Global plastics production has exploded from 2 million to more than 380 million metric tons since 1950. Recently, the impacts of our increasing plastics consumption on the health of the world’s ocean have been a topic of public concern. However, what are the effects of our plastics consumption on climate change?
Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Sangwon Suh, along with Jiajia Zheng from the University of California, Santa Barbara, conducted a global life cycle assessment of plastics’ contribution to climate change. In 2015, they found that greenhouse gas emissions from plastics were equivalent to 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. If we continue on our current course, the greenhouse emissions from plastics would reach 6.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050; this would account for about 17% of the global emissions.
So, what strategies are available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from plastics? This study evaluates four different emissions-reduction strategies: renewable energy application, increased recycling rate, consumer choices, and bio-based alternatives. Suh and Zheng determine the need to integrate all four strategies to achieve meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reduction from plastics.