Plastic Producers Now Paying for New Plants
The founders of an alliance to stop plastic waste have started to invest in plastic production plants. According to a European NGO, they are even the world’s leading investors in doing so, and the firms they’re collaborating with to reduce pollution should become the core factor of waste reduction throughout the next decade.
$1 billion, or £778 million, have been invested by them for the next five years, with the hopes of raising this to $1.5 billion should more people show interest in investing in the reduction of pollution.
Sustaining this plan, however, may require far more money. For example, Shell is building a multi-billion dollar plant in Pennsylvania and using shale gas for fuel to create polyethylene plastic. They plan on producing 1.6 million tonnes per year.
Another member of the alliance, ExxonMobil, are building a polyethylene plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas. It will produce an additional 2.5 tonnes compared to the previous one and will become one of the largest plastic producers in the world when complete.
The Saudi Arabian oil company, Saudi Aramco, and the chemical company SABIC are building one of the world’s largest conversion factories of turning oil into petrochemicals in order to move people away from their reliance on crude oils.
One of the main problems with most plastic producers have is their need for fracking. Since 2010, however, many fossil fuel companies have taken to investing over $180 billion in creating “cracking” factories to produce the materials for plastics and increase the amount of plastic production by 40% for the next decade.
Despite the improvements in acknowledging the problems with plastics, however, the companies have yet to fully target the source. According to NGO Recycling Netwerk director, Rob Buurman, the main problem is “the gigantic production of 400m tonnes of plastic each year, with 60m metric tonnes produced in Europe alone.”
Since the mass-production of plastic on a global scale took form in the 1950s, over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced and have lead to roughly 6 billion tonnes of waste. Only 9% of the waste has been recycled, with the rest being burnt and contributing towards climate change. With many of these being for packaging, most plastics are unfortunately designed just for single-use.
Buurman also said that beach cleanups for plastic won’t be effective when more plastic is being produced and the method of collecting the waste is a half-hearted one. When asked about the problems in plastic production and waste collection, he said: “the exaggerated use of it in products with a short lifespan is a problem in itself.”
According to the UN, roughly 8 million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the sea each year, leading to many marine creatures being entangled in it and habitats being destroyed. Even with public awareness of this being made greater through Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth-II series, however, the change seems minimal.
A spokesman for the plastic alliance stated: “Reducing the amount of plastic required to create products while preserving the benefits people rely on and making plastics easier to recycle is definitely part of the solution. Not all alliance members produce plastic. Some of the members do produce plastic, and some have announced expansions to meet the demands of a growing population.
“Plastic provides many critical health, safety and sustainability benefits that help improve and maintain living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world and replacing it could, in the end, do more harm than good.”
He also said that replacing plastics with other materials for packaging would increase the packaging generated in the US alone by 55 million tons. From this, carbon emissions would increase by 130% and energy use by 82%. This helps reinforce his point that despite the problems of plastic waste, it is still better than the alternative option for packaging.
List of End Plastic Waste Alliance Members
● Berry Global
● Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC
● Dow Chemical
● Formosa Plastics Corporation
● Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings
● Mitsui Chemicals
● NOVA Chemicals
● Procter & Gamble
● Reliance Industries
● SCG Chemicals
● Sumitomo Chemical
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