Skip to main content

Plastic and emissions – the material plastic is everywhere in today’s modern society. It is used in almost every manufacturing sector. For example as bags, bottles and textiles for clothes. Other examples are computers (keyboards, screens) and car interiors. The material is made from fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas. Which is part of why plastic and emissions are debated subjects. Plastic litter is also a huge problem globally, causing land and marine pollution

Since the 1950s, plastic has been produced in enormous amounts. Numbers indicate that over 8.5 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced in the last 70 years. Of this high quantity, only about 9 % has been recycled. More so, 12 % has been burnt (which releases toxic chemicals) and about 79 % has ended up in landfills or other parts of nature. Also, there is a huge problem with plastic in the world’s oceans.

Furthermore, the Swedish Society of Nature Conservation, states that 8 to 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the environment every year. This is a massive problem as nature is unable to digest plastic. Also, it comes with chemicals that are dangerous to nature. The plastic is eventually turned into microplastics, which are beginning to appear everywhere. For example, it has been found in human breast milk. Overall, microplastics harm humans, animals and nature.

Plastic and emissions

Some figures show that the production of plastic emits an average of 2 to 3 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of material. In other words, the production of 1 kg of plastic can emit more than the double greenhouse gases. Other figures show an average of 0.8 kg of emissions per kg produced. In general, these figures depend on the efficiency of the production. More so, different kinds of plastic have different emissions. For example, polyamide (PA) can emit up to 9 kg per kg produced. It is safe to say that plastic and emissions contribute greatly to climate change.

Different kinds of plastic

First of all, plastic can generally be divided into two main groups: thermoplastic and thermosets. The first refers to “soft plastics” that can be reshaped when heated. While thermosets are plastics that cannot be melted down without being destroyed. In other words, thermoplastics can be melted and reshaped, while thermosets cannot. Furthermore, there are many different types of plastics. For example, some common types are polyethene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS/EPS). “Poly” means more and highlights that plastic has been made of several substances.

Examples of sources:  WoodlyNordenNaturskyddsföreningen


Do you know your carbon footprint?

With the ClimateHero climate calculator, you can calculate your carbon footprint in 5 minutes!