5 years after its launch, our Plastic Health campaign has been a success. As many of you know, on March 31st, the Congress of Deputies approved the State Law on Waste and Contaminated Soil which included the prohibition of Bisphenol-A and phthalates in food packaging.
Rezero, as always, was there, pushing and insisting until the last minute. Today we want to share our success story. We want to make you part of our work, of which today we feel so proud. And we want to invite you to support Rezero because, with your contribution, we will be able to continue carrying out campaigns like this one, and to achieve new challenges and, without a doubt, new successes.
– the history –
While chef Carme Ruscalleda spoke at the round table, among the audience, Rosa García, Rezero’s general director, and Anna Peña, communications director, stirred in their chairs and whispered: Shall we dare?
When the event ended, they looked at each other and knew that they would not let the opportunity slip away. As if they were fans looking to take a photo with the celebrity on duty, they slipped through the crowd to reach the side of the stage, where Ruscalleda chatted animatedly with the rest of the speakers. Then, before the astonished gaze of the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food and the President of Parliament, Rosa jumped in:
-Excuse me, Carme, but we’d like to ask you for a urine sample.
She was not the first person to whom they had made such a request, and they had a good reason for it. They wanted people to know to what extent we ingest toxic substances due to the plasticization of food. It was not a blind intuition of Rezero’s team. For years the scientific community has warned that certain components of plastics, such as Bisphenol A and phthalates, migrate from the containers to the food they contain. And from there they pass into our bodies.
It is easy to guess that nothing good can come out of this plastic presence in our body. Numerous studies identify these components as endocrine disruptors and associate them with various alterations, such as damage to the development of the reproductive system, neurodevelopmental disorders, metabolic diseases or increased risk of some hormone-linked cancers.
Carme Ruscalleda was immediately enthusiastic about the project. Rezero wanted to test the urine of several people with public screening to get more impact when the results were released. The first step was to convince people like Ruscalleda herself, singer Macaco, painter Miquel Barceló or La Pegatina’s lead voice Rubén Sierra.
Once the collaborators were encouraged, the urine samples collection needed to be coordinated. And it was not easy. The samples need to be kept in special conditions and this task was coordinated by Rezero’s Raül Paniagua. Most of the cups were kept in our team’s freezers before being sent to the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute’s laboratory, whom were commissioned the scientific supervision of the entire process. Once all the samples were collected, they were flown to Norway, where there is one of the only two laboratories in the world where they analyse, at €300 per sample, the presence of certain toxic substances in urine.
When the reports came in, feelings in Rezero’s office were mixed. On the one hand, the concern about the results: no sample contained less than 20 compounds of the 27 analyzed. On the other hand, the satisfaction of verifying the importance of the proposal. With the results in hand, these needed to be communicated urgently. It was necessary to force a regulatory change that would put our health above economic interests. And to bring about this change, it was a priority to make citizens aware of what was happening.
Fortunately, Rezero had the complicity of journalists from numerous media outlets. Professionals who knew how to understand and communicate the seriousness of what they were exposing. The images, videos and texts circulated like wildfire through social networks. Thanks to Zero Waste Europe, the campaign, which had started in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, was replicated in 7 European countries.
Rezero had devised it, coordinated it and had assumed the expenses. Carme Ruscalleda and all the rest of the participants had contributed their urine, their image and their messages. The media had spread the word. But once the information was shared and the concern spread, it was more necessary than ever to get the political class to take action on the matter. There was not time to stop.
Rezero clearly saw from the outset that the drafting of the new state waste law was an opportunity that had to be seized. Until then, the waste discourse had not included the health vector, but they managed to make a common flag with other organizations to introduce the problem of toxic substances in the debate. Through consensus statements, press releases and meetings with political parties, it seemed that they had achieved it: the version approved in the Congress of Deputies in the first instance introduced the prohibition of bisphenol A and phthalates in food packaging. Political representatives had chosen to protect the health of citizens.
But they were not the only organizations that wanted to influence the new regulation. The Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Industries pressed to drop the ban and, when the new law passed through the Senate, they succeeded: PP presented an amendment in this sense and PSOE supported it. Economic interests won.
However, Rezero did not contemplate the option of giving up. The «Senate of Spain, here is my urine!» campaign- which had the support of entities, citizens and progressive senators- raised awareness of what was about to be lost and conveyed citizens’ discontent to the senators. But in the version of the law approved in the upper house, the ban on bisphenol-A and phthalates had fallen. It seemed that the cause was lost.
Still there were new meetings, new statements and many calls. It was necessary to remember, once again, that when the health of citizens is at stake, time cannot be wasted and even less so give in to pressure from companies.
When the day of the final vote in Congress arrived, on March 30th, there was enough uncertainty to leave room for hope. Rosa was following the session’s broadcast, fiddling with her headphone’s wires, and reporting to the rest of the team. Until finally, a pact between parties promoted by Unidas Podemos was announced that approved the ban.
The office was a party. A party where there were moments to remember everything that had happened to get here, like the day that two women approached Carme Ruscalleda to ask for her urine. A party where the need was felt to share joy and satisfaction with all the people who know Rezero.
5 years of teamwork, 80 urine samples, 7 countries involved and an infinite number of calls, meetings and publications have served to tip the balance of the new Waste Law by eliminating Bisphenol-A and phthalates. At last, Plastic Health will soon be history.
Today more than ever, we are proud of our work and the consequences we have generated for society.
That is why we ask for your support. Help us to continue working with campaigns like this one, to face new challenges, to achieve new successes.