CLIMATE CHANGE

Wait... Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Making Plastic Went Down?

Yup, While Production Went Up

Americans buy a lot of cars and trucks. And new homes. Plus solar panels, medical devices, packaged food, cell phones, clothes and other things.

All these products depend on a steady supply of plastic. So, it’s not surprising that plastic production went up between 2005 and 2017.

What may be surprising is that greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from making four common plastics during this same time went down. A lot.

A 2022 Report called “A Decreasing Footprint” found that despite an increase in demand for these plastics (typically referred to as LDPE, HDPE, LLDPE and PP), their environmental footprint actually shrunk, as measured by GHGs and energy use.

Details:

  • GHGs decreased by 6 to 18%, per pound of plastic produced.
  • Energy use decreased by 2 to 7%, per pound of plastic produced.

Here’s the big one:

  • Production increased by 4 billion+ pounds BUT...
  • Associated GHGs decreased significantly by ~5 billion kilograms, the equivalent of removing one million cars from our roads for one year.

Good news.

And this positive trend toward lower GHGs and energy use is expected to continue as production shifts to lower carbon fuel sources, including renewables, and manufacturing efficiencies improve.

More info? Read the Fact Sheet and the full Report.

NOTE: This Report builds on decades of findings from multiple researchers that show the use of plastic packaging and products can significantly reduce GHGs compared to alternatives.

And check out this article on a McKinsey & Company report that compares GHGs from plastic and alternatives.

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