California Sues Exxon for Details on Role in Plastic Pollution

Exxon Mobil Corp logo at the Rio Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on September 24, 2018.

Sergio Moraes | Reuters

California Attorney General Thursday announced an investigation to fossil fuels and the petrochemical industry for allegedly exaggerating the role of recycling in curbing global plastic pollution and exacerbating the crisis.

Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office subpoenaed Exxon Mobil for information relating to the company’s alleged role in defrauding the public and exacerbating plastic pollution. The office did not specify which other companies it is investigating. Exxon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When state and local legislatures began considering bills restricting or banning plastic products in the 1980s, fossil fuel and petrochemical companies launched an “aggressive” and “deceptive” campaign to convince the public that they could mitigate the waste problem through recycling, which the industry knew was not true, Bonta said in a press release.

“For more than half a century, the plastics industry has waged an aggressive campaign to deceive the public by perpetuating the myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis,” Bonta said. “The truth is that the vast majority of plastic cannot be recycled.”

“This first-of-its-kind investigation will examine the role of the fossil fuel industry in creating and exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis, and what laws were violated in the process,” Bonta said.

According to the UN, about 400 million tons of plastic waste is produced annually in the world. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, and most plastic ends up in landfills or in the ocean. The US only recycles about 9% of its plastic, in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency.

According to International Energy Agency. Fossil fuel and petrochemical companies have recently invested more than $200 billion. expand plastic production all over the world.

Environmental activist groups on Thursday welcomed the state’s investigation into the fossil fuel industry.

“For too long, ExxonMobil and other corporate polluters have been allowed to mislead the public and harm people and the planet,” said Graham Forbes, Global Plastic Campaign Leader at Greenpeace USA. “It has become very clear to science that we must move away from fossil fuels and single-use plastic.”

— Cathy Brigham of CNBC provided the coverage.

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