McDonald’s, Nestlé and Danone among nine food corporations on legal notice for plastic waste failures in France
03 Oct 2022 --- A coalition of lawyers and environmental NGOs have put nine “Big Food” corporations – including McDonald’s, Nestlé and Danone – on notice for failing to produce “Duty of Vigilance” plans for managing the impact of plastic waste caused by their products.
The plans are mandatory under French law, and the coalition says the companies implicated have either not bothered or created insufficient plans.
The coalition includes ClientEarth, Zero Waste France and NGO Surfrider Foundation Europe. With the notice issued last week, each implicated company has three months to rectify its shortcomings with an appropriate response or face legal action.
Major blind spots in plastics
Duty of Vigilance was introduced in France in 2017 and required any company with more than 5,000 local employees or 10,000 internationally to publish an annual vigilance plan identifying the environmental and social risks stemming from their activities and those of their subsidiaries, suppliers and subcontractors.
These plans must include mitigation and prevention measures adapted to the severity of the risks and a report on the implementation of the company’s measures.
Of the companies named, Lactalis, McDonald’s France, Nestlé France and Picard Surgelés failed to produce a plan this year. Meanwhile, Auchan, Casino, Carrefour, Danone and Les Mousquetaires produced plans the lawyers deem inadequate.
“This law requires companies to report environmental and human rights impacts of business activities, and mitigation plans must be in place. Unfortunately, these market-leading corporations seem to have a major blind spot in plastics,” says ClientEarth lawyer Rosa Pritchard.
“Companies who are not turning their attention to the global risks associated with plastics have their heads in the sand.”
In response, a spokesperson for Lactalis tells PackagingInsights: “Lactalis remains a low user of plastic compared to other major food companies. Lactalis has made the reduction of packaging one of its three main CSR priorities, along with carbon reduction and animal welfare. Lactalis has set itself concrete and quantified objectives and is currently taking numerous measures in this area.”
The legal notice comes as a growing number of cases and threats are issued against major companies over global plastic pollution. Many environmental activists, including ClientEarth, have warned that tightening legislation against plastics means industry is at increased risk of litigation.
With the backdrop of policies such as the Single Use Plastics Directive, the UN Global Plastic Pollution Treaty and extended producer responsibility legislation, major F&B corporations could soon be exposed to a “tidal wave” of lawsuits, a spokesperson from Earth Island Institute told PackagingInsights.
“By now, we are all familiar with the disastrous effects of plastic litter. But plastic’s harm goes beyond the end-of-life impact. From carbon emissions to the chemical compounds from which plastics are made, plastic also impacts our health and the environment when it’s being produced and used,” says Pritchard.
“The fact that these companies are not addressing these harms adequately as part of their reporting under this law is a serious oversight and one we will not hesitate to challenge.”
The recycling myth
In a statement, Surfrider Foundation says that, at best, the companies’ plans highlighted the recyclability of their products. “Unfortunately, recycling only addresses a tiny fraction of the risks associated with plastic use – and recycling figures globally are nothing short of dismal.”
“None of the companies targeted present a credible deplastification path for all their activities in their vigilance plan,” continues the organization. “Through our legal letters, we are urging the companies to abide by the law and respond to our demands.”
The viability of recycling as an adequate means of tackling plastic waste is fast disappearing. Globally only around 9% of plastic has ever been recycled. Recently, Plastic Recyclers Europe warned that many recycling facilities would soon be forced to close under the pressure of rising energy costs.
Given the failure to create adequate plans or any plans at all, the coalition is demanding that all nine companies produce a complete assessment of their use of plastic, encompassing all their activities throughout the value chain.
On the basis of these assessments, they must then put together a “deplastification” plan with quantified and dated objectives and act on it.
Coalition spokesperson Antidia Citores remarks: “How can it be that in 2022, despite a clear legal obligation, these companies are not providing comprehensive reporting on their use of plastic and the inherent associated risks for the environment and human rights? In fact, some fail to provide any vigilance plan at all.”
“Recycling is not a catch-all solution – far from it. These companies need to elevate the reduction of plastic use to top priority.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
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