Along the coastline of Switzerland in April 2019, the small boat lovingly named ‘Beluga II’ sailed by Nestle Headquarters. It was not uncommon for boats to drift past its headquarters, after all, it is right up against the ocean. But this was no ordinary sea vessel. On its deck laid a 20ft sea monster made of plastic. Specifically, it was a monster made from the plastic of Nestle products. This sea monster would not be alone: all around the world, plastic monsters would invade Nestle’s various corporate offices and factories. In a blog post on their website in March 2019, Greenpeace declared: “We’re going to ship this plastic monster back to where it was created.” But why?

As a part of the #breakfreefromplastic movement, Greenpeace organized peaceful protests around the world in which activists installed giant plastic monsters on Nestle property and demanded the stop of single use plastic. In the Philippines, a plastic serpent sculpture was carried by protestors to Nestle’s Philippine headquarters, who additionally delivered them an invoice for damages against the Filipino people and the environment. Outside of Nestle’s US headquarters in Virginia, activists installed a 15ft trash monster and protested right in front of the office’s entrance, as did activists at the headquarters in Kenya. In Italy, activists protested at a Pellegrino plant, which is one of the many properties that the Nestle conglomerate owns. Similar protests were enacted at headquarters in Poland, Canada, Malaysia, and Mexico. For a while as well, these monsters were even trending on social media, spreading the protest beyond Nestle grounds and into the virtual space.

In a report released by the Ellen MacArthur foundation, Nestle was sited as one of the top plastic producers in the world, next to brands like Coca-Cola and SC Johnson, in addition to being one of the world’s largest food producers in the world. The amount of single use plastic they produce for their food products is beyond comprehensible: over 1.7 million tons per year, with those numbers increasing. While throwing away and even recycling single use plastic seems harmless, the various, long-lasting effects it has on the environment and human health cannot be understated. Plastic outlives us, taking hundreds of years to break down. The worst part is, that is technically doesn’t break down, rather it is breaking apart into microplastics, which end up in our soil, waters, and animals, and even make their way into the human diet. Plastics interrupt the human endocrine system, causing hormonal imbalances and for some kinds of plastics, increases our risk for cancer. Additionally, the production of plastic contributes to the ever-growing amount of greenhouse gases that are released into our atmosphere every year. It is for these reasons and many more that Greenpeace activists found it necessary to speak up in protest.

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Lauren Holliday

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