Plastic pollution in the oceans is a huge, disgusting problem. Which is why itâ€™s pretty fitting that Greenpeace decided to raise awareness of one companyâ€™s contributions with huge, disgusting trash monsters.
On Tuesday, Greenpeace activists hauled a 15-foot-tall heap of garbage, artfully crafted to resemble one of those deep sea fish thatâ€™s about 90 percent jowl, out in front of the NestlĂ©â€™s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. An even bigger trash monster was delivered earlier in the day to the companyâ€™s global headquarters in Switzerland, while similar leviathans cropped up in Italy, Kenya, and the Philippines, Greenpeace oceans campaigner Kate Melges told Earther in a phone interview.
It was all part of a global day of action to raise awareness of NestlĂ©â€™s contributions to the estimated 8 million tons of plastic entering our oceans each year. And sea monsters made of spent shopping bags and disposable cutlery arenâ€™t the worst metaphor for the future weâ€™re headed toward, one in which the oceans may contain more plastic than fish.
â€śReally, we just wanted to visualize the monster that has been created with single use plastic packaging and get NestlĂ© to own up and take some responsibility,â€ť Melges said.
In recent months, NestlĂ© has come under fire what advocates say is an outsized contribution to the plastic crisis. An 2018 audit conducted by a constellation of groups under the banner Break Free From Plastic found NestlĂ© products to be the third the most often-recovered pieces of ocean trash. Facing mounting pressure, the company has taken some positive steps, including saying itâ€™ll phase out â€śnon recyclable or hard to recycleâ€ť plastics by 2025, beginning with plastic straws this year, and introduce more reusable packaging.
But many environmentalists consider recycling-focused pledges to be wholly inadequate. After all, recycling still takes energy, contributing to climate-warming carbon emissions. And plastics recycling, specifically, has been a mess ever since China, a major player, stopped accepting imports of post-consumer plastic last year. Recyclers all over the U.S. and the world increasingly have been forced to divert plastic to landfills or incinerators, a problem that is only expected to grow.
â€śWe know that just because something is recyclable doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™ll get recycled,â€ť Melges said. â€śThey [NestlĂ©] need to move away from recycling being a huge part of the solution … and go back to reusable packaging.â€ť
In a statement provided to Earther, NestlĂ© touted its efforts to do exactly that, including a recent partnership with Loop that allows customers to get their HĂ¤agen-Dazs fix guilt-free (or guilt-reduced) by purchasing it in a â€śreusable double-walled steel ice cream container.â€ť
â€śWe are determined to reduce our use of single-use plastics,â€ť a NestlĂ© spokesperson told Earther. â€śWe are introducing reusable packaging, new delivery systems and innovative business modelsâ€ť
Clearly, NestlĂ© is hearing activists on this issue and making some moves accordingly. Perhaps having the trash version of Jabba the Hutt parked outside its offices for a dayâ€”â€śrepeatedly spew[ing] NestlĂ© plastic pollution gathered from across the country,â€ť according to a press releaseâ€”will encourage the company to step things up further.