Since Plaine Products started in 2017 we have participated in the Plastic Free July movement. Over the years, we have suggested 100s changes and swaps to eliminate single-use plastics. This year, we are shifting our focus and looking at Plastic Free July through a different lens.
Over the past few weeks, we, like so many others, have been listening more and learning more about the injustices towards BIPOC and looking for ways that we can help. Plaine Products is dedicated to the elimination of single-use plastics and dedicated to a better environment for everyone. As environmental activists, we recognize that environmental and climate justice can not come without social justice.
This July, we will be shifting our Plastic Free July efforts from ways to reduce single-use plastic waste every day to supporting and highlighting the work of environmental justice organizations, specifically around plastics.
First up, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and their fight against Formosa.
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is a nonprofit environmental health and justice organization working with communities that neighbor Louisiana’s oil refineries and chemical plants. There are 200 petrochemical plants between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. They are fighting to free these neighborhoods from industrial pollution and to hold the petrochemical industry and the government accountable for the true costs of pollution.
Right now they are teaming up with Rise St. James and the St. James Parish community to fight what might be the largest yet proposed petrochemical industrial facility. The Formosa Plastics Group plans to build a nearly 2,500 acre, $9.4-billion plastics factory known as the Sunshine Project. It is estimated that the factory will dump 28 million tons of air pollution annually. This plant is part of the fossil fuel industry’s push to turn an oversupply of fracked natural gas into more single-use plastic.
And they’re planning to build it in an area known as “Cancer Alley”.
Since the 1980s, polluting industrial plants have been operating along an 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River. The communities along this stretch of land are predominantly comprised of African American residents. These African American communities are exposed to toxic pollutants from more than 150 plants and refineries, and at a rate much higher than affluent white communities. After numerous cases of cancer, many inexplicable illnesses and deaths, the corridor has become known as Cancer Alley.
And the new Formosa plastic plant will only make it worse. A true case of environmental racism.
According to an investigation by ProPublica, emissions from the new plastics plant will more than triple residents’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. The plant will double the region’s toxic air emissions, and spew more than 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air each year. Residents of St. James Parish, who already live within a 16-kilometer radius of 12 petrochemical facilities, have an above-average cancer rate and are frequently subject to boil-water advisories. – Hakai Magazine
In a perfect world, a plastics producing plant wouldn’t be needed nor profitable. And yet the petrochemicals industry plans to continue building these toxic, polluting factories. Plastic production has boomed over the last 50 years and is on a trajectory to triple by 2050. The proposed Formosa plant would turn fracked gas into plastic pellets used to make throwaway plastic products like bags, utensils, and straws. Only a significant decrease in our demand for plastic, coupled with fighting for accountability on the pollution and damage they cause, can change these plans.
The Formosa plastic plant will not only sicken the surrounding community with its toxic emissions. It will also make St. James Parish and the Gulf Coast much more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
What You Can Do
For more information, here are a number of articles to read (and many more can be found on the LA Bucket Brigade website):
- “This Plastic Mega-Factory Is a $10 Billion Bet on a Single-Use Future”
- What Could Happen if a $9.4 Billion Chemical Plant Comes to “Cancer Alley”
- Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’ Is Getting Even More Toxic — But Residents Are Fighting Back
This is the first of our “Plastic Free July 2020 – Thru a Different Lens” series. Check back each week to help take a stand for environmental justice.