An Exxon Mobil Corp logo is seen at the Rio Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 24, 2018.
Sergio Moraes | Reuters
The California Attorney General on Thursday announced an investigation in the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for allegedly exaggerating the role of recycling in curbing global plastic pollution and exacerbating the crisis.
Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office has subpoenaed exxonmobile for information related to the company’s alleged role in misleading the public and worsening plastic pollution. The bureau did not specify which other companies it was investigating. Exxon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When state legislatures and local governments in the 1980s began considering bills restricting or banning plastic products, petrochemical and fossil fuel companies began an “aggressive” and “misleading” campaign to persuade the public that they could mitigate the waste problem by recycling, which the industry knew was not true, Bonta argued in a press release.
“For more than half a century, the plastics industry has engaged in an aggressive campaign to mislead the public, perpetuating the myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis,” Bonta said. “The truth is that the vast majority of plastic cannot be recycled.”
“This first-of-its-kind investigation will examine the role of the fossil fuel industry in creating and exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis, and what laws, if any, have been broken in the process,” he said. Nice.
The world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste each year, according to United Nations estimates. Plastics take hundreds of years to break down, and most plastics end up in landfills or in the ocean. The United States only recycles about 9% of its plastic, according the Environmental Protection Agency.
Plastics will also drive nearly half of oil demand growth by mid-century, according to the International Energy Agency. Petrochemical and fossil fuel companies recently invested more than $200 billion to expand plastic production world.
Environmental activist groups on Thursday applauded the state’s investigation into the fossil fuel industry.
“For too long, ExxonMobil and other polluting corporations have been allowed to mislead the public and harm people and the planet,” said Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Campaign Leader at Greenpeace USA. “Science has made it very clear that we need to move away from fossil fuels and disposable plastic.”
— CNBC’s Katie Brigham contributed reporting