Plastic and emissions – plastic is everywhere in today’s modern society. It gets used in most manufacturing sectors. Typical uses are for bags, bottles and textiles. It also gets used in computers (keyboards, screens) and car interiors. The material comes from fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, contributing to the critique on plastic and emissions. Plastic litter is also a massive global problem, causing land and marine pollution.
History of plastic
Since the 1950s, the world has mass-produced plastic. Some numbers indicate over 8.5 billion tonnes of it. Around 9% of this high quantity got recycled. More so, 12% got burned and released toxic chemicals. At the same time, 79% ended up in landfills or other parts of nature. For example, plastic is a huge problem 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 natural environment every year. This litter is a massive problem as nature is unable to digest plastic. Also, it exposes the environment to dangerous chemicals. Eventually, the plastic turns into microplastics. The latter is starting to appear everywhere. For example, it was recently 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, producing 1 kg of plastic can emit more than double the greenhouse gases. In general, these figures depend on the efficiency of the production. Different kinds of plastic also have varying emissions. For example, polyamide (PA) can emit up to 9 kg per kg produced. Overall, plastic and emissions contribute significantly to climate change.
Different kinds of plastic
Plastic has two main groups: thermoplastic and thermosets. The first refers to “soft plastics”, which can change shape when heated. Thermosets, on the other hand, get destroyed when heated. Furthermore, there are many different types of plastics. For example, polyethene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS/EPS). “Poly” means more and highlights that plastic gets made of several substances.
Examples of sources: Woodly, Norden, Naturskyddsföreningen