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Report – Plastics To Outpace Coal In Driving Climate Change

Beyond Plastics – Plastics are the New Coal: “Plastics are on track to contribute more climate change emissions than coal plants by 2030, a new report finds. As fossil fuel companies seek to recoup falling profits, they are increasing plastics production and cancelling out greenhouse gas reductions gained from the recent closures of 65 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants. The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change by Beyond Plastics at Bennington College analyzes never-before-compiled data of ten stages of plastics production, usage, and disposal and finds that the U.S. plastics industry is releasing at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of 116 average-sized coal-fired power plants. And that number is growing quickly. In 2020, the plastics industry’s reported emissions increased by 10 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions over 2019. Construction is currently underway on another 12 plastics facilities, and 15 more are planned—altogether these expansions may emit more than 40 million more tons of greenhouse gases annually by 2025. “The fossil fuel industry is losing money from its traditional markets of power generation and transportation. They are building new plastics facilities at a staggering clip so they can dump their petrochemicals into plastics. This petrochemical buildout is cancelling out other global efforts to slow climate change,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and President of Beyond Plastics. In addition to accelerating climate change, plastic pollutes water, air, soil, wildlife, and health—particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. The U.S. plastics industry reported releasing 114 million tons of greenhouse gases nationwide in 2020. Ninety percent of its reported climate change pollution occurs in just 18 communities where residents earn 28% less than the average U.S. household and are 67% more likely to be people of color. In addition to greenhouse gases, these facilities also emit massive amounts of particulates and other toxic chemicals into the air, threatening residents’ health. What the industry reports is less than half of what it actually releases, according to the analysis by Material Research. The Maine-based firm examined data from federal agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, and Department of Energy, and found a severe undercounting of plastics’ climate impacts. In addition to the 114 million tons of greenhouse gases the industry reported releasing in 2020, Material Research identified another 118 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from other stages, the equivalent of more carbon dioxide than that of 59 average-sized coal-fired power plants…”

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