How to green-wash your business

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Microplastics from German Rivers

I had not heard of the phrase or word “green-wash” before. It means to make your business look as if it is concerned with environmental matters when it is not. Some businesses are green-washing by leaning on Dame Ellen MacArthur’s scheme to reduce ocean plastic pollution. They are exploiting the scheme to paint a false picture that they are engaged in plastic waste reduction.

Small Plastic pellets on the finger.Micro plastic.air pollution

Small Plastic pellets on the finger. Micro plastic air pollution. Picture in public domain.

Dame Ellen MacArthur broke the world record in 2005 for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the world. MacArthur’s foundation is called New Plastics Economy. It is funded by some big companies such as PepsiCo, Mars, NestlĂ© and Coca-Cola. The objective is to encourage people to reuse, recycle or compost plastics.


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The Changing Markets Foundation campaign group said that the project is failing and appears to allow businesses to sidestep their responsibilities. The businesses exploiting the scheme oppose legislation to tackle plastic pollution while appearing to be part of the solution.

Coca-Cola has broken its targets. They committed in 199o to produce 25% recycled content in bottles. It has achieved 10%. Ellen MacArthur wants a global agreement on plastic. Coca-Cola promised to do better and was “committed to do more”. Two thirds of NestlĂ©’s packaging is recyclable or reusable. The Times tried to get a comment from PepsiCo without success.

The vision of New Plastic Economy is a world economy in which plastic does not become waste or part of the pollution problem. They say that there are three things to do to achieve this (1) eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic items (2) innovate to create plastics which are reusable, recyclable or compostable and (3) circulate plastic items to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.