Recently over at The Guardian, a story on Procter & Gamble facilities achieving “zero waste” was published with much fanfare. I say bollocks. Here’s why.
Procter & Gamble manufacture many of the world’s most popular personal care and household products: Crest, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Pantene, and Tampax, to name a few. They are also the manufacturer of Gillette razors, both the “refillable” kind and the single-use disposable version. The company’s Gillette factory – the World Shaving Headquarters – located in Boston, Massachusetts, was one of the sites in The Guardian story that had recently achieved zero waste status. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, “Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.”
“…designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials,”
This part of the Alliance’s statement is of special note. If Zero Waste is to mean that a company manages their product to avoid and eliminate waste, wouldn’t one think that said company would thereby not be contributing to the massive amount of waste and trash sent to landfills each and every day around the globe?
Some of P&G products are not only full of toxic chemicals but a few of them are actually designed and made to be thrown away after a single use. P&G’s disposable plastic razors, manufactured by a unit of the company with a facility that has achieved zero waste, accounts for billions upon billions of pieces of plastic that will sit in landfills for the next 1,000 years.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, around 2 billion disposable razors are tossed into the trash each year – in the U.S. alone. How many get tossed worldwide and how is that zero waste?
Sure, some of P&G’s facilities have cubicles where employees have given up individual trash bins in favor of a centralized waste station, as mentioned in The Guardian’s article. And some of the lunch leftovers are composted on-site. But while they have cleaned up their act on the work floor, and made sure to send out press releases heralding this fact, their actions outside the manufacturing plant tell a different story. The company is still profiting from manufacturing tons and tons of plastic waste and toxic products for the world to clean up.
There are 4.6 billion people around the world using P&G products; the amount of waste coming from that use trumps taking away individual trash cans and composting food scraps at a few facilities. Let’s call a spade a spade – this is greenwashing. Instead of taking on the change and evolution of their actual products, P&G has taken the easy way out and called it a day with a press release and some news coverage.
I offered The Guardian this here article for publication on their site but was told by their editor that…
Balance is key our site, which is why I asked you to write the piece. But we are also a solutions oriented site. I share your frustrations with large companies and would much prefer that P&G would stop selling hundreds of millions of wasteful items & creating desires and ‘needs’ for things we don’t need. The reality is that they won’t. They are locked into a system which they are neither prepared nor in a position to break.
So basically, because The Guardian believes companies will never change, they won’t run an article pointing out how wasteful disposable razors are… even after they themselves published a piece praising P&G for putting trash cans in central locations on campus. Balanced? I think not.
We deserve and can do better, we just have to demand it. And we have to hold these media organizations to higher standards rather than just allowing them to greenwash us all.
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