99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels.
When we think about climate change, we typically focus on factories, coal and cars, but rarely on this fact. As plastic activists, we usually talk about downstream environmental impacts or health threats, but only marginally on the connection between the plastics economy and carbon pollution.
plastic is connected to climate change and it pollutes at every stage: From materials extraction to producT production to waste disposal.
Currently, one of the most inexpensive ways to make plastic is through “cracking.” When land is fracked to produce fossil fuels, ethane gas is produced as a byproduct. Cracking plants—also known as “crackers”—convert ethane to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene plastic.
As we diversify our sources for fuel and energy, the fossil fuel industry is betting on cracking to continue expanding its petrochemicals business. Plastic production is projected to triple by 2050. More than $180 billion has been allocated over the next 10 years to build 263 new cracker facilities along the Gulf Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region—both vulnerable to the extreme weather patterns connected to global warming.
For example, Chevron Phillips, which reported one of the largest chemical emissions “spills” after Hurricane Harvey, is building a $6 billion ethane processor in the Gulf region. Ethane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and pollutes our air. Typically built in or near low-income communities of color, cracking facilities pose both environmental and social justice problems.
What can you do? Pledge to go #plasticfree and refuse single-use plastics to fight climate change.
Take the pledge!
You can also visit these sites for more information:
In 2018, 5 Gyres joined a group of likeminded NGOs including #BreakFreeFromPlastic members GAIA, Earthworks, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Story of Stuff, TEJAS (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) and UPSTREAM to strategize a stronger connection between plastic pollution with climate change movements.