The plastics industry in the United States is on track to release more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than coal-fired power plants by the end of the decade, according to a new report released Thursday.
The report, from Bennington College’s Beyond Plastics project, found that the US plastics industry is releasing at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, the equivalent of 116 mid-size coal-fired power plants.
“Plastic is the new carbon and is a major environmental justice concern … The health impacts of emissions are disproportionately borne by low-income communities and communities of color,” said Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics. and a former regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator under President Obama.
Ninety percent of the climate change pollution reported by the plastics industry occurs in just 18 communities, where residents earn 28% less than the average American household and are 67% more likely to be minority communities.
the report identified 10 different stages in which plastics manufacturing emits the most significant GHGs.
Hydro-fracking is expected to release 45 million tons of methane annually in the US by 2025. Hydraulic fracturing gas transportation and processing emits approximately 4.8 million tons of methane annually.
Petrochemical ethane gas cracking facilities release at least 70 million tons of GHG per year. The manufacture of other plastic raw materials is responsible for 28 million tons of GHG emissions per year.
Exports and imports of raw materials and plastic products emit at least 51 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, which is equivalent to more than 25 coal-fired power plants.
Furthermore, the report found that the plastics infrastructure of the petrochemical industry is expanding rapidly.
Since 2019, at least 42 plastics plants in the US have opened, are under construction, or are in the permitting process. If the facilities become fully operational, they could release an additional 55 million tonnes of GHG, or the equivalent of 27 other 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants, by 2025.
“I want to explain the ethane cookies to you. At hydraulic fracturing sites, ethane is released into the atmosphere. The best way to prevent this burning of ethane into the atmosphere would be to properly close and cover the hydro-fracking. Instead, the petrochemical industry has found a way to use ethane as a building block for plastics, “Enck said at a news conference Thursday.
“Them [companies in the industry] Capture ethane, build new pipes, send the gas to ethane cracking facilities, which heats up to very high temperatures and cracks, hence the name, and which becomes the main component of single-use plastic. It uses an enormous amount of energy … all to give us more single-use plastic packaging, ”he said.
With the World Economic Forum outgoing Global plastics production will triple by 2050, Enck said the new focus of the fossil fuel industry is plastics, saying: “Fossil fuel companies are making less money generating energy and less money for transportation. . so [they] see plastics as plan B.
“There is no plan B for the rest of us. We are in a climate crisis, “he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism