Plastic permeates the oceans, clutters landfills, and threatens to create a “near-permanent contamination of the natural environment,” according to researchers. As if that weren’t bad enough, it is also a major contributor to climate change.
A new report from the advocacy group Beyond Plastics says that emissions from the plastic industry could overtake those from coal-fired power plants by the end of this decade. At every step of its life cycle, the report said, plastic causes greenhouse gas emissions that are jeopardizing urgent climate goals and harming marginalized communities.
“Plastic is intimately connected to the climate crisis,” said Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and the founder of Beyond Plastics, at a press conference unveiling the report. Most people understand how plastic strangles the ocean and can cause health problems, she added, but far fewer have grasped its concerning climate footprint. “Plastic is the new coal,” Enck said.
The report details 10 ways that plastic contributes to global warming, starting with its creation. Plastics are petroleum products, meaning they are made from materials produced by oil and gas wells. Most shale wells in the U.S. are fracked, a process by which liquid is injected deep into the ground to force out methane, ethane, and other gases. Beyond Plastics estimates that leakage at these fracking wellheads contributes an estimated 33 million metric tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere annually — an amount that’s roughly equivalent to Denmark’s total emissions in 2019.
Read the full article about plastic and the climate crisis by Joseph Winters at Grist.
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