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Danone sued by NGOs for plastic pollution

NGOs want a judge to force French yogurt and water bottler multinational Danone to break its addiction to plastic, which often fails in the wild, in an appeal consulted on Monday by AFP. ClientEarth, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste France are demanding that Danone be ordered to plan a “deplasticisation trajectory”, or get out of plastic, judging its efforts insufficient. “We are aware that this cannot be done overnight, but it must start today,” Antidia Citores, spokeswoman for the NGO coalition, pleaded with AFP. The organizations are launching this procedure in France on the basis of a 2017 law on the “duty of vigilance”, which obliges large French companies to ensure respect for fundamental human rights and the environment down to their suppliers throughout the world. This “vigilance duty” is increasingly used by associations to sue large groups and publicize controversial activities: TotalEnergies for an oil project in Uganda and Tanzania, EDF for a wind project in Mexico, Suez in 2021 for management his water in a city in Chile. , BNP Paribas to finance new oil and gas projects… Danone was first officially announced at the end of September by the coalition of NGOs, at the same time as eight giants of the food and distribution industry (Auchan, Carrefour, Lactalis, etc.) The coalition has only called Danone, a later stage of the procedure that paves the way for a hearing before the Paris court. “The dialogue is still ongoing with the others (companies). It is not excluded that they will also be responsible before French justice,” one of the NGO’s lawyers, Sébastien Mabile, told AFP. Danone drops the ball, NGOs say, especially because the group does not mention plastic pollution in its “vigilance plan” even though it is among the ten biggest “plastic polluters” in the world, after Coca Cola, Pepsico or Nestle, according to the movement “To get rid of plastic”. Danone said it was “very surprised” by the approach, in a response to AFP. The company, which mainly produces yogurt of the same name and bottled water (Volvic, Evian or Aqua in Indonesia), considers itself “long known as a pioneering company in the management of environmental risks”. The company claims to implement a “comprehensive framework of actions aimed at reducing the use of plastic, developing reuse, contributing to the strengthening of collection and recycling channels so that plastic stays out of nature and developing research on alternative materials. – The elimination of plastic at source – Danone (100,000 employees, more than 24 billion euros in annual turnover) used nearly 751,000 tons of plastic in 2021, according to its latest annual report. The group has set itself the goal of designing packaging that is “100% recyclable , reusable or compostable” by 2025. NGOs accuse it of betting on recycling its packaging instead of dealing with the problem at source by reducing the use of plastic, in favor of returning bottles for example. “Recycled plastic doesn’t stop you from having plastic at the bottom of the ocean,” summarizes Ms. Citores. She also regrets that the group buys – for example bull for baby food Blédina – vegetables that have been grown under plastic greenhouses, molded with polypropylene. More broadly, activists demand that the “extremely severe environmental damage” resulting from his activities cease, Me Mabile points out. The objective, he adds, is to “put the issue of plastics on the agenda of companies on the same level as the issue of climate”, so that they reduce their plastic footprint in the same way as their carbon footprint. The international community, under the auspices of the UN, has started negotiations aimed at developing a treaty by 2024 to combat plastic pollution, very difficult discussions. Danone states that it supports the establishment of a “global binding plastic treaty on a global scale”, evoking a “systemic challenge impossible to be solved by a single company”. myl/bl/ico/LyS

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