Climate Change

Ever Wonder If Conventional Wisdom on Plastics and Climate Change Might Be Wrong?

Just One Word: Efficiency

Ever wonder if plastic makers are proud of the materials we make? 

We are.

Ever wonder how we feel about these materials ending up in our environment and ocean?

We despise it, and we’re working to fix it.

Ever wonder if “single use” can become a relic of the past?

We believe it can, and we’re innovating to make it happen.

Ever wonder if plastic makers are working to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions?

You bet we are.

Ever wonder if conventional wisdom about plastics – such as their impact on climate change – might be wrong?

It often is

The global community is desperate for ways to drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat climate change. But there’s a puzzling paradox in the public discussion about plastics and climate change. 

Conventional wisdom has determined that the growing use of plastics must be an outsized contributor to climate change. We hear and see it in the news nearly every day.

But the choices most companies are making tell a different story.

Companies in every major sector of our economy are working to reduce their GHGs. When companies make products today, their choice of materials often goes beyond price and performance to include sustainability, especially on climate change. Consumers, shareholders, even executives are demanding this. Business as usual is no longer usual.

And what materials are they choosing? With some exceptions, these companies are increasingly making their products with plastics. They’ve researched the climate impacts of their materials choices. They’ve done the math. And they’ve learned that use of plastics in products and packaging typically reduces GHGs compared to alternatives. 

Given the conventional wisdom, how can this be?

Just one word: efficiency.

The ongoing evolution to plastics is occurring in large part due to the efficiency of plastics as a material, which allows us to do more with less. Lightweight yet strong plastics used in packaging and products are typically more efficient than alternative materials. How much more efficient? On average roughly four times more alternative material (by weight) is needed to perform the same function.

This efficiency pays off in reduced GHGs. While studies vary a bit, life cycle studies typically show that use of plastics in products and packaging results in approximately 2.5 times less GHGs than other common materials. Likewise, switching back to alternative materials would increase GHGs by 2.5 times. 

Most people – and policymakers – don’t know this. But informed companies do. They’re choosing plastics to help achieve their sustainability goals, such as increasing fuel efficiency and reducing food waste… and fighting climate change. These innovative, highly efficient materials significantly improve efficiencies in industries that are key to combatting climate change.

  • Wind turbine blades made with plastic composites improve the efficiency of generating wind power.
  • Solar energy cells and panels are made more durable and efficient with protective plastics.
  • Our cars and trucks rely on lightweight yet strong plastic components to reduce weight and improve fuel-efficiency – even more so in electric vehicles.
  • Our homes and buildings are made more energy efficient with innovative, modern plastic foam building insulation.
  • Aircraft makers are turning to lightweight plastic composites to improve fuel efficiency.
  • Our crumbling water infrastructure can be made more efficient and resilient with durable plastic pipes.
  • Food makers use lightweight, efficient plastic packaging to reduce food waste and its immense contribution to GHGs.

This is what the scientists and engineers at plastics companies are so good at: creating innovative, efficient materials for innovative, efficient technologies that help drive down GHGs and reduce our environmental footprint.

And we’re focused on doing even better ourselves by reducing or eliminating the carbon footprint of making these materials. And by helping create a circular economy in which plastics are reused instead of discarded.

So, if you were wondering, conventional wisdom on plastics and climate change is often wrong. And we can retain the societal benefits of these efficient, modern materials while driving down GHGs. 

 

For more info on how plastics drive down greenhouse gas emissions, click here.
For more info on why plastic makers are proud of the materials we make, click
 here.
For more info on how to keep plastics out of our environment/ocean globally, click
 here.
For more info on how to make “single use” a relic of the past, click
 here.

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