FRANCE – French multinational food-products corporation, Danone, has strongly refuted allegations of plastic mega pollution by several non-governmental organizations.

Three environmental groups ClientEarth, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and Zero Waste France have filed a lawsuit against the world-leading food company whose annual sales top more than €24bn (US$25.8bn) over its global plastic pollution, in the Paris Tribunal Judiciaire.

The French ‘Duty of Vigilance’ law demands that companies over a certain size assess and prevent the impacts their operations have on the environment and human rights, via a ‘vigilance plan’.

The groups argue that Danone is not doing enough to reduce its plastic footprint – failing to live up to its duties under the law.

 Back in September, the groups had formally put Danone on notice, allowing the company to rectify its ‘vigilance plan’.

The company replied to the formal notice letter, but the three NGOs argue the response was insufficient and did not adequately address their demands.

According to the groups, Danone should map the impacts its use of plastics has on the environment, climate, health, and human rights from production to end-of-life; provide a complete assessment of its plastic footprint, including plastics used in producing the products it sells, plastics used in logistics and promotions and plastic packaging; and put together a ‘deplastification’ plan with quantified and dated objectives and act on it.

The group said Danone’s ‘vigilance plan’ is completely silent on plastics, yet the company is amongst the top 10 biggest plastic polluters globally.

In 2021, Danone used more than 750,000 tonnes of plastics for its packaging–the equivalent of almost 75 Eiffel towers–which is even more than it did in 2020, the group said, contrary to the company’s statement that it did cut plastic -12% at a global level (-60,000 tons) between 2018 and 2021.

ClientEarth plastics lawyer Rosa Pritchard said: “Danone is trudging ahead without a serious plan to deal with plastics, despite clear concern from climate and health experts and consumers, and a legal obligation to face up to the issue.

“It continues to rely on single-use plastic packaging in the hopes that recycling will miraculously deal with the flood of plastics it puts on the market. But recycling is a limited solution as only 9% of plastics ever made have been recycled. It’s unrealistic for food giants like Danone to pretend to recycle is the silver bullet.

“It’s 2023 and high time Danone started implementing proper solutions such as refill and reuse beyond a few pilots to give consumers real access to a sustainable model. It needs to deplastify now.”

Responding to the claims, Danone’s spokesperson said: “We are very surprised by this accusation, which we strongly refute. Danone has long been recognized as a pioneer in environmental risk management, and we remain fully committed and determined to act responsibly.

“We are implementing a comprehensive framework of actions aimed at reducing the use of plastic, developing reuse, strengthening collection and recycling schemes, and developing alternative materials. We have already made significant progress on each of these fronts, particularly on plastic reduction.”

The next steps in the court case will be determined by a judge in an initial hearing in the next couple of months.

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