Plastics today feature in every part of our lives and are found everywhere. The global realisation that plastics are an environmental problem has focused on plastic waste and pollution, but plastics are also problematic in terms of the global climate emergency, because almost all plastics today are made from fossil fuels. By 2050, on current trends, greenhouse gas emissions from plastics will increase threefold and could account for as much as 20% of total oil consumption. To achieve net zero emissions globally by 2050, it is critical that the plastics sector reduce its emissions to zero by that date.
Building on recent literature about plastics and climate change, this report explores the potential for extensive emission reductions in the plastics sector. Using a scenario approach, we present an assessment of the technical feasibility of phasing out the production of new fossil plastics by 2050, based on detailed analysis of the potential to transform the use of plastics in four sectors – automotive, construction, packaging and electrical and electronic equipment.
Andrew Scott, Sam Pickard, Samuel Sharp and Renilde Becqué