Greenwashing Is NOT New — Let’s Clean It Up For The Public Health

by S. Tom Bond on July 30, 2022

Greenwashing Mother Nature Has No Future, Really!

Early efforts to make the ickiest environmental efforts look clean

From an Article by Peter Dykstra, Environmental Health News, July 30, 2022

When I was growing up, I had a fascination with phonies – that certain brand of phonies that make millions off a gullible public by offering a warped reality. They ranged from the staged athletics of professional wrestling to the surreal promises of religious figures offering a combo: Eternal happiness and earthly wealth.

On Sunday nights, I’d tune in to Rev. Ike, a preacher who used hypnotic tones to offer unseen wealth to those who sent a fat check to his Ellwood City, Pa. address in exchange for a prayer cloth. Testimonies from nouveau-wealthy prayer cloth owners sealed the deal for new recruits.

Later, I was transfixed by faith healer Ernest Angley, who brought hither the maimed, and the halt, and the blind (Luke 14:21) and seemed to cure them by sucking the Demon straight out of their foreheads with the palm of his hand.

Climate denial and greenwashing

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, the growing science around climate change and an abundance of other environmental issues created its own backlash. Those sowing doubt seemed to take their cues from the religious and athletic hucksters that fascinated me back in the day.

This week, I’ll pay some backhanded tribute to PR efforts behind what so many of us would consider to be environmentally odious work.

American Council on Science and Health

According to its own website, “The Council was founded in 1978 by a group of scientists with a singular focus: to publicly support and utilize evidence-based science and medicine and to educate the public by debunking junk science and exaggerated health scares.”

The American Council on Science and Health has said its funding base includes minimal support from affected corporations, but the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy found otherwise.

Six-figure gifts from the Koch-linked Donors Trust, from the conservative Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, ExxonMobil and more helped power ACSH.

They were the go-to group of the 1990’s to criticize just about any study or regulatory move that called for restrictions on widely-used chemical or pesticide products. Founder Elizabeth Whelan, who called her opponents “toxic terrorists,” died in 2014, but ACSH is still active.

Kyoto Climate Accord

When the world came together in the mid-1990’s to build the Kyoto Climate Accord, the Global Climate Coalition brought industries together to oppose it.

According to the sleuths at DeSmog, oil giants like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron; trade groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Ford, Chrysler and General Motors came together to halt Kyoto and undercut the language of the UN’s early climate reports.

GCC reportedly spent $13 million on ads highlighting Kyoto’s weak spot: It required little of growing industrial giants like India and China, but much of the industrialized world. PR giants like Burson-Marsteller and E. Bruce Harrison added the cause. Harrison’s work dated back to 1962, when as a young PR exec at the Chemical Manufacturers Association, he led a personal attack campaign against Silent Spring author Rachel Carson.

The U.S. never joined Kyoto. Mission Accomplished, GCC disbanded in 2002.

Australia’s Galileo Movement

Greenwash groups tend to be an American phenomenon, but there are exceptions. The Galileo Movement sprang fully formed in Australia in 2011, reportedly founded by two retirees who coordinated a national tour by the peerless peer Lord Monckton. Aussie coal baroness Gina Rinehart pitched in $500k for the tour.

After an initial flash in the pan, the Galileo Movement hasn’t moved much. Their last social media entries or page updates took place in 2018, but they should get some props for usurping the image of the much put-upon Galileo for their cause.

Touting CO2′s benefits

Greening Earth Society was founded and funded by the Western Fuels Association, a trade group for Rocky Mountain coal mining firms. The Society issued a video that embraced debunked claims that the carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the atmosphere won’t be a problem. The Society is defunct, but “The Greening of Planet Earth” is still viewable on YouTube.

Next week, I’ll highlight five current greenwashers.

>>>Peter Dykstra is an EHN editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or Environmental Health Sciences.


SEE ALSO: The greenwashing of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Front Porch Blog | July 16, 2021

This blog is co-authored by Willie Dodson and Jessica Sims, Appalachian Voices’ Central Appalachia Field Coordinator and Virginia Field Coordinator, respectively.

Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) are claiming they will offset a portion of the carbon emissions from the 303-mile, multi-state project by paying $150 million to … a coal company. A spokesperson for Equitrans Midstream Corp., made the claim earlier this week, explaining that they’ll buy “carbon offsets” from an unspecified coal mine in Southwest Virginia. The mine’s operator will use the money to convert methane gas emitted from the coal mine into carbon dioxide, a less potent greenhouse gas.

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Plastic Pollution July 31, 2022 at 1:49 pm

House Democrats Fall for Fossil Fuel Industry Greenwashing Scheme, ‘Chemical Recycling’ in Climate Plan

>>> From the Plastic Pollution Coalition, July 28, 2020

Report: ‘Chemical Recycling’ Will Make the Plastic and Climate Crises Worse

Amid overwhelming plastic pollution and an exponential rise in plastic production, the fossil fuel industry has touted chemical or “advanced” recycling as a solution to the plastic crisis. “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan For a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America” by the House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, unveiled on June 30th endorses “chemical recycling,” using much of the same language also pushed by the American Chemistry Council and other players. Similar language made it into the Federal RECOVER Act, and states across the country are passing or considering industry-backed bills that would pave the way for “advanced recycling” to take root.

However, a new report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) reveals that what industry in the U.S. calls “advanced recycling” is largely the opposite— turning plastic into fuel to be burned. This network of waste and burn facilities overburden low-income communities and communities of color.

The report finds other fatal inconsistencies in how the industry markets “chemical recycling” versus the reality: millions of dollars have been invested in “chemical recycling” projects, yet based on public information, out of the 37 facilities proposed in the U.S. since 2000, only 3 are currently operational and none have been proven to successfully recover plastic to make new plastics on a commercial scale. The report follows a technical assessment of chemical recycling, which found the technology to be polluting, carbon intensive, and riddled with system failures, disqualifying it as a solution to the escalating plastic problem, especially at the scale needed.

Denise Patel, GAIA US/Canada Program Director, states, “Plastics are the new villain of the climate fight, and elected officials can’t fall for industry’s claims that they have a silver bullet solution, especially when the evidence does not back up those claims. With the rising crises of climate change, pollution, and economic insecurity under the backdrop of a global pandemic, we have no more time or money to waste on dangerous tech-fixes. Policymakers need to fight climate change at the source, by pursuing policies that place limits on production and support zero waste systems.”

Key Findings:

Industry misuses the terms “chemical recycling” or “advanced recycling,” when in fact, most facilities are not operational, and the few that are are primarily Plastic-to-Fuel (PTF). Plastic-derived fuels are fossil fuels that spend a very small portion of their lifecycle as plastic. This is not recycling, it is an expensive and complicated way to burn fossil fuels.
“Chemical Recycling” is an industry greenwashing tactic, undermining real solutions to the plastics crisis. The fossil fuel industry is investing over $164 billion in expanding plastic production in the U.S., 35 times the amount that they claimed to invest in “chemical recycling.”
“Chemical Recycling” is a bad investment. “Chemical recycling”(aka plastic-to-fuel) is competing against, and losing to, virgin plastic production. High likelihood of technical failure has also squandered investment. As of 2017, similar technologies have wasted at least $2 billion of investments with canceled or failed projects across the globe.
“Chemical recycling” has a large carbon footprint, and poses a climate risk. Over half of the plastic that is processed in these facilities is released as climate pollution (CO2). That’s on top of the emissions from burning the resulting fuel.

“Chemical Recycling” is an environmental health risk, particularly to already overburdened communities. Every step of the process produces toxicants, from the sites themselves, where the product is burned, and at the facilities where the waste from the process goes, oftentimes in environmental justice communities. The chemical recycling industry is looking to expand into the same neighborhoods suffering from fossil fuel industry pollution.

Dr. Andrew Neil Rollinson, chemical reactor engineer, specialist in alternative thermal conversion technologies, and author of a Technical Assessment of chemical recycling states, “Sound engineering practice and common sense shows that chemical recycling is not the answer to society’s problem of plastic waste. It represents a dangerous distraction from the need for governments to ban single-use and unnecessary plastics, while simultaneously locking society into a ‘business as usual’ future of more oil and gas consumption.”

“Industry-promoted ‘chemical recycling’ gives the false impression that we can chemically recycle our way out of this crisis, and detracts from what the US should be doing: reducing the use of plastics. This technology has not worked in the past, cannot survive without significant taxpayer subsidies, creates few jobs and brushes aside the serious climate change and air toxics issues associated with plastic production. We urge the authors of the House report to remove the chemical recycling recommendation if they are serious about addressing climate change,” said Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former EPA Regional Administrator.

According to the Association of Mission-Based Recyclers, “The fact that plastic-to-fuel is being labeled as “recycling” is just plain wrong, and threatens the legitimacy of the recycling industry. However, even if plastic-to-plastic chemical recycling was feasible, the sad truth is that 30 years of plastics recycling in the U.S. has failed to significantly stem the tide of plastic waste as more and more new plastics come onto the market. Chemical recycling is just another shiny new toy and is subject to failure for all the same reasons that plastics recycling has failed to scale to date.”

Source ~


Plastic Pollution July 31, 2022 at 1:58 pm

New NRDC ‘Chemical Recycling’ Analysis: Process is Harmful, Misleading, Not Solving Plastic Pollution

Press Release of Natural Resources Development Council, March 07, 2022

WASHINGTON ​— A new NRDC analysis found that the majority of “chemical recycling” facilities studied are not recycling any plastic, but are instead creating fuels and releasing hazardous pollutants into communities and the environment. The analysis found that Agilyx, an Oregon-based processing plant lauded as the gold standard of “chemical recycling”, has produced hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic waste in a single year that was sent to incineration. The majority of these facilities are located in and affect communities that are disproportionately people of color, low income, or both–resulting in significant environmental justice concerns. “Chemical recycling,” also known as advanced recycling, molecular recycling, and chemical conversion, is the process of producing fuel or chemical components from plastic waste. It does not qualify as recycling by international standards, but is being touted by the chemical industry as a solution to the plastic waste crisis.

Contact: Mel Mendez


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