Forty Seven Billion Dollars discussed on All Things Considered


Plastic waste litters cities and oceans plastic particles float in the air that's just the stuff people can see largely overlooked is how making plastic affects the environment is NPR's Christopher Joyce reports it's a big contributor to climate change but then so are many of the alternatives the plastic water bottle or grocery bag or tray of cucumbers at the supermarket they're made from oil or natural gas and says Carol muffin it takes a lot of energy to make that happen the real story of plastics impact on the environment begins at the well heads where it comes out of the ground and it never ever stops Moffett runs the center for international environmental law the center has gathered global data on how much climate warming greenhouse gas is produced in making all that plastic from cradle to grave first there are gas leaks at the well heads then there are leaks from the pipelines that take oil and gas to a chemical plant then there's the link the chemical process of turning oil or gas into raw plastic resin plastics is among the most energy intensive materials to produce factories then use more energy to fashion the plastic in the packaging or carport toward textiles trucking around to consumers causes more emissions and once it's used often gets burned to make electricity that's another source of greenhouse gases all told says Moffett emissions from plastics production incineration could account of fifty six giga tons of carbon between now and twenty fifty or about fifty times the annual emissions of all the coal power plants in the US that's a big number because a plastic production is expected to almost quadruple by twenty fifty that's according to the World Economic Forum the American chemistry council says the US industry plans to spend forty seven billion dollars on new capacity over the next decade the key message that people should take away is that the plastics crisis is the climate crisis hiding in plain sight but one thing this analysis does not do is examine the carbon footprint of things that would replace plastic things like paper or canvas or glass several research groups have in plastic repeatedly comes out ahead chemical engineer Beverly sour of E. R. G. an independent research group compared a mix of plastic packaging with a mix of substitutes the impact associated with plastics are generally much lower than the impact for the mix of substitute materials that would replace packaging here Jeez analysis calculate that the quantity of raw materials as well as the electricity fuel water and other materials needed to make paper and plastic packaging plastic uses less and at the end of its life paper in a landfill emits more greenhouse gases one big advantage plastic has is its light the plastic packaging accomplishes its purpose with very little weight of material just for example a paper bag weighs twice with a plastic one does not only do you have to produce you know twice the weight of material you have to transport twice the weight of material you have twice the weight of material to to manage at the end of its useful life and glass bottles way several times more than plastic ones the E. RG analysis was done for the American chemistry council analyses by the British government and other independent researchers have also found that most plastic packaging has a lighter carbon footprint than paper but his plastics effect on climate all that matters Angela houses no she's a surfer and an attorney with the surf rider foundation it's a group started by surfers who keep beaches like this one in southern California clean so they pick up trash and they see that it's abundantly plastic overwhelmingly plastic literal lasts for decades at least it's trash that marine animals eat plastic breaks down into tiny pieces to contaminate rivers and oceans and our own food where

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