A new report from the environmental think tank Planet Tracker is calling the plastics industry's $1.5 billion Alliance to End Plastic Waste initiative in the developing world a greenwashing campaign that's made "paltry" progress.
The Aug. 31 report said the industry-funded alliance, which launched to much fanfare in 2019 with funding from companies including Dow Inc. and LyondellBasell, has only recycled 4,000 metric tons of plastic waste since it started.
That compares to its stated goal of diverting millions of tons from the environment through better recycling and waste management in emerging economies.
"Our findings lay out a clear picture of a coalition that is greencrowding — a sophisticated form of greenwashing that sees global corporates hide behind an appealing group title in order to justify moving at the pace of the lowest common denominator," said Thalia Bofiliou, an author of the report and senior investment analyst at Planet Tracker.
The alliance strongly disputed the conclusions in the report, saying that investments like it is making in developing countries will take time to show results.
Still, Planet Tracker pointed to AEPW's own data in its 2021 progress report for the 4,000 metric ton figure, saying it represents only 0.04 percent of the plastics waste reduction target set by the group.
PT said the alliance, which is financed by major plastics and consumer product companies, has spent 40 percent of its budget thus far, and it called on AEPW companies to significantly ramp up investments in recycling and plastics recovery.
Planet Tracker argued that the $1.5 billion committed to funding alliance activities is dwarfed by the $400 billion planned in virgin plastics manufacturing investments globally in coming years.
"What is concerning is that they have 60-plus projects underway and are woefully short of their own (minimal) plastic removal targets," Planet Tracker said in written comments to Plastics News. "We understand that shareholders need return on their investment but there must be a better balance between dividends and share buy-backs … and investing in circularity."