Plastic is one of the most commonly found materials around the world, and unfortunately, one of the most consistent and widespread pollutants on the planet. The last few years, striking images of beaches and wildlife contaminated by plastic pollution have drawn attention to the a growing problem that requires serious action. The demand for change is not just aimed at improving the condition of the environment and reducing our carbon footprint; there is also a great deal of concern around the toxins in plastic that could present health risks to humans.
Zero emissions by 2050
Devastating Californian wildfires, scorching heatwaves, and severe drought in India are clear signs of the elevating scale of the dangers caused by the climate problem. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warming needs to be limited to less than 1.5C if humankind hopes to prevent potentially irreparable damage to our climate. To do this, global emissions will need to be reduced by 45 percent by the year 2030, and by 2050 we’ll need to produce zero net emissions.
A report from the Center for International Environmental Law and partners reveals that the drastic rate at which emissions are increasing suggests that these carbon reduction goals might be unattainable. This year, plastic production and incineration will contribute more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to our already fragile atmosphere. By 2050, this figure could reach 2.8 billion metric tons.
A money driven industry
As plastic is made almost completely of fossil fuels, the situation is bound to get worse as the American Chemistry Council estimates that petrochemical industry (companies such as Exxon and Shell) plan to invest more than $200 billion in over 330 new or expanded facilities in the next 5 years. Just one of these facilities alone can emit up to 2.25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. With less than 9 percent of plastic being recycled each year, the outcome for the planet looks dangerously unstable unless significant efforts are made to change our way of living.