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California zeroes in on ExxonMobil during plastics pollution investigation

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California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta has issued a subpoena to energy giant ExxonMobil as part of an investigation into the oil industry’s alleged role in plastic pollution.

Mr Bonta’s office said the company was “a major source of global plastics pollution,” and claimed that the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have “aggressively promoted the development of oil-based plastic products and campaigned to minimise the public’s understanding of the harmful consequences of these products.”

The AG’s statement referred to plastic production as a “significant source of greenhouse gas emissions” and added that plastic waste is polluting California waters and injuring the state’s wildlife.

ExxonMobil and the Western Plastics Association, a trade association, did not immediately comment, and the Western State Petroleum Association, another trade association, declined comment, according to the Associated Press.

The news organisation states that the American Chemistry Council, a trade group, offered a statement saying that US “plastic makers are committed to a more sustainable future and have proposed comprehensive and bold actions at the state, federal, and international levels."

The group said it is in favor of measures like requiring packaging to include at least 30 per cent recycled content and a global agreement to address the issue.

Plastics are a group of man-made materials often originating in part from fossil fuels such as natural gas. Plastic waste has ended up all over the world, including “microplastics” — tiny bits of plastic waste — which have been found as far as the oceans surrounding Antarctica.

Just last month, representatives from 175 countries signed on to a United Nations resolution calling for an international treaty addressing global plastic pollution by 2025.

The resolution states that “the high and rapidly increasing levels of plastic pollution represent a serious environmental problem at a global scale.”

Just today, a group of researchers published a letter in the journal Science saying that such a treaty should limit, and eventually phase out, new plastic production.

AP contributed to this report

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