0:00 Helen: I'm really excited about the conversation we're about to have today because it will be an update on a blog I wrote several years ago, titled, for reasons food contact plastic will never be regulated. I researched the scientific literature and write the blog because I felt that we weren't being well informed about plastics, and especially plastics around the foods that are meant to keep us healthy. Fruit vegetables and leafy greens. In fact, this is the very reason we created our all natural hemp fresh produce bag to protect our wellness foods from plastic. So let's get this conversation started. I'd like to welcome Jane Bremmer to the gutsy matters podcast. Hello, Jane. Hello, dear. So before we dive in deep, we just like to take a few moments to introduce you to our listeners.
1:04 Wendy: Jane is based in Western Australia, and has worked for environmental health and justice for more than 20 years. Currently, she is the zero waste Australia campaign coordinator for the National toxics network. She is also a core member of the break free from plastic movement and longtime member of the Global Alliance for incinerator alternatives. Jane's work addresses systemic failures, driving the global waste and plastic pollution crisis. With a strong background in toxics disputes and environmental justice, grounded in her own personal experience living next to who is worse toxic side, Jane works to empower communities to defend the human rights to clean air, water and soil through the principles of community right to know and access to independent science and expertise.
1:53 Helen: Jane is a member and works collaboratively with the international pollutants elimination network, representing more than 700 Public Interest NGOs, working for a toxics free future at the highest level with the international Stockholm, Rotterdam and basil conventions. Jane's key motivation is the protection of children's health. And this underpins all her work. Thanks very much for joining us, Jane.
2:24 Jane: My pleasure.
2:24 Helen: So I wanted to get through your intro just to give a bit of a background before we dived in deep. So let's get going. Are we being lied to about plastics? And what are they doing to us and our environment? And is this threatening the health of future generations?
2:42 Jane: That's a big question. And it's a bit of yes and a bit of No, I think the issue of the impact of plastic on our health is a very rapidly growing and emerging area of science. Indeed, the world is waking up to the global plastic pollution problem that we're that we're facing. I don't think that the petrochemical industry, which is the industry behind the manufacture and production of plastics, which is a fossil fuel based industry, I don't think that they have been honest, all of these years about the real impacts that their plastics and chemicals are having on human health and the planet. I don't believe the regulators have been doing their job adequately and haven't been assessing for public health and safety and environmental
So all together that sort of looks like a big No, really. And it's quite scandalous. But here we are facing the awful truth that our entire planet, our bodies, our food chains, the air we breathe, the water we drink, every the highest mountain peaks and the deepest ocean trenches are all contaminated with plastics and their particles, whether they're microplastics or nanoplastics. Given that there's a sense of urgency now for the world to the scientists to really provide the data that they should have many, many, many, many years ago. And and haven't we, I think we're in a lot of catch up and the end and the task is urgent. We know that plastic leeches, we know that chemicals really leaking out of plastic packaging into their products and food. We know that plastic breaks down into micro plastics and some of that in our food and our water. It's in the air we breathe. We're exposed to microplastics everywhere. And we know that in the body, the very characteristics that make plastic so useful for us that that they're very stable and don't break down. That represents a really serious issue when that in our body and these tiny particles can pass into our blood, our organs, the brain, and they can stay there. And that's what science is finding that they're, that they stay there and they end they're not eliminated from the body.
5:10 Helen: It's my understanding that they can even cross the placenta, making it a multi generational kind of a problem.
5:18 Jane: Absolutely salutely I have a belief that sounds microplastics in, in, in placenta and and the cord blood of newborn babies, I mean, micro and nanoplastics nano particles pass through that get carried in the bloodstream, they pass through all the normal membranes in the body, and it can deposit we've documented the deposit in the organs in the brain. And that's where they can stay. And as they do in the environment, tiny, these tiny particles, nanoparticles and micro particles made of plastic, have the ability to absorb chemicals in their environment. So you know, when microplastics are floating around the ocean, they can absorb chemicals that are floating around in the ocean, also onto the surface of those tiny particles in a way that disproportionate to the size. So they become these kind of super toxic particles that become carriers and transmitters of chemicals. That's what makes them so concerning to actually having the body
6:25 Helen: that's a surface area thing is not because they're small particles, but with a surface area available for that kind of ratio.
6:34 Jane: It's a surface area to volume ratio. And so what it what that phenomenon does, it allows significant amounts of chemicals to end here, to the surface of that micro particles representing a volume and aside greater than the particle itself. So that's what makes micro plastics and micro nano plastics really dangerous. They can be a tiny, tiny formation and volume to size and volume, surface area to volume ratio makes them very good vehicles have chemical carriers, they can carry a lot of chemicals on their tiny little size, relative to their size. That's what makes them super toxic chemical highways.
7:17 Helen: So if we sort of bring this, like if we're thinking micro plastics and nano plastics, like how do we relate that to our everyday life, you know, when we're, if we store some leftover food in a in a plastic container, or we buy some produce and put it in a plastic bag, or I'm just trying to think general ways people use plastic plastic water bottle or a plastic baby's bottle of milk, you know, how does it relate to this nano plastic microplastic conversation.
7:49 Jane: So there's a few things going on. So micro plastics can be engineered, deliberately engineered, and some cosmetic companies and other products actually put microplastics in their product for exfoliation and those kinds of things. So Australia has introduced a voluntary phase out of that kind of thing as your did. So microplastics, humans can be exposed to them deliberately as an additive in a product, they're actually engineered. Then there are the unintentional generation of micro plastics and nano plastics, and that comes from a larger pieces of plastic breaking down in the environment. So plastic that escapes and ends up in the environment. We know that microplastics are getting into the environment primarily through wastewater treatment plants, they're coming through our wastewater treatment systems, they're being generated via roads, car tires generate quite a significant volume of micro and nanoplastics that get generated into the atmosphere. And then there's pellets that we create, which are typically small, tiny round bits of plastic that go into pre production or some sort of further manufacturing. So there are multiple ways that microplastics getting to our environment. They're either deliberately engineered or there are as a result of breaking down in the environment, larger pieces of plastic breaking down in the environment and in the in the ocean that can be fishing waste, it can be discharged from wastewater treatment plants, pretty much most plastics are migrating from land based sources into the ocean. That way, that's where everything flows from agricultural regions also. And there's a lot of microplastics in agriculture. So all of these land uses where pledges and maneuvers and things like that that have come from wastewater treatment plants are applied as fertilizers on the land on scale, and on scale they're migrating into The ocean. And that's why we're seeing microplastics deepest ocean trenches, highest mountain peaks because they're they have become environmental they are in the air we breathe we generate cities generate vast quantities of them, they release from the land into the creek, the rivers and then on into the ocean, if they're not deliberately put there through plastic, waste, and litter. So it's a serious issue in micro plastics and nano plastics, and it's really not being addressed in Australia at all.
10:32 Wendy: So other major manufacturing companies actually taking action giving them mounting scientific evidence that shows that plastic not only pollutes our environment, but alarmingly damages our health as well.
10:44 Jane: But there's a there's quite a few narratives out there and and the big one at the moment is that there's just not enough evidence for us to point the finger at plastic causing harm to human health. And that's a very strong narrative in the Marine Biology and environmental sector. When you speak to the environmental health scientists have been studying petrochemicals for decades, they have a different story. And they tell us that we know that plastic is made from petrochemicals, we know it contains a whole range of chemicals that are known to harm human health, endocrine disrupting chemicals, things like cell lights, which are commonly found in plastic, mercury, persistent organic pollutants, like related chemicals that are put in there to reduce its susceptibility to catching fire and, and those kinds of things. So plastic, in my mind, it's very simple plastic is a petrochemical solidified petrochemical. And depending on the uses, that defines its chemical signature, so there are a few plastics, which are I seriously need to be removed immediately. They're things like polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, those kinds of plastics that we really don't have a way to deal with these kinds of plastics, they're not, they can't be easily recycled. They end up in the in the waste stream, and they're toxic. So when they end up in the environment, they break down into small, toxic pieces, their contamination reaches is big, because they've not being captured and reused and recycled, because they're made out of chemicals that don't allow that to happen. So those kinds of plastics we have to immediately face, we need to immediately ban them, frankly, PVC, polystyrene, those kinds of plastics, which just aren't necessary. The big question that we really need to be asking right now is really, are we using plastic in a way that is fit for purpose in the in the 21st century, given what we know, given that every corner of the planet is now contaminated with plastic micro particles and nano particles of chemical toxicity mixtures that we know neurotoxic reproductive toxins? cause cancer a whole list of associated human health impacts? Are we manufacturing plastics in the 21st century, fit for purpose, when we have such a dire and catastrophic pollution story attached to that product? And I think the question is, we actually need to stop using plastic. And the national toxics network has been very clear on their message about plastics in general. To resolve the global plastic pollution problem, we have to cap production, we cannot continue to be making plastic while the planet is absolutely saturated in it. And it is linked to absolute human health and ecological decline.
14:00 Jane: We have to cap production. And we have to look at what we're using plastics for, do we need to be reading all about food and selling it in plastic? You know, we really need to get a grip on what we're actually directing this what is essentially hazardous and toxic material into the mainstream society. We have to remove those toxic substances, we can't be making plastic that we wrap food in, or it has such high consumer contact that contain persistent organic pollutants, phthalates - things that harm human health. And we have to make plastic that is easily recyclable. And if we're going to do that, well then let's make it reusable, and really be committed to zero waste policy and an end to pollution. And then we have to really look at legislation to address the drive What's behind what's causing the plastic pollution problem, and that is the concessions and the free rides that the fossil fuel based petrochemical industry gets. Without any accountability, there's no mandatory product stewardship, extended producer responsibility, we don't even have that as mandatory laws for what is clearly a really obvious subject to apply such a thing. So we have to stop producing it, we have to clean up the production stream, make the plastic safe. And we have to only use it when it's absolutely necessary. And we need to have consistent laws around that in Australia and the world. What we have in reality, though, and I can tell you this has some authorities, the head of the chemical industry is the head of the European regulatory industries have stated openly that chemical regulation is a failure globally, that has to be addressed. There has to be dressed as a priority. And it's a very pressing issue in Australia, because the direction we're headed in Australia is to deregulate the chemical industry. And every Australian should be outraged about that. Because here we are on the precipice of global ecological destruction, climate change, breathing down on it, our oceans, and our our food chain in our bodies, and even future generations, as you mentioned, are at risk from a plastic contamination. And what is our government and regulators doing de regulating the industry. And some of us have argued, well, maybe this is the knee jerk reaction and the pushback from the fossil fuel industry, we think fossil fuels, governments all over the world acting on that will the other arm of the fossil fuel industry is the petrochemical arm, and they're flexing their muscles right now. And governments all over the world are rolling over in Australia is rolling over incredibly, comparatively poorly. When we look at what's proposed in the EU in the US in relation to plastic regulation, despite the grandiose Australian waste export ban, we're not dealing with our plastic, we're just going to continue to burn it in incinerators and continue to export it. So the full lifecycle of plastics is a really problematic issue, we have to remember that plastic harm, from the moment we dig it out of the ground and extracted as oil to how we produce and manufacture materials, and the chemicals out of that, and to how we use those products, and dispose of them, ultimately, the entire plastic material production chain harm to human health and the environment. And that's not a sustainable business model. And it's not ethical. And we really need to address that. And that's, that's really where intense focus is.
17:54 Wendy: And it's absolutely not sustainable for future generations as well. is it...
18:00 Jane: Absolutely not. We're seeing the effects of plastic on human health. We're seeing increasing incidences of childhood cancers. To me, that's the bottom line, children shouldn't get cancer. And I think that it's indicative of intergenerational exposures. You know, we've seen that with pesticides, pesticides, or are in the same company of petrochemicals and plastics. And we've seen the impacts of pesticides and the intergenerational impacts the children of workers who've used pesticides that have been born disabled, as a result of their parents exposure. We know that endocrine disruption carries on through generations, we know that the chemicals involved in endocrine disruption heavily dominate the plastic industry. So no all of these things and yet we're not. We're not acting.
18:58 Helen: We even know that it alters DNA through animal studies, as far as the scientific literature.
19:06 Jane: Yeah, the petrochemical industry and written the regulators require the burden of proof this causative truth when it comes to acting on on anything. So chemical regulatory system isn't able to respond to the growing public health impacts associated with the industry because we don't monitor. They don't really investigate it. There's really no watchdog. There's really no one monitoring or watching. There's a handful of independent scientists out there. And you might have heard recently, Dr. Shanna Swan alarm about the rising incidence of endocrine disruption and what this is having on future generation work that's been around for 20-30 years already. And here we are, again, talking about the same issues. And they all relate to petrochemicals, endocrine disruption, neuro toxicity, and all of the related health impacts around that. We don't have a regulatory system that responds to that. And in Australia, we're in a really a backwards way, compared to other OECD countries. So we've got a lot of improvements needed in Australia in relation to the regulation of chemicals and plastics, we're actually going backwards at the worst time possible.
20:32 Jane: The problem with this conversation, and the issue is how long is a piece of string is such a huge issue plastic, because it's about oil extraction. It's about dodgy manufacturing. It's about waste disposal. And it's about that entire cumulative adverse impact that has on our health and environment, it's very hard, I find it hard to talk about it in terms of one aspect. Because when I look at a piece of plastic, I see oil now I see oil and chemicals, and I see polluted environments and exploited workers, and exploited communities.
21:09 Wendy: So we know that this scientific evidence shows that limiting our exposure to plastics can make a difference to our health. So what are the key things that you are doing in your lifestyle, to limit your exposure to plastics and what can we all do to limit our exposure to plastic?
21:28 Jane: Well, I think the first thing to do is to recognize that we can live without plastic. So it's just standing in my kitchen the other day, and I I live in an old house in in Perth, Western Australia, and it's old weather board house, and we renovated it and we put in, you know, a new kitchen and a veranda and did a big renovation. And I'm just looking at it and there's no plastic in my kitchen, it is all recycled timber, and aluminium or steel. So I guess what I'm trying to highlight is that the most important thing is to recognize the hazards of plastic and avoid them wherever you can. So if you're going to renovate your house, think about trying to do it without plastic and plastic coating. Think about investing in zero waste policy and choosing recyclable materials that can be given a second life and that have so much embedded in energy in them like recycled timber. When you go to the supermarket, choose to not buy things wrapped in plastic, if you can, it's really hard. But you know there are if you're fortunate enough to be able to go to a fresh growers market, or a wasteless pantry. They're the kind of places if you have if you're able to do that, that's a great choice. I choose to use personal care products and cosmetics without microplastics and low toxicity choose low toxicity all the time. Because plastics and chemicals go hand in hand and you'll often find them together. I choose to grow a lot of my food as well. There are many ways to live a more conscious, zero waste tox free lifestyle is inherently less plastic. So it's just about choice really, I choose not to wrap my produce in plastic, you know, my kids will tell you that there are traumatize them philosophy because philosophy 15 years, they never took me glad back to school and, and you know, now they look back with fond memories about how smart their mother was, but 10 years ago, they were ostracized. So they really simple decisions that we can all make. You just have to think about whether you need to use that plastic, whether you could use a brown paper bag, whether you could use a lunch box that doesn't have any wrapping, whether you can pick your purchases and your your produce without plastic to non chemical, or low tox or chemical plastic free all the time. And you'll be helping your own health and the planet that's special. And they're just simple things, what we eat, how we get access to our food, how we live. You know, there's some things that we can change in our lives and there's some things we can't every time I get in my car, I look at the plastic chemicals embedded and I think you know, this car, the one area where it's very difficult to buy plastic free car, you know, it's very difficult to buy plastic free clothes. You know, for example, it's not an easy thing to live plastic free and I think there's no point guilt, tripping and shaming yourself. We all just do the best that we can because at the end of the day, the plastic problem is, is not the fault or the cause of citizens, despite that narrative being rammed down our throat by global petrochemical corporations all the time that citizens have the power, that's narrative designed to make you feel guilty and to put the blame on to you, while in fact, these huge global corporate companies like Unilever like nestle, they, like Dow Chemicals continue business as usual knowing full well that they're harming human health and the planet by refusing to change their materials production, and eliminate plastics from their processes. So do the best you can. But don't give yourself a guilt trip about it. Because the real problem here with the global plastic pollution problem is the corporations that are making it and driving it. Freedom of Choice only, you know, can go so far around the road.
25:53 Jane: People in Southeast Asia afford to buy little sachets plastic Seta is there. And they're often referred to as pro poor packaging, and there's no difference in Australia. plastic packaging is targeted at the poor, and the people who can least afford to buy the more expensive and harder to find alternative. So it's a difficult question because there's a lot we can do to live a plastic free lifestyle, but I really don't want people listening to think that the plastic pollution problem on our planet is a consumer problem. No doubt consumers play a role, but they're not the cause of the problem. It's the global corporate petrochemical companies that refuse to change and do the right thing when they when they have the power, the money and the reach to do that, it's their responsibility.
26:45 Helen: I'm so glad you pointed that out. Because I completely agree with you that that guilt trip about the consumers being the cause and the drive of the demand. You know, so thank you for speaking more of the truth, and also for, you know, continuing that drive for getting the word out about the truth about plastic and, and the connection between the chemical companies and the plastic companies. It's so intertwined and so interconnected that it's ultimately quite hard to understand.
27:20 Jane: The full lifecycle of plastic is a real eye opener once people really understand it. From from, you know, First Nations people, or First Nations land being dug up, and oil being extracted fracking, LNG, both fossil fuel industries, they are the building blocks of the plastics economy. So the start of the entire plastics economy is about harming First Nations people harming the environment. It's an exploitative model of production. The products that have been made the petrochemical feedstocks that then come from the naptha, that come from the fracking and the LNG, that say the entire chemical manufacturing process and from the basics of plastics, you know that the manufacturing process has a whole load of toxicity and waste issues attached to just the manufacturing part. And there's elements of colonialism in in how that is done, what countries this industry chooses to make these chemicals and produce the plastic, then you've got the end of the line, which is after people have consumed and use these products, they then become waste, and predominantly plastic up until you know quite recently has predominantly been dumped in landfill where it escaped and gets into the environment or is burnt in incinerators. When you burn plastic in incinerators, you release all those toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, they ultimately deposit in the ocean and are taken up by the marine food chain. Where we poison the oceans, we poison the planet, we poison ourselves, it's getting back into the marine food chain. So this is an industry that has a very toxic and powerful footprint on the planet. And we have to remember that all the time that it's not just a bit of plastic that you're choosing to dispose or recycle at the end of the day, that piece of plastic. Took vast amounts of energies and chemicals to get out of the ground to make into that for us to use fleetingly and then to discard and the waste management of that short lived material is then gone in a millisecond in an incinerator. It's an unsustainable linear economy. And it's exactly the kind of systemic linear process that has imperiled the planet. We can't live with this - make waste linear approach anymore, we have to look at circular regenerative systems and start to use those models instead of the fossil fuel dictated linear economy that has captured our planet for the last 50 years, it's really time to change.
30:16 Helen/Wendy: Well, well
30:20 Jane: I got on a bit of a tangent there and thought I'd have a closing comment.
30:24 Helen: No, that's okay. I, I'd go longer than 50 years, but let's not, let's let's just leave that to ponder for a while, it's a lot to take in. And, you know, we do use plastics fleetingly. So taking this conversation, and just thinking about it in our everyday lives is quite a lot to think about, in a way, a lot of ways.
30:48 Jane: In the lifestyle discussion about plastic waste is really dominated. So people are only concerned about what they're going to do that bit of plastic at the end of its life. If people stopped for a minute and thought about how that plastic was made, how land was poisoned, to get the building blocks for that plastic, the indigenous peoples were displaced and their human rights undermined. plastic is not just a bit of plastic plastic has a whole story towards a behind the entire creation, before it even becomes a product or a material, you know that that's sold to the public. I just think if people really understood the full lifecycle impacts of plastic they'd, be more likely to not choose to buy it, then then walk away from it. But people do have a fuel people more electric cars have a huge appetite for it. They want action on climate change. I think once we start to recognize that plastic is part of that fossil fuel story, people are gonna want to move away from it. That's my theory. Anyway, I hope
31:59 Wendy: I absolutely I think you've given our listeners so much to think about and some, as Helen said so much to ponder. It's been absolutely amazing. And there's so much we we probably could speak for hours on all of these, the topics that are involved, but we know your time is valuable. And we really thank you very much for for raising the awareness on all the things that we've talked about in today's conversation. So thank you so much, Jane. We really appreciate it. Thank you.
"I think once we start to recognize that plastic is part of that fossil fuel story, people are going to want to move away from it." -Jane Bremmer
The global problem of pollution, while we all think of it post plastic waste production, the problem actually starts are the raw material production, before plastic production even begins.
Kindly, Jane points out that it's not our fault. The petrochemical industry, the other arm of the fossil fuel industry, hasn't been honest with us about the impact of plastic on human life and how it effects every aspect of our health and our environment.
"I don't think that the petrochemical industry, which is the industry behind the manufacture and production of plastics, which is a fossil fuel based industry, I don't think that they have been honest, all of these years about the real impacts that their plastics and chemicals are having on human health and the planet" -Jane Bremmer
All aspects of our natural environments have been polluted and now it seems almost every organ of our body. Our blog references the science that proves plastic chemicals leach from plastic for it's entire life. And, we've all seen that discarded single-use plastic (often single-use plastic bags or plastic water bottles) breaks down into smaller pieces and we all know that microplastic ingestion becomes a problem for animals and humans alike, which means our entire food chain is affected due to marine plastic debris, air and land pollution with nano and micro plastic particles.
While consumers are mostly responsible for domestic plastic waste the primary industries also have responsibilities. The fishing industry contributes to marine pollution with fishing nets and fishing gear and horticultural industries have a big challenge to find effective waste management of black plastic used to reduce weed growth (Robert Bell had a great hemp solution to this problem). We even have the problem of plastic pollutants leaching from landfill and waste water treatment plants. Plus, the micro plastics that have been deliberately engineered which, unfortunately, Australia is only just phasing out.
"...here we are facing the awful truth that our entire planet, our bodies, our food chains, the air we breathe, the water we drink, every the highest mountain peaks and the deepest ocean trenches are all contaminated with plastics and their particles, whether they're microplastics or nanoplastics." -Jane Bremmer
We are literally surrounded by tonnes of plastic and we don't yet have the equivalent mountains of scientific evidence that is urgently needed to clarify how our health, especially fertility, is being negatively impacted. Jane explains that we do know that the chemical components that give plastic it's stability and prevent it from breaking down in the sun for example, also make it more problematic for our health because they don't break down and instead become what she calls super toxic particles.
"We're exposed to microplastics everywhere. And we know that in the body, the very characteristics that make plastic so useful for us is that they're very stable and don't break down. That represents a really serious issue when it's in our body and these tiny particles can pass into our blood, our organs, the brain, and they can stay there. And that's what science is finding that they stay there and they're not eliminated from the body." -Jane Bremmer
The fact that plastics have been found in placental tissue and umbilical cord lead Jane to conclude, as we did, that regulators will never be able to protect us from plastic, we have to take action ourselves.
"I don't believe the regulators have been doing their job adequately and haven't been assessing for public health and safety and environmental protection." -Jane Bremmer
The micro and nano chemicals that travel through our blood stream and get deposited in the organs, including the brain, become super toxic particles by their ability to become carriers and transmitters of chemicals which makes them seriously for our health and seriously dangerous in our natural environments.
"We know that endocrine disruption carries on through generations, we know that the chemicals involved in endocrine disruption heavily dominate the plastic industry." -Jane Bremmer
These are the toxic chemicals that 'get away' from our current waste management systems, all systems, from the effective waste management to the poor waste management. Recycling plastic is very hard to do due to the chemicals it's made of. Jane encourages to see plastic for what it is - solidified petrochemicals with varying chemical signatures depending on its use.
When considering the whole plastic story, it's seems that while our economy in Australia is dependent on fossil fuel mining and petrochemical industries it is unlikely that the government regulators will ever properly challenge the plastic industry on the narrative of 'there is not enough evidence to point the finger at plastic causing harm to human health' despite the calls from environmental scientists.
"When you speak to the environmental health scientists have been studying petrochemicals for decades, they have a different story. And they tell us that we know that plastic is made from petrochemicals, we know it contains a whole range of chemicals that are known to harm human health, endocrine disrupting chemicals, things like phthalates, which are commonly found in plastic, mercury, persistent organic pollutants, like fluorinated chemicals that are put in there to reduce its susceptibility to catching fire and, and those kinds of things. So plastic, in my mind, it's very simple - plastic is a solidified petrochemical." -Jane Bremmer
In Jane's opinion, the only viable option now is to eliminate plastics and reduce production in every way possible. Especially the type of plastic known as PVC and polystyrene because they can't be easily recycled they end up in waste stream and break down into small pieces making the contamination reach very big.
"We have to remove those toxic substances, we can't be making plastic that we wrap food in, or it has such high consumer contact that contain persistent organic pollutants, selling things that harm human health." -Jane Bremmer
Of course we are very adamant that plastic food packaging should be avoided at all costs, especially for our fresh produce and that along with reducing food waste is the foundation for our product the Fresh Produce Enhancer.
Finally, Jane points out the green washing done by the major corporations who make plastic and products in plastic, such as the famous soft drinks. She points out the these corporations deliberately make consumers feel guilty enough to walk around and pick up their waste, especially plastic bottles. Jane isn't saying that's it's ok for consumers to ignore plastic pollution leaving the ocean environment littered and the marine life with a high probability of plastic ingestion.
Not at all. What she is saying is that as consumers we don't have the ability to change the production of virgin plastic or have the ability to increase the production and safety of recycled material and biodegradable plastic. Jane is calling for the plastics industry to take responsibility of their plastic items, plastic consumption, the types of plastic produced and the effects of plastic.
"In the lifestyle discussion about plastic waste is really dominated. So people are only concerned about what they're going to do that bit of plastic at the end of its life. If people stopped for a minute and thought about how that plastic was made, how land was poisoned, to get the building blocks for that plastic, the indigenous peoples were displaced and their human rights undermined. plastic is not just a bit of plastic plastic has a whole story towards a behind the entire creation, before it even becomes a product or a material, you know that that's sold to the public. I just think if people really understood the full lifecycle impacts of plastic they'd, be more likely to not choose to buy it, then then walk away from it." -Jane Bremmer
We really enjoyed this conversation with Jane and we appreciate her passion for expanding our reality of plastic production to include it's land-based sources of inputs and for encouraging us to expand our conversation on single-use plastics, recycled plastic options, domestic plastic waste management and overall plastic waste management to include the production of the raw ingredients of plastic and the damage to the land and indigenous communities.
After listening to this podcast you'll soon realise that your mental image of plastic pollution with marine plastic debris, marine pollution and ocean pollution restricts your understanding of the scale of the global plastic problem.
Jane Bremmer is based in Western Australia (WA) and has worked for environmental health and justice for more than 20 years. Currently the Zero Waste Australia campaign coordinator for the National Toxics Network, Jane works collaboratively with local, state, national and international ngo’s, experts and researchers to resist incinerators and establish zero waste city models. As a core member of the Break Free From Plastic movement and long term member of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Jane works to address the systemic failures driving the global waste and plastic pollution crisis.
With a strong background in toxics disputes and environmental justice, grounded in her own personal experience living next to ‘WA’s worst toxic site’, Jane works to empower communities to defend their human rights to clean air, water and soil through the principles of ‘community right to know’ and access to independent science and expertise. As such, Jane through NTN, is also a member and works collaboratively with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) representing more than 700 public interest ngos – working for a toxics free future at the highest level with the International Stockholm, Rotterdam and Basel conventions.
Jane coordinates a number of Western Australian local environmental health and justice groups working on air quality protection, toxics, waste management, pesticides and contaminated sites. This work resulted in the establishment of WA’s first ever Contaminated Sites Act. Jane has also served 10 years on the Australian National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) Community Engagement Forum, where major reforms were achieved to assess the large backlog of ‘existing chemicals’ in use in Australia that have not been assessed for human health or environmental impacts.
The protection of children’s health especially is Jane’s key motivation and underpins all her work. She was awarded the Sunday Times Pride of Australia Medal for environmental activism 2007.
Jane pointed out that while the general focus is on ocean plastic pollution in terms of mismanaged plastic waste - what do we do with the plastic items after we've used them? - the problem is far bigger than that. Yes, it's that nano plastic particles and micro pieces of plastic that pollute the entire earth but it's also how virgin plastic is created in the first place, and that is often overlooked.
We hope this episode helps to maintain the momentum behind the plastic 'wake up call'. Jane is adamant that if everyone knew plastic started with fracking, liquid natural gas and oil then everyone would be more concerned about finding ways to live without plastic than they are about plastic waste management.