How plastic waste affects climate and what is the alternative?
The future of the planet is in jeopardy. According to a report on the full life cycle of global plastic production, the long-term environmental results are appalling. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) concludes that plastic production will become a major driver of climate change. It is, therefore, time to act and to find solutions. But what role does plastic pollution actually play in the acceleration of the climate change process?
How Does Plastic Affect Climate Change?
Virgin plastic, the material produced from a petrochemical feedstock, has a huge impact on climate change. In fact, virgin plastic production will be responsible for 15% of the whole planet’s carbon budget by 2050. Moreover, most of the fossil fuels used to produce plastics are collected through fracking. Fracking adds large amounts of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. The plastic industry also needs two to four million gallons of water per well and a ton of energy. Pipelines contribute to deforestation, GHG emissions, and, due to the incineration of “non-valid plastic”, they also pollute the atmosphere.
Since a majority of plastics created are single use, they most often end up in trash bins and garbage dumps. Virgin plastic not made from natural materials doesn’t decompose. Instead, it breaks down into microplastics that are not only found in our soil, but in our food as well.
If the plastic ends up in our waterways, even more greenhouse gasses are released. New studies have shown that plastic bags release ethane when exposed to sunshine after being submerged in seawater. Stats show that every year, 11 million tons of plastic enters the ocean. Plastics on land (literally everywhere, even in high mountain peaks) act in the same way as plastic islands floating in the ocean.
Benefits of Turning Plastic Waste into Recycled Raw Materials
Currently, less than 10% of all manufactured plastics are recycled. But processes are changing. What used to be considered plastic waste is now being used as recycled raw material. While recycling plastic into raw materials does release some greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it’s significantly less than producing virgin plastics. Plus, recycled raw materials prevent plastics from ending up as microplastics in our waters and on land.
Another benefit of using recycled raw materials is that there’s no need to continue fracking. This reduces the number of fossil fuels used, greenhouse gasses released, and overall water consumption, all of which contribute to climate change.
Following the upcycling model is Sea2see. We use the plastic we collect ourselves from the marine and coastal environments. Next step is to select and upcycle this polymer to to produce UPSEA™ PLAST, plastic pellets of polyamide used to manufacture our watches and eyewear in Switzerland and Italy. In this way, we extend the life cycle of plastics. What was once waste and pollution, is turned into amazing products, while taking the first steps towards cleaning the oceans and stopping climate change.