Plastics and Climate Change are Linked, 2019

The scourge of marine and waterway plastic pollution has (rightly) been a focus of attention for some years now, but less well known are the vast climate impacts of the plastics industry.

‘Plastics and Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet’ (2019) is an important new report from the Center of International Environmental Law, exposed the scale of the problem – the key facts are set out in an executive summary.

One of the report’s findings was that ‘In 2019, the production and incineration of plastic will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere—equal to the emissions from 189 five- hundred-megawatt coal power plants. At present rates, these greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to meet carbon emissions targets.’

And unfortunately these emission rates are on the rise – the report found that that annual figure could rise as high as 2.75 billion metric tons of CO2e by 2050.

This video from the Center for Environmental Law explains how every stage of plastic’s lifecycle, from its feedstocks to its disposal, harms our planet.

The frustration (or perhaps the hope) is that the solutions already exist. The 2020 report ‘Breaking the Plastic Wave: Top Findings for Preventing Plastic Pollution’ found that: “a global analysis using first-of-its kind modeling, shows that we can cut annual flows of plastic into the ocean by about 80% in the next 20 years by applying existing solutions and technologies. No single solution can achieve this goal; rather, we break the plastic wave only by taking immediate, ambitious, and concerted actions.” The key facts are set out in an executive summary.

We live in hope that coordinated government intervention will curb this escalating problem, but in the meantime, do head to our How To Take Action page for practical steps that can be taken in your home, school, business and community.

Slide image credit: Patrick Hendry, Unsplash