Making Plastic Emission Transparent


In terms of carbon emissions, are some plastics worse than others?  The answer is yes – the carbon footprint of one plastic bottle can be four times lower than another depending on which fossil fuel is used as feedstock, what kind of energy is used to create (renewable or not) and how it is disposed of (recycled or not).  But does this information matter?


The Coalition on Materials Emissions Transparency’s “Making Plastics Emissions Transparent” report reveals the complexity of measuring the carbon footprint of various plastics.  The report is dense, but has provided a foundation for the emerging study of carbon accounting across the long supply chain and many production steps in making plastic.


Is “carbon accounting” going to matter to consumers when they purchase a bottle of water?  Hopefully not!  As attitudes towards single-use plastics change, consumers may avoid single-use bottles of any type.  In the selection of bad vs. less bad, they may just choose “No thanks.”


But single-use plastics and packaging are only 50% of plastic produced.  What about the other 50% of plastics that are durable?  Will accurate carbon accounting affect the buying decisions of consumers purchasing cars, computers and construction materials?  Will manufacturers want to be first to market with certifiable and lower carbon impacts?


Learn more about carbon accounting for plastic at the link above.  For a less dense but thought provoking take, check out this recent opinion from Rocky Mountain Institute:


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