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Please note that this is a tentative schedule and items are subject to change.
The COVID-19 pandemic launched a widespread campaign by the plastics industry to position single-use plastics as the safest form of grocery and food packaging while the use of plastic PPEs soared. With the best of intentions to protect their residents, state and local decision makers responded quickly to suspend reusable bags and cups, bulk dispensing at grocery stores, and put holds on many recently-enacted policies banning single-use plastic. This panel will present the conflicting narratives shared by different plastics industry, public health and food service experts, and guidance about how businesses can reopen safely (without plastic).
Ivy Schlegel is a senior research specialist with the Greenpeace USA plastics team, focusing on strategic corporate research, the petrochemical and plastic value chains, and health and climate impacts of plastic production. Prior to joining the plastics team, Ivy worked on Greenpeace USA's forest team focusing on Indonesian palm oil and other forest-based commodities. Ivy has worked with Greenpeace USA since 2009.
Early in the pandemic, the plastics industry exploited the COVID-10 emergency to create fear about reusable bags and assert that single-use plastic is necessary to keep us safe. Many of the actors in the plastic industry have waged a public relations battle to fight legislation banning single use plastic for years, and they saw a pandemic as an opportunity to seize the narrative. Industry surrogates activated a multi-million dollar public relations echo chamber that was straight out of the fossil fuel industry’s playbook, and deployed many of the same surrogates, professors and front groups. These narratives featured older research funded by the American Chemistry Council and other affiliates to claim that reusables are dangerous, though none of the cited studies included COVID-19 or coronaviruses. In fact, early relevant scientific studies from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University showed that the virus can live on plastic surfaces longer than others.
Some states or municipalities with legislation banning plastic bags or instituting bag fees then began pausing or delaying legislation or enforcement, citing concerns about COVID-19 specifically linked to this media misinformation. The echo chamber creating fear about reusable bags was a profit-driven distraction from vital safety information that consumers need in order to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
Justin was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. He graduated from University of Cape Town with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Public Administration and a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies.
Justin and his wife sailed a circuitous route to the USA in their home-built sailboat. They settled in California in 1986 and have been living in Sacramento ever since, except for 2007 when they sailed with their family across the Pacific.
After working for several years in State government and the California Legislature, Justin started his environmental advocacy and consulting firm – Ecoconsult. For the past three decades, Justin has worked extensively with the California Legislature, public interest groups and state regulatory agencies.
In this session, Justin Malan, Executive Director of the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health will:
Oceanic Global Program Director, Cassia Patel, will present recently-launched COVID-19 Plastic-Free Reopening Guidelines as a tool to guide businesses through this difficult transition while staying true to their sustainability values. Created in consultation with a coalition of public health experts and industry leaders, this guide clearly outlines best practices to achieve both hygiene and sustainability for the restaurant and hotel foodservice industry globally with a focus on eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics and improving waste management. This guide includes a compilation of existing research and resources from public health authorities, governments, research institutes and leading organizations.