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Danone sued by NGOs over plastic pollution

NGOs want a judge to force French multinational yoghurt and water bottle company Danone to kick its plastic addiction that often backfires in the wild, in a summons AFP consulted on Monday. ClientEarth, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste France are calling for Danone to be condemned to plan a “deplasticization trajectory”, i.e. the exit from plastic, judging its efforts insufficient. “We know full well that this cannot be done overnight, but it has to start today,” pleaded AFP Antidia Citores, spokeswoman for the NGO coalition. The organizations are starting this procedure in France on the basis of a 2017 law, on the “duty of vigilance”, which obliges large French companies to guarantee respect for fundamental human rights and the environment up to their suppliers from all over the world. This “duty of vigilance” 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 its water management in a city in Chile , BNP Paribas for the financing of new oil and gas projects… Danone was formalized for the first time at the end of September by the coalition of NGOs, together with eight giants of the food and distribution industry (Auchan , Carrefour, Lactalis, etc.) The coalition has only summoned Danone, a later stage of the proceedings which paves the way for the hearing before the Paris court. “The dialogue is still ongoing with the other (companies). It is not excluded that they too will have to answer to French justice,” one of the NGO lawyers, Sébastien Mabile, told AFP. . Danone opens the ball, NGOs say, in particular 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, behind Coca Cola, Pepsico or Nestlé , according to the “Break free from plastic” movement. Danone said it was “very surprised” by the approach, in reaction to AFP. The company, which notably produces yogurt of the same name and bottled water (Volvic, Evian or Aqua in Indonesia), considers itself “long recognized as a pioneer in environmental risk management”. The company says it implements a “comprehensive framework of actions to reduce plastic use, develop reuse, help strengthen collection and recycling channels so plastics stay out of nature, and develop research on alternative materials – Eliminate plastic at the source – Danone (100,000 employees, over 24 billion euros in annual turnover) used almost 751,000 tonnes of plastic in 2021, according to its latest annual report.The group has set itself the goal of design “100% recyclable, reusable or compostable” packaging by 2025. Bottles for example. “Recycled plastic does not prevent having plastic on the ocean floor”, summarizes Ms. Citores. She also regrets that the group buys – for example for little Blédina’s meals – vegetables grown under plastic greenhouses, mulched with polypropylene.More generally, the activists are calling for an end to the “very serious damage to environmental” arising from its activities, underlines Me Mabile. The goal, he adds, is “to put the plastic issue on the corporate agenda at the same level as the climate issue”, so that they reduce their plastic footprint in the same way as their carbon footprint. . The international community, under the aegis of the UN, has started negotiations aimed at developing a treaty by 2024 to combat plastic pollution, very difficult discussions. Danone says it supports the establishment of a “comprehensive binding plastics treaty on a global scale”, evoking a “systemic challenge that is impossible for a single company to solve”. myl/bl/ico/LyS

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