Litter picks and pensions: ending plastic pollution

In this blog, Money Makes Change programme manager Rosie Venner reflects on how our banks and pension providers may be the key to solving plastic pollution.

My children love going out on a ‘treasure hunt’, otherwise known as a litter pick. We’ll be joining thousands of other keen litter-pickers for The Great British Spring Clean over the next couple of weeks.  

If you’ve enjoyed spending more time outside over the past year, you’ve probably been dismayed by the amount of plastic that litters the hedgerows, pavements or beaches around where you live. Our global plastic problem is huge. According to Greenpeace, a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every single minute.  Plastic that doesn’t end up in the sea is often burnt, contributing to climate change and damaging people’s health. Tearfund estimates that between 400,000 and 1 million people die each year in developing countries because of diseases related to plastic and other mismanaged waste.

Picking up plastic that pollutes the environment is clearly a good thing. But how do we stop it ending up there? Did you know that your bank or your pension provider can play a role in ending our global plastic waste problem?

A recent report The Plastic Waste Makers Index has found that just 20 companies are the source of more than half of all the single-use plastic items thrown away globally.

While many of us are trying to cut down on single-use plastic products, polymer producers (the companies that turn fossil fuels into the building blocks of plastics) show few signs of slowing down.

“If current trends in plastic production and use continue, emissions from single-use plastics are likely to triple, accounting for 5 to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

The report’s authors argue that if we want to see an end to the plastic waste crisis, we need these companies to produce polymers from sustainable materials, not virgin fossil fuels. There is an urgent need for action.  

“The plastification of our oceans and the warming of our planet are amongst the greatest threats humanity and nature have ever confronted,” explains Dr Andrew Forrest of Minderoo Foundation, the organisation that published the Plastic Waste Makers Index. “Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis unless government, business and financial leaders act in our children’s and grandchildren’s interests.”

This is where our banks and pension providers can take action. Financial institutions invest billions of dollars in polymer producers and provide the finance that helps them expand. This money could be used instead to shift us to a circular plastic economy, which would be better for people and planet – keeping resources in use for as long as possible, rather than just using them and then throwing them away,.  

Governments, companies, banks and investors need to work together to ‘turn off the tap’ of plastic pollution. You can play your part too. This is at the heart of our Money Makes Change programme – helping Christians connect their faith and their finances for a more just and sustainable future for everyone.  

What can you do?

  • Explore the story behind the Plastic Waste Makers Index and what they are calling for.
  • UK-based banks Barclays, HSBC and NatWest are in the top 20 banks around the world providing finance for the production of single-use plastic polymers. Contact them and ask them what they are doing to create a world without plastic pollution.  
  • Ask your pension provider what their policy is on investing in companies that are the source of plastic pollution. Is it part of their screening criteria? Are they engaging with companies and asking them to commit to more sustainable practices? Send them a link to The Plastic Waste Makers Index and ask them to shift money away from fossil fuels towards circular models of plastic production.
  • Let us know if this blog has inspired you to take action! Explore other ways to take action with your individual or church finances.
Rosie Venner

Rosie Venner

Rosie Venner is the manager of our Money Makes Change programme. Prior to working for ECCR Rosie worked for 8 years as a Regional Coordinator with churches, volunteers and campaigners for Christian Aid.

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