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Virus Spreading Faster Than It Can Be Contained; Asia Markets Down Sharply On Virus Fears; Turkey-Russia Ceasefire Goes Onto Effect In Idlib; Costco Works to Make Shopping Safer in China; Coke, Pepsi, Others Sued for Plastic Pollution Nuisance. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Studio 7 at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, the newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus approaches 100,000 worldwide, and the World Health Organization insists this outbreak can still be contained.

Plus, the roller coaster ride continues to stock markets around the world. From record gains to regular losses, markets are being driven by emotion. That emotion is fear. And Russia and Turkey agreed to a ceasefire in northwest Syria, but with a loss. And what will it mean for hundreds of thousands of refugees on the Syrian-Turkey border?

Experts on infectious diseases says the U.S. will need millions and millions and millions of kits to test for the coronavirus. Right now, the test kits number in the tens of thousands. A reality acknowledged by Vice President Mike Pence who heads the administration's virus task force. On Thursday, as test kits were airdrop to a cruise ship in the Pacific, Pence warned there's just not enough kits to meet the expected demand in the United States.

Almost 98,000 cases are now confirmed worldwide. Most are in China, nearly 3,400 people have died. Italy is dealing with the biggest outbreak in Europe and has pledged more than seven billion euros to offset the negative impact to business. And Iran reports more than 100 dead including a senior politician who once served as an advisor to the foreign minister. CNN's Ivan Watson has more now from part in South Korea where there is more cases outside of China than anywhere else.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The South Korean government has announced a new plan to try to ensure that everybody in the country can get a mask to protect themselves in this public health crisis. The South Korean President this week publicly apologized for shortages of masks which have led to scenes of long, long lines of people trying to purchase these things. Now, the finance minister says all exports of masks would be suspended

as a Friday, and come Monday they'll try to implement a new system which will try to ration two masks per person per week with computer tracking of the sales and to try to ensure that there's not a rush on any store that selling them. They're going to use national ID numbers to indicate which days of the week you can go and try to purchase your mask.

They're also trying to keep the prices of masks to be limited around 1,500 won. That's about $1 27, the equivalent each. Meanwhile, the authorities also announcing that schools will not be reopened here in Korea until at least March 23rd. They've already been closed.

And this goes into a trend that UNESCO has seen. At least 13 countries around the world have closed schools nationwide. Many more countries have closed schools partially leaving to nearly 300 million children not getting day today education.

And that is imposing unquantifiable costs on economies as parents now have to take care of their children and that may block them from working normally, as well. Another major challenge as more and more countries are caught up in the coronavirus epidemic. Ivan Watson, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Live to Tehran now. CNN Journalists Ramin Mostaghim is there. And this is really a one-two punch for Iran. It's affecting their economy. They've been dealing with this huge outbreak, the biggest in the region. But Iran's biggest trading partner is China which is also obviously dealing with the coronavirus as well. So how are they coping with all this and how much of an impact is this expected to have?

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, CNN JOURNALIST: Of course, everything in public life has brought hault. No schools, no cinema, no public activities. Even banks are working in a quarter office hours. And I think even courts are closed down and now University are active. At the end of this -- I mean, month which is -- which will end to the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, everything is brought to a halt and people are encouraged to stay at home and have a self-quarantine.

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But the problem is that economically, the country is under the burden of the sanction already and the business is struck totally and the streets are deserted almost in downtown and no business is going on. So you can expect the economy pressure on the -- on the shoulder of the people while they're fighting with coronavirus. And in pharmacies, you cannot find enough hygienic materials and sanitizers.

So, it's a sort of I can't say a worrisome situation, if not panic. But people are anticipating bad days to come. And every day, by midday, around 2:00 p.m., there will be updates. For example, today, we can predict easily the 177 death case will be increased. 15 case more and positive is already 3,500, will be 500 More. So every day we have a new updates of dead and positive cases while

the economy is on the pressure of the sanctions and stagnations domestically.

VAUSE: There's also the problem of the reaction in the early days too I guess from Tehran. They've failed to quarantine areas, they didn't shut down ties with China, did not quarantine cities. I guess now, some of these decisions are playing out not for the best. And Ramin, we appreciate the update there. Ramin Mostaghim live for us in Tehran.

And Italy's Gotham is pledging almost $8.6 billion to help families and businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports the country's healthcare industry is being put to the ultimate test.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you visit the city of Bergamo, you'd be forgiven if you concluded that despite the growing number of coronavirus cases in Italy, all is well. On a sunny winter afternoon, cafes and restaurants are full. It looks and sounds like something straight out of a movie.

Bergamo in the so-called yellow zone, areas adjacent to the red zones where the outbreak is most intense and entry and exit are tightly controlled.

Italy is a surreal combination of life as normal and ever more draconian measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The government has ordered schools and universities across the country shut until March 15th. The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths continues to soar. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is sounding the alarm.

We have hospitals and health system that although excellent and efficient, are at risk of being overwhelmed, he warns.

The Ospedale Maggiore in the yellow zone town of Lodi has treated more than 500 coronavirus patients in the past two and a half weeks. At least 15 have died.

ENRICO STORTI, HEAD OF INTENSIVE CARE, MAGGIORE HOSPITAL: In my team, we are 21 and six physicians have been found positive.

WEDEMAN: Dr. Enrico Storti runs the intensive care unit.

STORTI: When you receive 100 people at the same time sick, then all the people needs your job otherwise they die. This is exactly what we have seen because when they arrived in the hospital with a such a consistent distress that you have to treat these people in seconds.

WEDEMAN: Surgeon Pietro Bisagni says their lives have been turned upside down.

PIETRO BISAGNI, DIRECTOR OF GENERAL SURGERY, MAGGIORE HOSPITAL: Me and Dr. Storti stayed here for four to five days continuously, and then we went back some hours to rest, and then coming back here. At home we are actually on quarantine. So we just say bye, bye to our family.

WEDEMAN: The government has established a network of coronavirus hotlines. This one in Rome staffed by doctors receives about 2,000 calls a day from the area around the city. They're basically afraid because they think it's a deadly disease says hotline director Anna Maria (INAUDIBLE). They don't know what to do. Which might explain why it's best to enjoy what matters now. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Bergamo, Northern Italy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: The coronavirus is weighing down on global stock markets. Asian markets have been sharply down on Thursday. Let's take a look at the Nikkei there, are closed down by almost three percent, Hong Kong closed down by just over two and a quarter percent, Shanghai still trading, I think just down by one percent and Seoul down -- about to close in 20 minutes from now, I think, and it's down by almost two and a half percent.

U.S. stocks finished up low on Thursday as well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled almost 1,000 points wiping out nearly all of Wednesday's gains. Kaori Enjoji is keeping an eye on those Asian markets first from Tokyo. You know, we did see four days of gains leading up to this evening despite what happened on Wall Street. But suddenly, you know, in the last 24 hours of trading and on this day, they've all tanked. Is there any particular reason why?

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KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: No. There's not one particular reason. I think, this volatility, huge volatility that we've seen, even when we're seen bounces in the equity market, the volatility index, which is known as the fear index has run quite high. So I think there hasn't been one particular reason why the Asian markets have decided to follow the U.S. markets lower today.

But I think what's compounding the fear factor -- the fear factor today is renewed, I think, concerned particularly about the tourism industry because of these new restrictions, travel restrictions that Japan is going to place on people flying from China and South Korea. And this turning into a bit of a raw between the two countries diplomatically.

And I think it just highlights the fact that the tourism industry is heavily dependent on these two countries, particularly at this time of year and in the next couple of weeks. And I think that's sort of renewed interest in some of the shares, airline stocks, businesses, they're exposed to that industry as well.

But on top of that, I think the resurgence of the Yen and the fact that the Yen has become a safe haven and a favored safe haven in times of turmoil in the capital markets is weighing heavily on businesses here too, because remember, if they return the profits they made overseas back to Japan, it means it's worthless now because the yen is much stronger against the dollar.

So I think all those factors are combined, and I think the uncertainty as to what's going to happen from here on and the uncertainty regarding the government response, even as it readies a second stimulus package to try and help out particularly the smaller companies that are running into cash problems already, as this coronavirus situation worsens in parts of the globe, is what's earned -- what's earned nerving investors.

That stimulus package is expected to come out next week. But even before it comes out, there are critics who were saying it's much smaller, it's sort of piecemeal approach that the Japanese government has taken compared to its counterparts say in South Korea or in the United States, and I think that is what's worrying investors as well.

And on top of that, you have to remember the yields on the U.S. Treasury is still below one percent and the (INAUDIBLE) of the 10-year U.S. bond. And that is a sign that the markets feel that the U.S. Federal Reserve is going to cut interest rates even further. So I think the uncertainly surrounding corporate favorites, the uncertainty about what some of the government response has been particularly in Japan, all of those factors are combining to push down the equity markets across the region quite sharply yet again here. John?

VAUSE: OK, Kaori, thank you. Kaori Enjoji there with the latest and some analysis on what's happening with the markets live from Tokyo. Thank you. When we come back, a glimmer of hope for hundreds of thousands of Syrians living in fear. We'll have a look at a cease-fire could bring some much-needed relief. That's next.

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DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Heavy rain has triggered landslides across Brazil over the past two days. You can see some of the aftermath and the search for survivors with the communities being impacted by that. Let's travel to North America where our weather pattern remains generally quiet. We do have a few lake-enhanced snow showers, downwind from Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, as well as Lake Ontario.

The rain finally come to an end across southeastern United States. But in its wake, we're left with very windy conditions setting up across the plains right through the southeast. In fact, we have wind advisories stretching from Chicago all the way to Atlanta, impacting over 20 million Americans.

You factor in the low humidity levels and that increases our chances of fire. In fact, for Kansas into Nebraska and Northwestern sections of Missouri, that's where we have a critical fire threat as we head into the early parts of the weekend.

Here's a storm system along the East Coast that will bring rainfall to places like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. High elevation snowfall for the Northern portions of New England. Four degrees today for Chicago, eight for New York City. You can see the chance of rain. There's the wind for Atlanta. Denver, plenty of sunshine for you. 19 degrees Vancouver, British Columbia expecting temperatures around seven by the afternoon with temperatures in the lower 20s near L.A.

VAUSE: Just hours before a ceasefire between Turkey and Russia took effects in northwest Syria, Turkey says it killed 21 Syrian troops, destroyed two artillery pieces, and two missile launchers, retaliation for the killing of two Turkey soldiers in Idlib earlier this week. An attempt to curb the renewed violence and bloodshed in Syria's last rebel-held stronghold. The presidents of Russia and Turkey have agreed to freeze the event of Russian backed Syrian forces in the region.

Michael Moran is a political analyst and lecturer in political risk. He's also the CEO and Chief Research Officer for the business consulting group Transformative. He is with us from Denver in Colorado. So, Michael, you know, one thing about this ceasefire which doesn't seem entirely clear, is this about a short-term reduction in violence just to cool things off, is this essentially the basis for a more permanent peace deal. I want you to listen to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): I express hopes that these agreements will serve as good ground for ceasefire in Idlib de-escalation zone, will finally put an end to the suffering of the civilian population and the growth of humanitarian crises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: If you listen closely, assuming the translation is correct, it seems this is more of a preset before, you know, they get into some kind of real peace deal for Idlib. Is this how you see it?

MICHAEL MORAN, CEO AND CHIEF RESEARCH OFFICER, TRANSFORMATIVE: Yes, I think, you know, the British Defense Minister today said, when you do a deal with Vladimir Putin, and shake his hand, make sure you count your fingers on the way out. And I think that's a lesson the Turks are learning in the hard way right now. They have tried very, very hard to play a kind of middle game with the Russians on one side, the United States and NATO and the other, and it's not working out for them.

They've been put in a very difficult situation in terms of not wanting Assad to the Assad government and Syria to take over this piece of land. But on the other hand, you know, Assad is aligned to Russia, and that has a lot -- that is basically tied Erdogan's hands. And he's been in a very difficult situation ever since. He's burned some bridges with the West. So he's in -- he's in a quite a bind. And I don't think that I see a real kind of permanent ceasefire coming out of this.

VAUSE: We're increasingly saying Turkeys president deploy his military across the region. It's the second biggest standing military force in NATO. It has a standing budget of about $18 billion, almost 700,000 military-civilian and paramilitary personnel as well. We have 2,500 tanks, there's 1,300 aircraft, that includes F-16, about 145 ships. But in the past few months, thousands of Turkish troops have been sent inside Idlib province in Syria. They've been sent to the border with Syria. There's Turkish forces in Libya. Now Erdogan says Turkey soldiers will be, you know, sent to the border with Greece where those gates have been opened to Europe.

So you know, a few thousand troops here and there and a few thousand troops there. It starts to add up. It starts to take a toll. And the longer these commitments go, personnel need to be rotated, and they need to be rotated out. So is there a point, you know, that Turkey, I guess, it become sort of over-committed? And is that a point of leverage that Assad and Putin are well aware of?

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MORAN: Yes, and we shouldn't be -- we shouldn't be deceived by these numbers. I mean, you could have said the same thing 15 years about go about the Iraqi army, and it was quite a paper tiger. The Turkish army would probably perform really well integrated into the NATO command structure. Alone though, and that is very much what they are right now. They're certainly no match for the Russians and they're having a tough time keeping the draftee army, which is what it is, you know, at the front, supplied, and also, you know, motivated.

Ultimately though, the real problem with Turkey's commitment in Syria right now is that they have to avoid precipitating a real conflict with Russia, the conflict they can't win. Obviously, they put themselves in a position where their long term allies treaty, NATO, are not keen to come to their rescue with them.

VAUSE: Yes. And you touch on this sort of already, but the Europeans have expressed some sympathy and some financial help for Erdogan and Turkey in the process of dealing with you know, hundreds of thousands of more refugees from Syria. But that comes with a but. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARITIS SCHINAS, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Turkey is not an enemy, but people are not weapons either. We now have a chance for a new deal on asylum and migration and this I dare to say, will be our last chance. Europe cannot fail twice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That's the Vice President of the European Commission. At the same time publicly, though, this -- as you said, there's been really nothing from United States, no support either from NATO. And the Turks must be wondering, you know, what's the value of being a NATO member at this point?

MORAN: Yes. You know, there is a real short-termism that's prevalent in the West right now. Obviously, politically, it would take a very brave and talented politician to do what Merkel did years ago and say, OK, we'll bring them on, bring the refugees in. That's clearly had a very strong dramatic effect on European politics. It's the kind of effect that immigration has had on the United States in terms of its politics, so that's probably not on the cards.

So there's some cynicism on both sides, but it's also worth noting that you know, 10, 15 years ago, an American president of any party would probably have seen this as just a wonderful opportunity to go in there and stop this slide of a very important NATO ally toward the Russian camp. And ultimately, it doesn't seem to be within the capacity of any of the leaders of the West right now to think that way at all, partly because their hands are tied by domestic politics, but partly because they're just not really that clever when it comes to diplomacy and geopolitics.

VAUSE: Yes. It's not an easy game to play, and a game is not the right word, but it's always been difficult, and even more so now, it seems. Michael, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

MORAN: Thank you.

VAUSE: In the past few hours, the U.S. state of Alabama carried out the controversial execution of an inmate convicted of killing three police officers in 2004. The state governor and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step in and spare Nathaniel Woods despite a number of high- profile activists and celebrities, including the son of the famed civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. trying to step in and stop this execution. CNN Martin Savidge has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 43-year-old Nathaniel Woods was declared dead at 9:01. Authorities say that he had no last words. He had been slated to be executed at 6:00 local time. But about a half- hour before then, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay. It was a temporary stay. In the end, it lasted about two and a half hours.

During that time period, Wood's defense team made another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That was eventually denied and the stay was lifted and the execution was carried out. Was this case is tied back to one of the darkest days in the Birmingham police department when in 2004, three police officers were gunned down as they attempted to serve the misdemeanor warrant on Woods.

Woods though was not the shooter. It was another man Kerry Spencer who killed the officers and maintain that he had always acted alone, spontaneously, and that Woods was 100 percent innocent. But authorities didn't see it that way. They charged Woods with capital murder, saying that he had conspired with Spencer, and as a result was equally guilty under the eyes of the Alabama law.

Even tonight, the family members of those deceased officers spoke out, and 16 years later, the pain still evident over their loss.

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STARR SIDELINKER, SISTER, HARLEY CHISHOLM: No petitions could stop this day from him taking his last press. Our loved ones took their last breath while upholding the law to make this city a safer place. SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Birmingham, Alabama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Yes, another day, another U.S. presidential candidate bowing out of the race. Senator Elizabeth Warren suspending her campaign after a poll showing on Super Tuesday. Her exit leaves the once crowded Democratic field effectively now a two-person race down to the front runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and both are courting her endorsement.

With Warren out, hopes that once again dash for a woman to be elected president, and she received -- or she rather did get them, I should say, when she was asked about that reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I wonder what the message would be to the women and girls who feel like we're left with two white men to decide between.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I know. One of the hardest parts of this is all those promises, and all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years. That's going to be hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And on the question of who she will support, Elizabeth Warren says she's not ready to make an endorsement yet. Still to come here, at Costco, hoarder's home paradise, but next on the coronavirus, is creating new demand for buying in bulk in the panic.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is ending her bid for the U.S. presidency. Her announcement follows a poor showing on Super Tuesday. And the exit now means only two Democratic candidates remain in reality -- Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden -- both old white men.

A cease-fire is now in effect in the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria. The presidents of Russia and Turkey have agreed to freeze the advance of Russian-backed Syrian forces in Idlib. The increase in violence triggered a humanitarian crisis. Close to a million people have fled their homes because of the fighting since December.

The U.S. military has airdropped coronavirus test kits to a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean after a passenger who had been on that ship last month recently died from the virus. San Francisco has prevented the ship from docking for the time being. Passengers have been told to stay in their rooms.

The coronavirus has sparked a frenzy of panic buying around the world, and in Shanghai that means many are heading to the American bulk retailer, Costco.

And as CNN's David Culver reports, the mega store has put in place some strict rules to try and control the chaos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the U.S. when you're stocking up for a hurricane, a blizzard or a viral outbreak, you tend to buy in bulk. Many Shanghai residents flock into China's only Costco location to do that.

We joined them for some shopping of our own.

So this is the long line. It's moving actually at a pretty good pace. We've heard several announcements as we've been standing here and essentially they're telling people keep your distance from the person in front of you.

The store only allows 1,000 customers in at a time. The wait outside, about 10 minutes.

All right. We are going in. They told us to come into this one line that's clearly going to take our temperature here.

Cart sanitized one by one, and some shoppers adding a layer just to be safe. All employees, customers, and their little ones wearing face masks.

Plastic used to protect the apples from germs, and plastic even used to shield kids.

You can hear there is a loudspeaker, essentially they're telling people to keep one meter apart from each other. But as you look around, folks are definitely getting a lot closer than that.

And if you did not catch that warning, this guy will keep you in line. But there are other options for folks looking to avoid stores altogether. One company launched this mobile grocery van before the outbreak. Since, it's gained a loyal following, a mostly older crowd.

You can see the folks lined up here. They get essentially a menu of items that they can pick from and the idea is they are not going into a store. They're not congregating with other masses. Instead they handoff the paper with what they want, and folks who are inside do the preparation and then pass out their food.

You can check it out, I mean it seems to be pretty popular here.

The company behind it says over the course of a week, the mobile grocery visits 20 neighborhoods, serving more than 40,000 Shanghai residents. The project manager says they get fresh produce daily and they make sure it is all fully sanitized. But a van can only hold so much. For shoppers looking for a taste of normalcy and plenty of options, like pallets of hand sanitizer, it's back to Costco.

But a warning, if you decide on a cooked meal here, or a beverage like I did, it is now a to go purchase only. They said you have to eat and drink everything you buy in there outside of the store. Keep your mask on at all times.

They're also telling folks to get in and out as quickly as possible. You don't hear many stores telling their customers to rush, but they are doing that here.

An effort to minimize exposure and to maximize what you can stock up on.

David Culver, CNN -- Shanghai.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Testing delay is the one factor contributing to the fear of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier CNN hosted a global town hall and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force explained why there is a shortage of those testing kits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE MEMBER: Today, this evening, we don't have enough to do what we want to do. In the next week to two, it will rev up so that we will.

[01:34:52]

FAUCI: And the first thing you want to do is you want to make it available to people who are trying to make a diagnosis on someone who comes in with symptoms to determine if in fact they do have coronavirus.

But in addition to that, this should be the kind of sentinel screening to get to the answer that Anderson just asked the question about.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Dr. Fauci -- before we let you go, I just want to ask a very simple question. For someone out there tonight who's got a cough, maybe they have a little fever, they haven't been to Wuhan, they've just been living their life and they're freaked out, what should they do? Because obviously, you don't want everybody who has the flu or a cough to go into an emergency room, demanding a test that is not available.

FAUCI: Exactly.

COOPER: So what do they do?

FAUCI: Yes. I think they should just go home and just hunker down and recover at home. The chances are overwhelmingly likely that they have either influenza -- and I hope they got their flu shot which should make it less likely they have influenza. But the overwhelming likelihood is that it is not coronavirus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: and you can see the replay of CNN's global town hall on the coronavirus at 9:00 a.m. in London, that's 1:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi, and 5:00 p.m. in Hong Kong.

Still to come here -- popular drink makers are facing a lawsuit over plastic pollution. Just ahead, why soda bottles just aren't recyclable -- period.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Some of the world's largest companies are being sued for their role in allegedly choking our ecosystem. The lawsuit from an environmental group alleges Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, and others misled the public into thinking their plastic packaging can be recycled when most of it cannot be.

The suit reads in part, "defendants' campaign spread the false narrative that the oceans, wildlife, and environment would be healthy were it not for the consumers who failed to recycle their plastic.

In reality, much of the so-called recyclable plastic collected and sorted for recycling by consumers is not actually recyclable.

The group says there are 10 companies named in the lawsuit -- all responsible for most of the plastic which ends up in the oceans and waterways.

Jess Phoenix is executive editor and co-founder of Blueprint Earth. She joins us now from Los Angeles. Welcome back from Nicaragua.

JESS PHOENIX, CO-FOUNDER, BLUEPRINT EARTH: Thanks -- John. Good to be here.

VAUSE: Ok. So just broad brushstrokes here -- this legal action here, is this similar to what the tobacco industry went through back in the 1990s, allegedly misleading the public, knowingly misleading the public, and also knowingly causing public harm?

PHOENIX: I think you can draw a really strong parallel there. And obviously, you would think that it's incumbent upon any sort of big consumer product organization that they actually need to take care of the general public both in terms of personal health and environmental health.

And I think this is one of those instances where there weren't existing government regulations, so it was sort of like we will just see what happens. And unless you have got regulations, companies will do what companies are going to do.

[01:40:00]

VAUSE: Let's show this another way because two years ago, there was this landmark study we reported here at CNN of the 8.3 billion metric tons, this is the plastic, that's been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that only 9 percent is being recycled. The vast majority, 79 percent is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans which is the final sink.

So I guess, how much of this is on us? We have known for a while that plastic doesn't really recycle. It doesn't break down. But we have been really eager to believe that if we sort our plastics into recycling and we are good people and everything is going to be fine.

PHOENIX: Yes, it's sort of like, you know, putting a band-aid on a bullet wound because essentially we do what we can, but we do need to exert pressure on companies that we buy products from to use products that are truly recyclable. You can recycle and reuse glass and metal an infinite amount of times. And even with the best-case scenario with the type one plastics, those are the easiest to recycle. They are like beverage bottles, the water bottles that we see all over the place, even with those, they can only be recycled two to three times. and each time they get recycled they're adding a new virgin plastic.

So it is just not sustainable. So we need to ask for better options as consumers.

VAUSE: And with that point about, you know, putting in new plastic. I mean this lawsuit makes the point, "Due to the availability of cheap raw materials to make virgin plastic, there is no market demand for recycled plastic. Using virgin plastic to package and make products is cheaper than any other materials because virgin plastic is derived from oil and natural gas."

So if there is really no market for recycled plastic, the only answer here is stop using plastic, or minimize it as much as possible.

PHOENIX: Yes, you said it. I mean there is obviously some instances where you need to use something that is one use and disposable, particularly in the medical field. But if we're going to go out and get water at the store, getting water in a container that is something we can actually reuse is we may have to pay more and use glass. Or we may have to look for coffee cups that are fully recyclable, because right now all of our Starbucks cup -- those can't be recycled except at very special facilities. So most of the time they just end up as landfill waste.

VAUSE: I guess, if nothing else, from this legal action will clarify what can and cannot be recycled. But that may cause a bit of confusion at first and you know, some people just give up.

Clearly, it is better to know rather than not know.

PHOENIX: Exactly. And I think we are at a point as a global society where people care more and more about the world that we are living in and about what we are going to leave to the next generation.

So we're at a perfect time to actually start really making better choices as a society, both on the production and the consumption side. VAUSE: We are out of time -- Jess, but you know, just think about

paying a little extra maybe for a glass bottle than a plastic. Maybe that's also something which we're ready for as well at this point.

PHOENIX: Yes. I think we're going to have to get there real quick.

VAUSE: Yes. You know, you're right.

Jess -- thank you. Good to see you. Jess Phoenix there in Los Angeles.

PHOENIX: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is up after the break.

[01:43:13]

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