Protesters call out Gap Inc. for plastic waste pollution

Around a dozen protesters gathered outside Gap Inc.’s Embarcadero headquarters Friday to speak out against the company’s practice of discarding large numbers of plastic hangers.

The protest at Rincon Park was organized by Jackson Dumas, a 19-year-old former Old Navy employee, and Carson Philbin, 19, who published a video on Youtube on July 31 about the disposal of hangers at Old Navy, one of the Gap’s affiliated companies.

The video was later pushed by Dan Mace, a video producer from New York with more than 700,000 subscribers on Youtube. The video had received more than 65,000 views as of Friday afternoon.

Dumas and Philbin on Friday displayed two “Close the Gap” and “Hang it up Old Navy” signs, chanted slogans and asked, unsuccessfully, to speak with Gap Inc. CEO Dan Peck.

“Unlike in other countries, businesses in the United States are rarely required to cut down on the plastic waste they throw away, and they are never held accountable for the amount of plastic they have been dumping in the ocean. It’s mind-boggling,” said Dumas in the video.

Dumas said he began storing plastic hangers in his garage after he refused to throw them away while working at Old Navy. He collected more than 5,000 hangers in a week.

He estimates five million plastic hangers are wasted each week by Old Navy stores, the equivalent of 7,000 tons of waste or the Eiffel Tower’s weight.

Dumas launched” Hang it up,” an initiative to fight plastic pollution, the day he resigned from Old Navy. He said he wants to “go to the source,” and singled Old Navy out as “one bad actor” for the environment.

The fashion industry produces 100 million tons of waste a year, according to an estimation from Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group.

Old Navy officials said they are working on the problem.

“We are working toward a global reusable hanger program to deploy across all Old Navy stores within the next 18 months that will further reduce our environmental impact,” the company said in a statement.

A spokesperson said the company launched a hanger recycling program in Portland earlier this year and plans to expand it to 500 other stores throughout the country.

“We can all agree that plastic waste is a problem. And we recognize our responsibility to leave our planet better than we found it for the next generation,” said the spokesperson.

Dumas and Philbin were briefly joined by three environmental activists from the Sunrise Movement, who were on their way back to a previous rally near the Hilton Union Square Hotel at the second day of the Democratic National Committee’s summer meetings in the Tenderloin.

Two dozen Gap Inc. employees watched the protest from the top terrace of the company’s five-story headquarters building.

Jackson called for the company to make up for their actions through charitable donations and to sharply reduce plastic hanger pollution by January 2020, 14 months earlier than what the company plans.

Dumas called the company statement “corporate BS” and said he plans to release a short film of the protest on Youtube to “expose them.”

“I did not fly from Charlotte for the corporate spin,” said Dumas.

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