientific studies and points out the consequences for the economy.⁴
The industry makes us think that plastic is a sustainable matter and the enormous global profit should not be put at stake risk Critical questions and especially there answers are exactly what the plastic lobby wants to prevent. In the future initiatives will still struggle to fight against the industry.
Author: Benedikt Fries