4 Ways to Cut Plastic’s Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Every stage of plastic’s life cycle, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal, produces greenhouse gases. A new study looked at ways to lower the toll.
As concern over plastic waste grows, researchers are raising red flags about another problem: plastic’s rapidly growing carbon footprint. Left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics will be nearly four times greater by mid-century, when they are projected to account for nearly one-sixth of global emissions.
Not all plastics have the same carbon footprint, though. What they are made from, the source of the energy that powers their production, and how they are disposed of at the end of their life cycle all make a difference.
In a study published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, researchers calculated the life cycle emissions of different types of plastics, made from fossil fuels and from plants, and looked for ways to lower their total greenhouse gas emissions.
They found that there is no silver bullet. Every combination of plastics production and end-of-life disposal generates greenhouse gas emissions. But by combining four different approaches, they found they could lower emissions up to 93 percent compared to business as usual by 2050 if each measure was taken to the extreme.
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