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US plastics could reportedly create more emissions than coal by 2030

The American plastics industry is being described by climate experts as ‘the new coal,’ as emerging reports show a release of 232 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.

By this stage you’re probably sick to the back teeth, like we are, of the daily doom scrolling through despondent climate stories. However, it’s important to underline the crucial issues we face in the build-up to COP26.

We wouldn’t want those with the power to actually change things falling into nihilism now, would we?

Expected to play a major role throughout the summit, the US – which sits second on the list of worst offending emitters – is once again under fire for its continued spike in greenhouse gases.

While positive rhetoric around the growth of renewable energies continues to spread across the pond, startling reports linked to plastic production are throwing such ‘progress’ into disrepute.

Specifically, new findings from the Bennington College’s Beyond Plastics project suggest that the nation’s plastic production is on track to release more emissions than coal-powered electricity before the end of the decade.

Overall, plastic manufacturing is reported to be releasing 232 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, which is equivalent to around 116 coal-fired power plants.

While the thought is utterly depressing, the trend appears to be confirming prior summations that plastic production would eventually take the mantle from fossil fuels as the most damaging US industry.

In addition, its even more frustrating that the charge is being largely headed up by petrochemical companies as a profitable backup to coal.

As hyrdro-fracking is slowly (emphasis there) phased out, the capped ethane is being sent to ethane cracker facilities which will continue to release emissions while creating even more single use plastic. This is, unfortunately, where the majority of investment is going.

For scope, since 2019 at least 42 plastic facilities have opened, are under construction, or are filtering through the lease process in the US. If all are to get the go ahead, we could be looking at an extra 55 million tons of emissions by 2025.

In any case, you can completely write off America’s NDCs established during the Paris Agreement. Let alone even more ambitious cutbacks to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.

The World Economic Forum was one such organisation that saw the warning signs early, and predicted global plastic production would triple by 2050.

‘Fossil fuel companies are making less money on generating power and less money for transportation… so they see plastics as the plan B,’ says Beyond Plastics chief Judith Enck.

‘There’s no plan B for the rest if us. We are in a climate crisis,’ she finished.

All eyes will now turn to COP26 to see the response from policy makers, and whether or not the US is willing to prevent these damaging forecasts from coming to pass.


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