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Billionaire industrialist David Koch dies aged 79

Gage Skidmore

David Koch has died at the age of 79 | Credit: Gage Skidmore

Prominent funder of climate sceptic and anti-regulation lobby groups died from advanced prostate cancer

David Koch, the billionaire industrialist who alongside brother Charles waged a sustained war on government regulation and climate action, has died aged 79.

The American’s death was confirmed today in a statement from Charles, the CEO and chairman of Koch Industries, from which David retired due to ill health last year.

Charles said his brother had died as a result of the advanced prostate cancer he had first been diagnosed with 27 years ago.

Based in Kansas, David and his brother Charles inherited Koch Industries from their father Fred Koch, and proceeded to build the family firm into a huge industrial empire.

Together the brothers were among the richest people in the world with an estimated wealth of more than $50bn which they famously used to fund right-wing, libertarian causes, and fight government regulations.

More recently, the Koch brothers played a key role in fighting President Barack Obama’s healthcare, greenhouse gas emission reduction, and clean energy policies. They frequently incurred the ire of green groups for funding campaigns, which spread disinformation about climate change.

They were recently labelled the “primary sponsors of climate change doubt in the United States” in the wake of a new book detailing the Koch brothers’ decades-spanning lobbying efforts.

Source: – Business Green

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Shell closes in on takeover deal for Australian energy supplier ERM Power


Shell takeover deal for ERM is expected to be completed later this year

Oil giant makes first foray into Australia’s competitive power market as it continues drive into consumer energy supply, renewables, and clean technologies

Shell is closing in on its first foray into Australia’s competitive electricity sector with a (AUS) $617m takeover bid for ERM Power Ltd, as the oil and gas giant continues its drive into the consumer energy market.

ERM Power, one of Australia’s biggest energy suppliers for business and industry, said yesterday it had entered into a tentative arrangement to sell 100 per cent of its share capital to Shell, and that company directors have unanimously recommended shareholders approve the deal.

Directors of ERM said the deal represented “compelling value” and was in the best interests of shareholders. If approved, the deal would see Shell acquire ERM Power for a cash price of $2.465 per share, valuing the Australian company at AUS $617m (US $419) when adjusted for dividends.

As well as its energy retail business, ERM Power owns two gas-fired generators, which Shell said would play an “important role in Australia’s transition to renewables”. The deal is expected to be completed later this year.

“This acquisition aligns with Shell’s global ambition to expand our integrated power business and builds on Shell Energy Australia’s existing gas marketing and trading capability,” Shell Australia’s country chair Zoe Yujnovich said in a statement yesterday. “ERM will become our core power and energy solutions platform and this acquisition is a significant step forward in growing Shell’s integrated power business in Australia.”

It is just the latest move into the consumer energy market from Shell, following its acquisition of UK energy supplier First Utility in December 2017, which has since rebranded as Shell Energy and has seen the company commit to providing its 700,000 domestic customers with 100 per cent renewable power.

The oil giant has also embarked on a series of clean energy and electric vehicle acquisitions over the past two years, snapping up EV charging firm NewMotion and energy storage specialist Sonnen, among others. Shell has pledged to double annual investment in green energy to around $4bn in the next two years as the oil giant seeks to build for a future beyond fossil fuels.

Shell has its eye on becoming one of the world’s largest energy providers, and its low carbon efforts could pay significant dividends in the long-term as fortunes from its traditional oil and gas business fall into decline in the coming years, influential credit ratings agency Moody’s has said.

ERM Power CEO Jon Stretch said the firm’s strategy “aligns well” with Shell’s global electrification ambitions. “This is a strong demonstration of the success of our strategy, the capability of our people and our ability to grow a generation, retailing and energy solutions business that supports the transition to renewables,” he said. “Shell’s considerable resources and reach would accelerate the opportunity and potential within ERM Power’s operations.”

Source: – Business Green

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IKEA, Unilever, and BNP Paribas join business drive against inequality

Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) coalition will launch at the G7 summit this weekend, warning inequalities around the world are economically-damaging

More than 30 global companies boasting combined revenues in excess of $1tr have thrown their weight behind a drive to tackle inequality, support inclusive economic growth, and promote workplace diversity as part of a new initiative launching at this weekend’s G7 Summit in France.

The Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) coalition, which is spearheaded by Danone chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber, will officially launch this evening as leaders of the world’s biggest economies come together for talks in the French coastal town of Biarritz.

Members of the coalition, which include BNP Paribas, IKEA, Unilever, and Goldman Sachs, have signed a pledge to take concrete actions to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are more widely shared.

They plan to focus on a number of issues also targeted in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including persistent inequalities of opportunity, reducing regional disparities and combating gender discrimination.

The three-year programme aims to boost opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented groups through retraining and upskilling, in addition to promoting diversity on company boards and tackling inequalities throughout supply chains, said the OECD, which is managing the initiative.

The 34 firms in the coalition, which also include Virgin, JP Morgan, L’Oreal, and AXA, have also pledged to step up business action to advance human rights, build more inclusive workplaces, and “strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems”.

Ahead of the summit, the B4IG pledge will first be presented to French President Emanuel Macron during a meeting with business and civil society leaders at the Élysée Palace in Paris, the OECD said.

“Growing inequality is one of the biggest social challenges in the world today, perpetuating poverty, undermining social cohesion and trust,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Sustainable economic growth means inclusive economic growth. It means giving every individual the opportunity to fulfil her or his potential, the chance not only to contribute to a nation’s growth but to benefit from it, regardless of their background or origins.”

Companies in the B4IG will work closely with governments and a number of public-private projects are expected to emerge from the programme, with the OECD contributing policy analysis, research, and expertise, Gurría explained.

The OECD plans to publish an evaluation of B4IG projects after the programme finishes in three years’ time, alongside guidance for promoting inclusive growth through joint public-private action for measuring business performance, it said.

Faber, who is leading the initiative as CEO and founder of Danone, said inequalities were “economically-damaging”, and warned that the market economy “ill not last without more inclusiveness”.

“It’s not a matter of ideology, it is a hard realism that calls us to a collective and inclusive action, for both governments and companies,” he said. “With B4IG, our aim is to build a constructive dialogue to advance social inclusion, pilot and scale innovative, inclusive micro-economic business models, and thereby contribute to inform macroeconomic policies.”

It came as the We Mean Business Coalition, a group of major companies taking collective action on climate change, also wrote to G7 leaders ahead of the summit to stress the economic necessity and opportunities from achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Transitioning to a net zero emission world within the next 30 years could create $26tr in economic benefits and 65 million jobs by 2030, the letter states, and G7 leaders should therefore reaffirm their commitment to climate action by strengthening their pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Delivering ambitious climate action goals on a pathway to net zero by 2050 will unlock finance and provide businesses with certainty to invest in the green economy, the Coalition said.

“Building a prosperous, zero-carbon economy by 2050 requires a transformation of unprecedented pace and scale,” the letter states. “This transition is achievable, but only when decisive business leadership is complemented by ambitious government policies, each positively reinforcing each other.”

Source: – Business Green

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Global briefing: Museum of fossil fuels opens in Sweden

BusinessGreen Leaders Summit 2019

The BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit will bring together some of the UK’s top green executives, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, campaigners, and politicians to explore how the pace, reach, and adoption of green business innovation can be accelerated, and the barriers to adoption overcome.

Source: – Business Green

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Macron tells G7: Amazon rainforest fires are an ‘international crisis’

Fires currently ravaging the Brazilian rainforest should be top of the agenda at this weekend’s G7 Summit, says French President, as debate over future trade deals intensifies

Devastating fires currently ravaging parts of the Amazon rainforest are an “international crisis” that must be top of the agenda at this weekend’s G7 Summit, French President Emmanuel Macron has warned.

Macron called on fellow world leaders to “discuss this emergency first” when heads of the world’s largest economies meet for three days of talks in the French coastal town of Biarritz tomorrow, emphasising that the Amazon produces a fifth of the planet’s oxygen.

“Our house is burning. Literally,” Macron wrote on Twitter yesterday. “It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

As international outcry over the crisis grew, France, alongside Ireland, also said it would oppose the Mercosur trade treaty between the EU and four Latin American countries – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – unless Brazil took action to address the fires in the Amazon. 

Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Veradkar, said he would not vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement – which was signed in June but is not due to be ratified for another two years – “if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments”.

“During the course of these two years, we will monitor closely Brazil’s environmental actions,” Veredkar said. “There is no way we can tell Irish and European farmers to use fewer pesticides, less fertiliser, embrace biodiversity and plant more of their land, and expect them to do it, if we do not make trade deals contingent on decent environmental, labour and product standards.”

There have been almost 73,000 fires across Brazil so far this year, a near 84 per cent increase compared with the same period last year, according to data from Brazil’s space research agency INPE.

With smoke engulfing some of Brazil’s largest cities the crisis has prompted a growing international outcry from green campaigners, politicians, and celebrities.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his concern about the “impact of the tragic loss of these precious habitats” in response to Macron’s call to action.

A Downing Street spokesperson told the Guardian international action was needed to protect the world’s rainforests: “The UK will continue to support projects in Brazil to do this, and the PM will use the G7 to call for a renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change.”

In addition, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the fires. “In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity,” he warned. “The Amazon must be protected.”

The exact cause of each fire is difficult to establish, but they are widely thought to be deliberate attempts to clear forest in order to make way for farmland for growing crops and to grazing livestock, with perpetrators having been emboldened by the weakened enforcement of deforestation laws following Jair Bolsonaro’s election as Brazil’s President earlier this year.

China’s trade war with the US is also thought to have exacerbated deforestation in Brazil by pushing up demand for soy in the region.

The fires have led to fierce criticism of the Brazilian government and calls for forest protection to be entrenched in any new trade deals between the country and the EU and UK.

France and Ireland have today signalled they would oppose a putative trade deal between the EU and Brazil unless Bolsonaro takes credible action to tackle the fires and curb deforestation across the Amazon.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, was booed at a climate event on Wednesday over the government’s response to the growing crisis.

But Macron’s comments prompted a furious backlash from Brazil’s far-right leader and his supporters, who accused the French leader of meddling in the South American nation’s affairs and “evoking a colonialist mindset”.

Bolsonaro also suggested, without any evidence, that photos of the fires were fake: “The sensationalist tone with which he [Macron] refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing to solve the problem,” he said.

He has previously attempted to blame green NGOs for orchestrating the fires, again without any evidence.

The diplomatic row came as the We Mean Business Coalition, a group of major companies taking collective action on climate change, wrote to G7 leaders ahead of the Summit to stress the economic necessity of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Transitioning to a net zero emission world within the next 30 years could create $26tr in economic benefits and 65 million jobs by 2030, the letter states, adding that G7 leaders should therefore reaffirm their commitment to climate action by strengthening their emission reduction pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Delivering ambitious climate action goals on a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 would unlock finance and provide businesses with certainty to invest in the green economy, the Coalition said.

“Building a prosperous, zero-carbon economy by 2050 requires a transformation of unprecedented pace and scale,” the letter states. “This transition is achievable, but only when decisive business leadership is complemented by ambitious government policies, each positively reinforcing each other.”

Meanwhile, the French government has asked Bertrand Picard, the explorer who piloted the Solar Impulse plane which flew around the world using solar energy in 2016, to address the G7 Summit on the climate crisis this weekend.

Picard said he would use the opportunity to urge world leaders to delivered bolder policies to tackle climate change.

“That climate change will increase inequality is evident, and we know that increased inequality limits the space for good policy,” he said. “But we need to turn this whole discussion around; we have to address climate change in a way that shows to the economical world that clean and energy efficient solutions are the industrial market of the century to create new jobs and make more profit. So it is not only about protecting the environment and fighting inequality, it’s about generating a qualitative growth, and this can be a big motivation for many.”

Source: – Business Green

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Will the rise of private climate services benefit society or only those who can afford to pay?

Sorkin argues that companies like his — part of an industry that in 2015 was valued globally at $2.6 billion with 6 percent to 10 percent growth per year — are nimble and innovative where government can be slow and cautious. “We’re years ahead of what the public sector is doing,” he says.

In his statement, he likened Jupiter’s impact on climate science to the disruptive influence of Amazon, Microsoft and Google on supercomputing: “In nearly every case, the private sector is leading the adoption of these new technologies, driven by brutal competition for profits.”

And for companies like his, those profits can be lucrative. Jupiter’s clients include players in oil and gas, insurance and defense. A new customer can expect to pay anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 to learn how it is exposed to floods, heat, storms, fires and other impacts of climate change. A yearlong subscription could start at $1 million, Sorkin says, “and for large corporations might be substantially more than that.”

“[Commercially developed climate services] are often exclusive and only accessible by those involved and/or paying for that service,” Marta Bruno Soares, a Met Office university academic fellow in the United Kingdom, wrote in an email. “What is critical at this point is to understand how the climate services produced … are being licensed and what accessibility is allowed to whom.”

“That’s a huge concern, and I’m certainly not going to pretend that we have the solution,” says Emilie Mazzacurati, founder and CEO of Four Twenty Seven, a California-based climate services company recently acquired by Moody’s. When it comes to climate adaptation, she adds, “there is massive inequality and massive concerns over equity that we’re not going to solve with data.”

“I think that is an extremely important issue that we are very mindful of trying to address,” says Sorkin. The company is looking at ways that it can aid those with fewer resources, such as working with U.S. communities to relocate away from climate dangers instead of merely rebuilding after disaster strikes.

“We’re not in a position to give away what we’re doing for free, but we do a pretty substantial amount of pro bono work,” he says.

Integrating risks

Mazzacurati founded Four Twenty Seven after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City in 2012. “What struck me most was the chaos that [an] extreme weather event could bring to one of the wealthiest, most organized, most resourceful cities in the world — and some of its most powerful businesses,” she later recalled

With parts of Manhattan flooded and without electricity, she wondered why financial organizations in particular — which require a nuanced understanding of risk in order to survive — failed to prepare for an obvious climate threat. 

“Scientists were saying, ‘We knew this could happen,’” Mazzacurati says. “[There was] a disconnect between the available data and projections around risks from climate change and the fact that those were not systematically integrated for most organizations.”

Four Twenty Seven describes itself as a provider of “market intelligence.” But it operates on the assumption that corporations and investors that learn about hyper-specific dangers they face from climate change — whether that’s a factory exposed to flooding or a high-carbon investment that could devalue a portfolio — will not only protect their individual assets but push for wider climate solutions.

“We need both global policy action, and we need corporations to prepare for specific impacts,” Mazzacurati says. “The realization of how complex [and costly] those impacts are … should help motivate greater policy engagement.”

While managing the climate services team at the Met Office Hadley Centre, Carlo Buontempo did a project on the impact of climate change on corporations and oil companies. 

“When you change the narrative and you start discussing the impact that climate change will have on them rather than how evil they are … then you have a completely different conversation,” says Buontempo. “It’s likely to trigger action.”

But potentially only up to a point. In 2017, Royal Dutch Shell divested $7.25 billion in investments from Canada’s oil sands after learning about the financial damage a market shift to lower-carbon energy could have on its business model. Yet around the same time the company spent $53 billion acquiring the fossil fuel giant BG Group, and The Economist recently reported that Shell is “earmarking most of its $30bn annual capital-expenditure budget over the five-year period [2021–2025] for fossil-fuel related projects.”

Replacement or complement?

Critics wonder if it’s wise to assume that the self-interest of corporations and other powerful actors neatly align with the broader interests of society. 

“We need to be alert to the possibility that [climate] service delivery models — couched in the language of entrepreneurialism, efficiency, utility, customization and flexibilization — merely entrench the status quo … rather than support transformational and equitable responses to climate change,” wrote Keele in Climatic Change.

Meanwhile, advocates question the underlying premise of such critiques: that the growth of climate services comes at the expense of traditional research. “We don’t replace the fundamental science that government scientists and agencies perform,” Mazzacurati says. “We’re users of the data and we help bring it to market.” In fact, the Trump administration’s attacks on U.S. climate science — including a proposal to slash US$1 billion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration alone — are unwelcome news to the industry. 

“We’re very much … concerned over the budget cuts,” Mazzacurati says.

Still, Sorkin acknowledges that a private sector approach — at least on its own — isn’t likely to serve the needs of the planet’s most vulnerable. “We don’t really see underdeveloped communities or countries as profit generators for us,” he says. Those types of projects, he says, only make financial sense with the government or NGOs as partners.

Desperately needed shift

No matter which side you come down on, the fact is that decades of warnings from climate scientists haven’t yet produced the global action needed to avoid catastrophe. Buontempo says companies responding to narrow self-interest are one aspect of a desperately needed shift away from carbon-producing activities — along with strategies for dealing with the impacts we’re already locked into.

“The involvement of the private sector is for me inevitable,” he says. “There are not enough academics working on climate to develop all the services that a society needs at this stage.” 

Regardless whether that is the case, the question remains: Who will ultimately benefit from this involvement — society at large, or the wealthy and well-connected?


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Molson Coors joins Science-Based Targets with 1.5C goal and new plastics strategy

Molson Coors has become the latest firm to join the elite group of corporates with carbon reduction targets independently judged to be in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The brewing giant behind beer brands such as Carling, Cobra, Blue Moon and Coors Light confirmed it has set new climate targets for 2025 to cut its greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations in half and slash supply chain emissions by 20 percent.

The goals have been approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which independently assesses and approves targets proposed by businesses based on input from climate scientists. The SBTi judged the targets as being in line with the more ambitious 1.5C goal set out in the Paris Agreement.

“Congratulations to Molson Coors on having their emissions reduction targets validated by the SBTi,” said Cynthia Cummis, director of private sector climate mitigation at World Resources Institute, one of the initiative’s partners. “By setting a target for their operations that aims for the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement — to limit global warming to 1.5C — Molson Coors are charting a path towards a sustainable and thriving future.”

Molson Coors also announced a set of new goals to reduce the amount of unrecyclable plastic in its packaging.

The brewer said it is aiming for 100 percent of its packaging to be reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradeable by 2025, as it attempts to reduce the carbon emissions associated with its packaging by 26 percent and ensure its plastic packaging contains at least 30 percent recycled content.

In the United Kingdom, Molson Coors said it will remove plastic rings from Carling and Coors Light cans by the end of March, switching to cardboard sleeves.

Meanwhile, its Colorado Native brand is testing a new fiber-based six-pack ring for drinks cans. The rings are made from post-industrial recycled fiber and are 100 percent bio-based, recyclable and compostable in commercial composting facilities, Molson Coors said.

“As a global brewer with a strong family heritage, we have always taken seriously our responsibility to brew a more sustainable future,” said Molson Coors CEO Mark Hunter. “Plastic waste poses a clear environmental challenge, and as a consumer-packaged goods company, we play an important role in helping to solve the global waste crisis.”

However, some plastics campaigners are skeptical about the switch to compostable plastics, pointing out that in the United Kingdom at least commercial composting facilities are few and far between, and there is no separate collection stream for them. As such, many compostable plastics either end up in landfill or as contaminants in the traditional plastic recycling system.

Molson Coors is the latest brewing giant to address packaging concerns over its beer. Last year Danish brewing giant Carlsberg unveiled a host of plastic-fighting packaging innovations, including the Snap Pack, which replaces plastic rings in a six-pack with tiny dots of glue to allow consumers to “snap” cans apart.


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Episode 185: Word games, cool planes , Nori’s blockchain-driven carbon removal mission

Week In Review

Tune in around 5:30 for commentary.


Demystifying the problem of farm-level food waste (21:25)

The waste associated with “ugly” produce is not often accounted for in figures sizing the problem, but it’s not insignificant — it’s a $47 billion opportunity on the demand side. GreenBiz editorial intern Cyan Zhong chats with Christine Moseley, founder and CEO of Full Harvest, a business-to-business marketplace that keeps imperfect and surplus fruits and vegetables that don’t pass the shelf-beauty test from being discarded.  

Nori wants you to buy a new kind of carbon credit (29:05)

Worried about potential fraud associated with carbon offsets? Blockchain startup Nori first came to our attention last year when it started talking up what it bills as the first marketplace for trading carbon removal credits — ones linked to verified regenerative agriculture practices. We caught up with CEO Paul Gambill in early August, when the company was selected for the Techstars’ Sustainability Accelerator run in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy.   

*Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Wandering,” “4th Ave Walkup,” “As I Was Saying” and “I’m Going for a Coffee”

What’s new at GreenBiz?

Electrify that fleet. Learn more about how a collaboration among UPS, Cross River Partnership and UK Power Networks is transforming urban delivery and logistics in London in this free, interactive webcast at 1 p.m. EST Sept. 5.

Energy resilience meets climate change. Technologies such as behind-the-meter energy storage and intelligent software are emerging to help companies and communities anticipate outages and keep the power flowing. Featuring speakers from energy services firm Faith Technologies, the former assistant secretary for energy with the U.S. Navy and a microgrid specialist from Rocky Mountain Institute. Register for this free session at 1 p.m. EST Sept. 10.

ESG, it’s a cultural thing. Are your sustainability, well-being, social impact and diversity teams operating in siloes? Join us for this discussion — and new research — with WeSpire, Cox Enterprises and Novo Nordisk about how to embed broader environmental, social and governance priorities into corporate culture. Sign up to tune in at 1 p.m. EST Sept. 17.

Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce five weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday), Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday), VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday), Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday) and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose the newsletters you want to receive.

Check out our Center Stage podcast, which features the best of live interviews on sustainable business and clean technology, conducted on stage at GreenBiz and VERGE conferences.

The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here. Enrolling is free and should take two minutes.

Stay connected

To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes. Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].


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Toxic chemicals can enter food through packaging, so we made a list

This is the second in a series evaluating the challenges in single-use food packaging waste.

In the late 1980s, the Council of Northeast Governors (CONEG) was concerned that heavy metals in packaging would accumulate in recycled materials to levels that presented serious health concerns. The organization drafted model legislation that prohibited the intentional addition of mercury, lead, cadmium and hexavalent chromium to any component of packaging, including inks. It also set a 100 parts-per-million limit on the total amount of these four heavy metals.

To ensure compliance, companies making packaging materials had to provide certificates of compliance to downstream purchasers and report compliance to the states.

CONEG also established the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse to maintain the model legislation, coordinate implementation of state legislation and serve as a resource for companies seeking compliance information. The council’s hypothesis: protecting virgin material from contamination will improve the recyclability of post-consumer materials and protect public health.

Over the years, 19 states have adopted a variation of the model legislation. In 2018, Washington state took an unprecedented step of expanding its version of the legislation from heavy metals to include per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are bioaccumulating, persistent chemicals and are associated with an array of health problems including endocrine disruption and children’s developmental harm. The state was concerned that paper and cardboard food packaging treated with these chemicals may be contaminating composting (PDF) and paper recycling processes post-consumer.

Beyond PFAS: More toxic chemicals of concern in food packaging

In addition to heavy metals and PFAS, EDF has identified other chemicals in food packaging and food handling equipment, whose ubiquity and potential health impacts raise serious concerns about food safety and contamination of the recycling stream. These chemicals appear in either plastic or paper packaging or both.

Intentionally added ingredients

1. Ortho-phthalates (primarily used in plastic but many other uses including printing inks): Studies show that these chemicals are linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity. Their contamination of food is widespread. Their safety is under review by FDA.

2. Perchlorate (anti-static agent used in plastic for dry food and in food handling equipment): This chemical disrupts the thyroid gland’s normal function and reduces production of the thyroid hormone needed for healthy fetal and child brain development. Food contamination is widespread; especially problematic is the increase of perchlorate levels in baby food and dry cereal. The safety of perchlorate is under review by FDA.

3. Per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (grease-proofing agent used in paper packaging): PFAS, often distinguished as long-chain or short-chain, are bioaccumulating, persistent chemicals associated with an array of health problems including endocrine disruption and children’s developmental harm. There is widespread human exposure to PFAS; water and food are the likely sources. PFAS in food packaging will be banned in Washington two years after the state finds suitably available safer alternatives or in 2022, whichever date gives manufacturers more time to redesign packaging.

4. Benzophenone (used as a plasticizer in rubber articles intended for repeat use): Citing the carcinogenic evidence regarding benzophenone, FDA has banned its use as a flavor and in food packaging. The bans go into effect in 2020.

Residual processing aids

1. Ethyl and methyl glycol, toluene and n-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP): These solvents, often used in printing inks, leave residues in packaging and pose a risk of reproductive or development harm. Toluene and NMP have been targeted for removal in other product categories as well. Toluene has been targeted by a number of retailers, including Amazon and Rite-Aid, for removal from personal care and beauty products. NMP has been targeted for removal from paint strippers by several retailers including Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart. EPA has proposed banning use of NMP as a paint stripper and is expected to finalize that proposal for retail sales soon.

2. Bisphenol A, B, F, S (used to make epoxy lining in metal cans, to make polycarbonate plastic, and ink): One or more bisphenol compounds has been linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and/or reproductive toxicity. BPA is already banned for baby bottle use or coating of infant formula packaging. BPS became a common replacement to BPA in packaging, but recent studies demonstrate similar health concerns to BPA.


1. Heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium V and mercury): These chemicals are highly toxic and have been regulated in a variety of applications. EDF has demonstrated heavy metal contamination in food, particularly baby food. Although not intentionally added, contamination of food packaging may be a source. FDA’s Toxic Elements Working Group is evaluating children’s exposure to heavy metals across all foods.

See our list describing in more detail the most concerning toxic chemicals in food packaging, and why they should be addressed first.

Initial promising steps to limit toxic chemicals in packaging

Last year, the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging (FSAP), a part of the Institute of Packaging Professionals, released “Food Packaging Product Stewardship Considerations” (PDF), a set of best practices to reduce problematic chemicals in food packaging. FSAP is supported by leading food manufacturers, including Nestle and Mars.

Of our list above, FSAP said:

  • Heavy metals and long-chain PFAS must not be used;
  • Ortho-phthalates, BPA and toluene should not be used;
  • Ethyl and methyl glycol use should be minimized; and
  • Short-chain PFAS should only be used after considering alternatives.

Start clean

We want higher recycling rates of food packaging, and we want safer food. By ensuring future food packaging is free of these chemicals, companies can improve consumer trust while minimizing the impact of future regulations on their bottom line. In addition, the risks these chemical additives and contaminants pose when used in virgin materials continue into recycled materials; unlike the purifying processes used in recycling metal and glass, conventional plastic and paper recycling processes do not remove these persistent toxic chemicals.

We maintain that any company looking to create sustainable recycling markets for food packaging, particularly those companies developing strategies to meet the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, must set tight virgin-material standards to prevent problematic contamination in post-consumer recycled materials.

Taking action today helps to protect consumer health now and in the future. We will explore options and resources available to companies as part of this series. Stay tuned.


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LUSH confirms cork packaging has secured ‘carbon positive’ status

The Lush cork pot retails for £7.50 each | Credit: Lush

Natural beauty retailer reveals its Cork Pot sequesters more than 33 times its weight in carbon dioxide

Lush has confirmed its Cork Pots are officially ‘carbon positive’, allowing customers to directly support the planting of new trees in Portugal with each purchase.

Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees once a decade – a process that means large numbers of old trees need to be cared for and harvested in rotation to maintain a steady cork supply.

Lush said this drive for new trees is key to the Pots’ green credentials – after a year of the Cork Pot’s production, more than 20,000 native trees have been planted in Portugal.

According to analysis verified by the Carbon Trust, each 35g pot sequesters more than 33 times its weight in carbon dioxide, and is certified ‘carbon neutral’ earlier.

“When Lush started working with cork, we knew the material was very capable of sequestering greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,” said Simon Brewer, from Lush’s environmental impact team. “But we didn’t realise just how much until we came to study it more closely and found that a Cork Pot was actually removing more CO2 than it was emitting over its lifecycle. It was a groundbreaking moment and we were delighted to work with the Carbon Trust to confirm that a single 35g cork pot is sequestering over a kilo of CO2e.”

Lush has spent the last two years working with sustainable farming organisation Eco Interventions on the Cork Pot, with the aim of designing a product that would support regenerative agriculture.

It sells the Cork Pots for £7.50 each, as containers for its range of packaging-free shampoo bars.

“The transition to a net zero economy presents businesses with both the opportunity to develop innovative products that are appealing to consumers and differentiate their brand in the market, but also address the need to decarbonise,” said John Newton, associate director at the Carbon Trust. “Lush’s 35g cork pots are exactly the kind of innovative approach to packaging that addresses these needs and we are delighted to certify that they achieved carbon neutrality in line with international best practice standards.”

Source: – Business Green