New report deems Alliance to End Plastic Waste ‘sophisticated greenwashing’
Planet Tracker, a not-for-profit financial think tank, has labelled the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) as ‘sophisticated greenwashing’ in a new report criticising the organisation’s commitment to ending plastic pollution.
Alliance to End Plastic Waste: Barely Credible, released today, suggests that the Alliance has failed to meet ‘negligible targets’, while its members continue to support plastic production elsewhere. Further, it defines its performance as ‘greencrowding’ – hiding in the group and moving at the speed of the slowest adopter.
The report highlights that most of AEPW’s 65 member organisations are also members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which lobbied against establishing a negotiating framework for the Global Plastic Pollution Treaty.
The two organisations have similar observable approaches to plastics waste, with the think tank pointing to the 92 per cent of AEPW members that did not publicly support the Business Statement for a Legally Binding UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution.
Additionally, as eight out of the top 20 single-use plastic waste makers are members of the AEPW, both the AEPW and the ACC perceive plastic pollution as a downstream issue, focusing on recycling and recovery in their proposed solutions, rather than the supply of plastics.
While defining the AEPW’s recycling target as ‘negligible’, compared to the current global plastics problem, the report demonstrates that the Alliance is still failing to meet this goal.
With the OECD’s measurement of 353 Mt of global plastics waste in 2019, the Alliance has set out to recycle only nine Mt of plastic in its first three years, of which 0.04 per cent (four Kt) has been achieved, according to its 2021 Progress report.
As new members continue to join the AEPW, its recycling targets have failed to adjust to the size and financial clout of its membership. Its waste targets per member have conversely reduced by 56 per cent in a three-year time frame.
‘Mismatching’ financial commitments
As the report deems the AEPW’s investments ‘poor’, there appear to be further misalignments among the Alliance’s wider financial pledges.
For example, the AEPW has so far spent 40 per cent of its minimum committed USD 1 billion to reducing plastic waste, despite it only meeting 0.04 per cent of its recycling target. This brings to light a mismatch between the waste target volume and available funding. From this, Planet Tracker states that a considerable increase in funding is needed in order for the body’s targets to be met.
This isn't apparently available, however, as an increase in membership hasn’t led to an increase in AEPW funding, instead leading to a decline of per member contribution of 56 per cent over three years.
In light of these observations, Planet Tracker put forward five recommendations to the AEPW in order to warrant future credibility.
The body recommends that the Alliance should set meaningful targets for the removal and recovery of plastic waste, which take into account the magnitude of the global plastic waste problem. This is compared to their current goal, which only accounts for 2.5 per cent of global plastic waste measured in 2019.
The AEPW should also set bold investment targets for its members to support meaningful plastic waste solutions, rather than diverting cash flow to continued facility expansion.
Despite the continued production of plastics among the AEPW’s members, the think tank proposes that the Alliance should recognise virgin plastic production as a major part of the plastic pollution problem it claims to challenge.
The body further urges the organisation to conduct ‘transparent, measurable and audited progress reports’, so the Alliance’s executives can be held accountable, especially when it comes to missing key targets.
Finally, members, strategic partners and supporters of the Alliance are recommended to question their exposure to the reputational risk caused by their affiliation with the organisation.
‘Global corporates hiding behind an appealing title’
Concluding its report, the think tank states: “The number of projects may be eye-catching, but collectively they have barely made a dent in the removal and recycling of global plastic. The Alliance recognises that ‘plastic waste must be addressed across the entire plastics value chain’ but this is a nod to its diverse membership, not its attempt to address plastic pollution.”