Fighting Climate Change Means Fighting Plastics

Fighting Climate Change Means Fighting Plastics

Quick, what produces more emissions, electricity + transportation, or heavy industry + buildings?

It’s neck-and-neck today, but the trends are moving in opposite directions. Want to fight climate change? Fight future emissions.

Coal [has] become costly and uneconomical ... But plastics and chemicals face no such economic headwinds. In fact, the petroleum industry sees these industries as its future. -NYT

“Electrify everything” will work because EVs are cool and renewable electricity is cheap. But emissions sources and oil companies won’t stand still. Petrochemicals and plastics are growing, investments into these industries are flowing, and increasing emissions from these sectors will replace CO2 reductions from other places.

At a panel last week, Pierre Paslier asked why we use forever-packaging for single-use products. Notpla’s seaweed packaging lasts plenty long for what we actually need it to do. I made the same point about styrofoam—so much plastic foam in products that we can easily, immediately replace with natural fibers—no compromise, no behavior change, no price penalty.

What EVs and solar power are doing for transport and power, we need to do for materials and heavy industry. We are so much earlier on the decarbonization journey here, but disruption is coming, and low hanging fruit is still all over the place. This is a bigger market than EVs, and the Teslas of this world are still tiny; many haven’t even been founded yet.

It’s good Michael Bloomberg is putting some money to work here, but orders of magnitude more investment is needed, and enormous impact and opportunity await.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.