California close to wrapping investigation on Exxon's role in plastic pollution

California's Attorney General announced an impending decision on potential legal actions against Exxon Mobil Corp over its role in global plastic pollution.

Valerie Volcovici reports for Reuters.


In short:

  • The investigation, started in 2022, examines the oil and petrochemical industry's contributions to plastic waste and misinformation about recycling.
  • Exxon, facing scrutiny for misleading public claims about plastic recyclability, is promoting the contentious chemical recycling, also known as advanced recycling.
  • Despite ongoing projects, criticisms point to significant delays and failures in Exxon's recycling advancements.

Key quote:

"We are soon going to be ready to get to a decision based on all of our investigations in the coming weeks."

— Rob Bonta, California Attorney General.

Why this matters:

Many consumers believe that recycling their plastic waste sufficiently addresses the problem, but the reality is that a significant portion of plastic is not recyclable, and existing recycling systems capture only a small fraction of the total plastic waste. Most plastic accumulates in landfills, oceans and other ecosystems, where it can take hundreds of years to degrade, releasing harmful chemicals and microplastics that can be ingested by wildlife and enter the human food chain.

Countries are currently meeting in Ottawa to move forward on a historic plastic pollution treaty.

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