Pollution and waste are the ever-present byproducts of rampant industrial development and overconsumption.
We are contaminating our air, soil, and water with little regard for our environment. Those who hold polluters accountable remind us that our patterns of production and consumption must fundamentally change, as must the ways in which we manage and dispose of our waste.
Everyone needs to start thinking about waste. Every time you make a purchase, challenge yourself to go further down the value chain.
Goldman Prize Winners awarded for Pollution & Waste
In December 2019, Diane Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies, for the illegal dumping of toxic plastic waste on Texas’ Gulf Coast. The $50 million settlement is the largest award in a citizen suit against an industrial polluter in the history of the US Clean Water Act. As a part of the settlement, Formosa Plastics agreed to reach “zero-discharge” of plastic waste from its Point Comfort factory, pay penalties until discharges cease, and fund remediation of affected local wetlands, beaches, and waterways.
In the aftermath of disastrous oil spills in Nigeria, environmental lawyer Chima Williams worked with two communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for the resultant widespread environmental damage. On January 29, 2021, the Court of Appeal of the Hague ruled that not only was Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary responsible for the oil spills, but, as parent company, Royal Dutch Shell also had an obligation to prevent the spills. This is the first time a Dutch transnational corporation has been held accountable for the violations of its subsidiary in another country, opening Shell to legal action from communities across Nigeria devastated by the company’s disregard for environmental safety.
Concerned about the environmental harm caused by mounting plastic pollution in Malawi, Gloria Majiga-Kamoto fought the plastics industry and galvanized a grassroots movement in support of a national ban on thin plastics, a type of single-use plastic. As a result of her dedicated campaigning, in July 2019, Malawi’s High Court upheld the ban on the production, importation, distribution, and use of thin plastics. This is the first Prize for Malawi.
Drawing on the power of youth activism, Kristal Ambrose convinced the government of the Bahamas to ban single-use plastic bags, plastic cutlery, straws, and Styrofoam containers and cups. Announced in April 2018, the nationwide ban went into effect in January 2020.
Manny Calonzo spearheaded an advocacy campaign that persuaded the Philippine government to enact a national ban on the production, use, and sale of lead paint. He then led the development of a third-party certification program to ensure that paint manufacturers meet this standard. As of 2017, 85% of the paint market in the Philippines has been certified as lead safe.
Uroš Macerl, an organic farmer from Slovenia, successfully stopped a cement kiln from co-incinerating petcoke with hazardous industrial waste by rallying legal support from fellow Eko Krog activists and leveraging his status as the only citizen allowed to challenge the plant’s permits.
Partners in Pollution & Waste
The Goldman Prize is honored to partner with a variety of environmental organizations around the world, each of them united in the goal of protecting our planet. From our nominating partners to global organizations to grassroots NGOs led by Prize winners, they are all essential parts of the environmental community.