Wait… Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Making Plastic Went Down?

Yup, While Production Went Up
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Americans buy a lot of cars and trucks. And new homes. Plus solar panels, medical devices, packaged food, cell phones, clothes and other things.

All these products depend on a steady supply of plastic. So, it’s not surprising that plastic production went up between 2005 and 2017.

What may be surprising is that greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from making four common plastics during this same time went down. A lot.

A 2022 Report called “A Decreasing Footprint” found that despite an increase in demand for these plastics (typically referred to as LDPE, HDPE, LLDPE and PP), their environmental footprint actually shrunk, as measured by GHGs and energy use.

Details:

  • GHGs decreased by 6 to 18%, per pound of plastic produced.
  • Energy use decreased by 2 to 7%, per pound of plastic produced.

Here’s the big one:

  • Production increased by 4 billion+ pounds BUT…
  • Associated GHGs decreased significantly by ~5 billion kilograms, the equivalent of removing one million cars from our roads for one year.

Good news.

And this positive trend toward lower GHGs and energy use is expected to continue as production shifts to lower carbon fuel sources, including renewables, and manufacturing efficiencies improve.

NOTE: This Report builds on decades of findings from multiple researchers that show the use of plastic packaging and products can significantly reduce GHGs compared to alternatives.

America’s Plastic Makers are not the only ones making products that enable the transition to renewable energy and help drive down greenhouse gas emissions. Members of the American Chemistry Councilwhich include both plastics makers and others involved in the business of chemistryreduced greenhouse gas emissions intensity by more than 12% since 2017. Even with this progress, there is much more to do. Learn more about these chemistry companies here.