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Exxon lobbyist tells undercover activist company sees plastic as ‘growing business’

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A senior ExxonMobil lobbyist unknowingly told a Greenpeace activist that plastic disposal and recycling will be a “big business” for petrochemical firms.

Keith McCoy, who was earlier recorded saying energy companies fought against “some of the science” on climate change, told a producer with the Greenpeace-affiliated group Unearthed that “all of our petrochemical facilities that we have retooled … are all towards plastics.”

“We see that as a big business, a growing business, but the issue is going to be disposal and recycling of plastics,” McCoy said in the clip, which first aired on the environmentalist “Drilled” podcast. “And it garnered a lot of attention in Congress, the American Chemistry Council, they’ve been working on it almost exclusively … because they’re talking about banning plastics and a lot of it has to do with plastics in oceans and waterways.”

Asked if Exxon is concerned about potential plastics bans, McCoy responded that the issue was “twofold,” adding that “an outright ban on plastics probably is not feasible.”

However, he added that “smart” policymakers seeking to tout their environmental records will likely bring the issue to the forefront, adding, “l fully expect [President] Biden to start talking about this soon.”

“I think they’ll start talking about this in relation to environmental justice because you can bring it all together under one umbrella from an environmental protection agency perspective,” he said, particularly if the topic of conversation turns to how such plastics affect waterways and disadvantaged communities.

“I’ve always said you control the debate if you have the paper, so if they produce the paper you can control the debate, you can start to say this is how we think this legislation should look and er, that bill that you have over there, here’s our paper of why that won’t work,” McCoy added.

“We’ve done the research, we have the scientists, we have the companies that have been doing this for you know, 100 years,” he continued. “This is why we think our paper works better than your paper. So then you can start having those conversations and … it’s extremely effective in terms of pushing away bad legislation.”

In a statement, an Exxon spokesperson told The Hill that the company “shares society’s concern about plastic waste in the environment and agrees it must be addressed.”
“Plastic waste in the environment is part of a larger issue related to global waste management infrastructure. At least 3 billion people worldwide lack access to controlled waste disposal facilities,” the spokesperson added.
“We are taking action to address plastic waste in the environment by increasing plastic recyclability and supporting improvements in plastic waste recovery – for example, through our founding membership in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.”
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee called on McCoy to testify after the release of the initial recordings in July.

This story was updated Aug. 6 at 9:14 a.m.

Tags Exxon Greenpeace Plastic pollution Plastic recycling Recycling

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