Project launched to name and shame plastic packaging polluters

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

January 26th, 2019

A new Cork-based anti-plastic initiative has urged Mondelēz International, the producer of Cadbury chocolates, to stop packaging its products with single-use plastics.

The Plastic Letters Project names one company that uses single-use plastic packaging each week and asks consumers to email a letter of complaints to that company.

This week, the campaign targeted Mondelēz group, asking the snack-making giant to switch back to its original eco-friendly packaging for Cadbury chocolates.

For over a decade now, Cadbury chocolates have been wrapped in single-use plastics as opposed to their previous foil and paper wrappers.

Ellie O’Byrne, a freelance journalist and media lecturer in Cork who is behind the project, told The Green News that in times of Government inaction it is crucial for consumers to voice their environmental concerns to big businesses.

“Consumers should raise their voice and make themselves heard because our Government is not going to do anything about it,” Ms O’Byrne said.

She said that while businesses are primarily to blame for plastic pollution, consumers are often portrayed as the guilty party and the Plastic Letters Project aims to change that.

Ms O’Byrne described Cadbury’s switch from paper and foil to single-use plastic packaging as an “unbelievably irresponsible move” for a product that is popular among children.

“How can you sell something to the future generations and not think about the rest of their future,” she said. “I’m asking [Mondelēz] to do one single thing, and that is to go back to their previous packaging.”

‘Hit them in the pocket’

Ms O’Byrne said that sending individual letters of complaints can be more effective than other actions such as signing online petitions as companies do not feel obliged to respond to each signatory that way.

“This way you actually hit them in the pocket because of the labour costs of having someone to respond to consumers,” she said.

Participants to the project have sent letters to the company and have shared the responses they have received on social media.

“Great care is taken in the design of our packaging, and the materials used; we have dedicated teams that use state-of-the-art technology to develop innovative and durable packaging,” the company wrote in response to one complaint.

“Accordingly, whilst there are no immediate plans to change the design of this particular product’s packaging, please be assured that your comments will be conveyed to the relevant colleagues, for continuous improvement purposes,” the reply continued.

Ms O’Byrne said that she was disheartened with the way Mondelēz chose to respond to the complaints and has urged the company to go beyond sending PR-motivated responses to its customers.

Mondelēz group’s press office for UK and Ireland did not immediately respond to a request from The Green News for comment.

Business plastic problem

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned that the amount of plastic waste from the business sector in Ireland has doubled over the last 10 year.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 50 million tonnes of plastic is in our oceans and that there may be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

A recent study conducted by scientists at the National University of Ireland revealed that 73 per cent of 233 deep-sea fish examined in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean were contaminated with plastic.

The EU has recently approved a ban on single-use plastics such as straws, plates, cutlery and cotton-swab sticks in the bloc by 2021.

Under the new landmark laws, 10 single-use plastics that most often end the oceans, as well as oxo-degradable plastics such as bags or fast-food container packaging, will be prohibited from the EU.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.