It’s the 10th anniversary of Plastic Free July and we’re marking it by turning our sights on Canada’s biggest plastic polluters: the companies that turn oil and gas into plastic. The same plastic that becomes the take-out packaging and single-use items that clog up our landfills, natural areas and oceans.
Big Plastic, also known as NOVA Chemicals, Dow Chemical and Imperial Oil, are expected to make more than 4 million tonnes of polyethylene in Canada this year, which will then get turned into things like food wrappers, plastic bags, detergent bottles, kitchenware, toys and piping. And if that’s not gross enough, Big Plastic is also suing the federal government to try to prevent regulations to reduce plastic pollution that is harming the environment and threatening human health.
In an outrageous display of greed and intimidation, Big Plastic is using its deep pockets to lawyer up and protect their bottom line for pollution.
It’s important for the Canadian public to understand who we’re up against. So who is Big Plastic?
- Introduced Styrofoam in 1937, which persists in the environment, potentially leaching cancer-linked chemicals.
- Introduced Saran wrap in 1953, helping to herald a long era of throwaway and virtually non-recyclable plastic packaging that continues to this day.
- Owes hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to victims of asbestos and silicone breast implants after years of prioritizing profit over environmental safety and human health.
- Warns investors in their Annual Report that “new or more restrictive regulations and rules related to plastic waste could reduce demand for the Company’s plastic products and could negatively impact the Company’s financial results.”
- Majority owner is U.S.-based oil company ExxonMobil; licenses Esso and Mobil gas station brands in Canada.
- ExxonMobil knew about — and denied — the links between fossil fuels and climate change for decades and gaslights people who challenge climate denial.
- Denial tactics shift blame away from the producers of polluting products and onto their users (a.k.a. us) who have been exploited (see this Harvard study).
- ExxonMobil uses a similar strategy for plastic pollution denial.
- ExxonMobil reports being on the hook for USD$900 million for environmental remediation. This figure is almost certainly an underestimate of the true cost of cleaning up their messes. Imperial Oil alone has abandoned more than 1,500 oil wells in western Canada.)
- ExxonMobil and Dow are #1 and #2 on the Plastic Waste Makers Index of the world’s top plastic producers.
- It’s the biggest producer of plastic in Canada.
- The company started out as part of an Alberta Crown Corporation and is now wholly owned by a deep-pocketed investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government.
- NOVA’s owner, Mubadala Investment Company, claims more than $250 billion in assets.
- NOVA was fined $550,000 more than two years after a 2005 spill of cancer-causing benzene from one of its plants near Sarnia, Ontario.
- It was fined another $125,000 in 2018 for a spill of brine into a Sarnia-area waterway.
- There were at least six spills of toxic substances reported at Sarnia-area NOVA plants between 2017 and 2020. The surrounding communities, including the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, pay a high price for business as usual.
- NOVA lost two recent court cases against Dow Chemical in Canada. The most recent involved 82 days of trial and 21 lawyers from six firms.
Now these rivals have joined forces to try to stop plastics regulation, setting their lawyers on the federal government.
FIND OUT WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PUSH BACK AGAINST BIG PLASTIC’S MYTHS: GetPlasticsRight.ca
Poll after poll has shown that Canadians support federal action to reduce plastic pollution, including bans on the most problematic single-use items. Big Plastic is focused on its own bottom line and doesn’t seem to care what we think.
And that’s why we’re shifting this year’s Plastic Free July from tips individuals can take to reduce their plastic use at home, to calling on Big Plastic to drop their lawsuit and accept responsibility for the damage their products cause to our health and the environment.
Take action today!