Plastics are sealing the planet’s fate

It’s impossible to imagine modern life without plastics. From the moment the day begins, we are using plastic. It’s in our toothbrushes, our shower curtains and our phones. We use it on the way to work in bus seats, car dashboards, and bicycle helmets. We see it at lunch in takeout containers and disposable utensils. Whether you’re in your living room controlling the TV with a plastic remote or on the top of Mount Everest wearing cold-weather gear made with plastics, it’s there.

We rarely think about where it all comes from, but we should. According to a new report on the full life-cycle of the world’s plastic production, the long-term environmental results are nothing short of a catastrophe. The report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) finds the production of plastics — from extraction to manufacture to disposal and steps in between —  is a significant source of carbon pollution and set to become a major driver of climate change.

While other studies have calculated emissions from plastics at various stages of production and disposal of plastics, this report is the first of its kind to estimate the impact of plastic across its full life cycle. Most carbon emissions associated with plastics comes from the production phase of the life cycle, but even at the end of the cycle, plastics are a source of pollution.

Most of the plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and persists in some form. What happens next is known. Turtles wind up with straws in their noses, dead whales wash ashore with almost 100 pounds of plastic in their stomachs, divers swim through currents of plastic pollution. Even at this stage, plastics are a source of carbon pollution.

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