Jun 15, 2019

Big Oil doubles down on recycling

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Companies across the plastic supply chain are unifying around lofty plans to fix the world’s abysmal recycling record as a way to simultaneously protect their profits and respond to growing pressure.

Driving the news: More than two dozen companies, including ExxonMobil and Procter & Gamble, formed a coalition earlier this year seeking to pour more than $1 billion into increasing recycling.

  • Trade groups are also ramping up lobbying to oppose plastic restrictions, WSJ recently reported, arguing that alternatives can be worse.

One level deeper: The new coalition cites 2017 peer-reviewed research that found at least 88% of plastics in rivers — which that report says accounts for “a substantial fraction” of all marine plastic — come from just 10 rivers. These rivers are mostly in Asia, so the coalition is initially focused on partnering with cities in Southeast Asia to build out recycling infrastructure to stem the plastic waste in those regions, according to a spokesperson.

Where it stands: Oil companies are increasing investments in petrochemicals — building blocks of plastics — to offset anticipated demand decline elsewhere, especially transportation. To what degree the world restricts plastics could eat into the industry’s growth plans.

  • 70% of global oil demand growth by 2040 is anticipated to be used mostly for plastics, according to an annual energy outlook BP issued earlier this year.
  • In a first, the company modeled oil demand under a worldwide ban on single-use plastics. It would roughly cut in half the growth of oil demand over the next two decades.
  • Production, use and export of ethane, a component of natural gas, has increased significantly in recent years, driven by America’s oil and gas boom. Ethane is the single largest feedstock (raw material) for petrochemicals used in plastics.
  • ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabian-based SABIC got final approval earlier this week to build in Texas what will be one of the world’s largest facility processing ethane.

The other side: Environmentalists say industry’s focus on recycling reinforces the world’s plastic dependency and unfairly shifts attention to waste management.

"They could address it in very fundamental ways, by making commitments to reduce the amount of plastics being produced and reduce what it's being used for," said Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law, an environmental nonprofit.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: Cases surge past 720,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 33,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 19 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 718,685 — Total deaths: 33,881 — Total recoveries: 149,076.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 139,675 — Total deaths: 2,436 — Total recoveries: 2,661.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump says his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump says peak coronavirus deaths in 2 weeks, extends shutdown

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors.

Driving the news: With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health