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Deconstructing Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark's latest plastics initiative

Deconstructing Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark latest plastics initiative

plastic bottle ocean
In a few years, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Packaging Insights

Kimberly-Clark, the Dallas-ish (Irving, really) company that makes personal care products such as Kleenex, Cottonelle, and Huggies, has signed on a biotech company to help it reduce the use of fossil fuel-based plastics.

Kimberly-Clark is partnering with RWDC, a biotech company based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Singapore which has created a trademarked product that they say is marine degradable.

According to a release, the goal is to find a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic, and the company is giving itself a forgiving timeline: to reduce the use of plastics by half, by 2030. No need to rush into this.

RWDC has a "biopolymer" product called Solon. It's a polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) — a polyester made from plant oils — that represents a potential replacement for petro-chemical products with some of the same characteristics as regular plastic.

According to RWDC, Solon is "biovanescent" – a word they coined to describe materials that decompose into water and carbon. Solon can be composted and biodegrades in soil, water, and marine settings.

The big problem with PHAs — and surely one reason Kimberly-Clark is giving itself all the way until 2030 to reduce its plastic output by only half — is that they're expensive.

Plastic facts
In a statement, Kimberly-Clark VP Liz Metz says, "We've seen the growing demand from consumers and governments for companies to provide more sustainable solutions to single-use plastics."

It was in the 1960s that plastic debris in the oceans was first observed, and an environmental movement started growing.

In 1997, the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," the world's largest collection of floating garbage, was first discovered.

In 2008, Greenpeace issued a report on Kimberly-Clark's "legacy of environmental devastation" including destructive logging in Canada's Boreal Forest and its use of trees from virgin rainforests, which Kimberly-Clark claimed it was not doing.

The ocean contains an estimated 150 million tons of plastic, with 8 million tons added annually, or the equivalent to a garbage truck load every minute.

A 2016 study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicted that oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. (The 2021 film Seaspiracy has some interesting information about plastics in the ocean.)

Kicking the can
Polluting corporations evade regulation by creating various phony initiatives and "solutions" to distract consumers and governments so they can continue to pollute.

Kimberly-Clark has deployed many such double-speak initiatives such as its "Sustainability 2022" strategy that included a Huggies campaign in Latin America, which would "grow its potential global impact by nearly two million babies and young children across 16 countries."

Metz says that the company "aims to be a leader in driving innovative solutions that address plastic pollution," but look to the italics for its abdication.

"When combining breakthrough innovation with consumer education on the increasing number of organic recycling options, we also provide a way for Kimberly-Clark and its consumers to solve the problem of plastics in the environment together," she says.