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Exxon Gets Subpoena From California Over Plastics Pollution

Exxon Gets Subpoena From California Over Plastics Pollution
Empty bottles in bins at a plastic bottle recycling center at Wat Chak Daeng in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. A decline in active cases and increase in vaccinations over the past several weeks has allowed the government to gradually relax restrictions for businesses to reopen and travel to resume, which are part of its “living with Covid” strategy that recognizes the endemic nature of the virus.

Exxon Mobil Corp was issued a subpoena by California Attorney General Rob Bonta seeking information about the oil giant’s role in a global plastics pollution crisis.

The attorney general said on Thursday that he’s opened a first-of-its-kind investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing the crisis, while deceiving the public with aggressive promotions of oil-based plastic products.

“For more than half a century, the plastics industry has engaged in an aggressive campaign to deceive the public, perpetuating a myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis,” Bonta said. “We are seeing the catastrophic results of the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long campaign of deception. Plastic pollution is seeping into our waterways, poisoning our environment, and blighting our landscapes.” Exxon Mobil said it rejects the attorney general’s allegations.“Meritless allegations like these distract from the important collaborative work that is underway to enhance waste management and improve circularity,” Julie King, a spokesperson for Exxon Mobil, said in an emailed statement.“We share society’s concerns and are collaborating with governments, including the State of California, communities and other industries to support projects around the world to improve waste management and circularity,” King said.

Even as fossil fuels are being replaced with cleaner sources of energy, oil and petrochemical companies are stepping up efforts to make more plastic, recently investing an additional $208 billion worldwide to do so, Bonta said. Global production has jumped from 1,5 million tons a year in the 1950s to more than 300 million tons now, he said.

The industry has known since the 1970s that recycling plastics wasn’t feasible, Bonta said. Even after decades of separating plastics from waste streams, the recycling rate never got above 9% in the US, Bonta said.

“The remaining 91% is landfilled, incinerated, or released into the environment,” the attorney general said.

California is taking a crucial step toward holding oil companies responsible for the vast volume of plastic trash contaminating the planet but more must be done, said Emily Jeffers from the Centre for Biological Diversity, an nonprofit environmental group.

“The plastics industry is so polluting on so many levels that it just isn’t compatible with preserving crucial ecosystems or a livable climate,” Jeffers said. “We have to stop producing plastic junk and stop building factories that convert fracked natural gas into cheap plastic.” BM

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