Facebook, fact-checking and the plastics-climate debate

Facebook, fact-checking and the plastics-climate debate

It might not quite reach the same level as an online friendship outburst about voter fraud, but the plastics are officially part of Facebook’s (dis)information wars.

The famous PolitiFact journalism group on May 26 weighed on the American Chemistry Council’s Facebook posts, declaring the ACC’s claims about the role of plastics in climate change “half true”.

PolitiFact said it wanted to investigate ACC statements it found “puzzling”.

ACC, on its American plastic manufacturers website and social media feeds, argued that “using plastics in packaging and consumer products can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to many alternative materials.”

PolitiFact, which is operated by the journalism-focused Poynter Institute, said the post was flagged as part of its partnership with Facebook to “combat fake news and misinformation on its News Feed”.

Well, that certainly puts the plastics and climate debate into a high-octane business. The PolitiFact research is sandwiched between fact checks on the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, formula shortages and whether CNN reported that Rice Krispies added a transgender mascot.

(OK, on ​​that last one, glad everyone is still grounded in reality!)

If you’ve been following the plastics and climate debates, you’ve probably heard these arguments before, and you’ve probably noticed that over the past year, the mentions have really increased.

For one thing, some studies have shown that plastics can have a lower overall greenhouse gas impact than other types of packaging.

And good packaging of any type has valuable benefits, like keeping food fresh longer and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from growth by forcing consumers or retailers to throw away spoiled food.

But plastics are also overwhelmingly made from fossil fuel feedstocks, and the material lags behind in recycling, using recycled content, and is nearly circular, compared to other packaging materials. It’s not sustainable in the long term.

PolitiFact’s report is detailed. He describes his process here, and refers to the reports of both sides. He quotes an ACC spokesperson and interviewed a Stanford University professor who urges reuse.

Ultimately, the ACC claim is said to be “half true” because it lacks context.

“It is true that some studies have shown that plastic packaging is less harmful to the environment than alternatives such as glass and paper, but this does not negate the negative impact of plastics on human health and the environment. sailor,” PolitiFact said.

“Instead of evaluating what packaging to use, the researchers said the focus should be on increasing recycling and reuse practices. The subject is more complicated than the message suggests. true.”

The group defines half-true as “the statement is partially accurate but omits important details or takes things out of context”.

It will certainly not be the last word on plastics and climate change.

When I asked the ACC for a reaction, officials had a muted response: “While the production of all materials has impacts, researchers have found that the use of plastic in packaging and consumption can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to many alternative materials.”

The PolitiFact report is an unbiased round-trip review, though I think you could come to the same conclusion on many topics that have a lot of nuance, like plastics.

After all, each group will present the facts and studies that support their case and minimize other information.

But the fact that a leading organization like PolitiFact has chosen to take an interest in it shows how environmental concerns related to plastics will obviously continue to feature prominently in public debate.