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What actions can meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic life cycle and hence reduce the effect of plastic on climate change?
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The report “Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet” (Center for International Environmental Law, 2019) examines plastic’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and considers a number of responses to the crisis, as listed below.

High-Impact Interventions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Plastic Life Cycle

  • Stop the production and use of single-use, disposable plastic products
  • Stop development of new oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure
  • Foster the transition to zero-waste communities
  • Implement extended producer responsibility as a critical component of circular economies
  • Set and enforce ambitious targets and monitoring requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including plastic production

Medium-Impact Interventions that May Benefit Climate or Sustainable Development Goals but Not Both

  • Reduce construction of new petrochemical and plastic manufacturing infrastructure
  • Reduce new pipeline and well pad construction
  • Identify and fix leaking pipes and tanks
  • Beach cleanups
  • River controls (catchment areas below artificial barriers)

Low-Impact Interventions that Do Little to Safeguard the Climate or the Planet

  • Mandate offsetting reforestation projects
  • Use renewable energy sources throughout plastic supply chain 
  • Ocean plastic recycling
  • Maximise energy efficiency throughout plastic supply chain
  • Modern landfill
  • Mandate capturing gas vs. loss (flaring/venting)

False Solutions

  • Biodegradable plastic
  • Use bio-feedstocks in petrochemical and plastic manufacturing
  • Plastic-eating organisms
  • Ocean cleanup 
  • Use chemically recycled feedstocks in petrochemical and plastic manufacturing
  • Further integrate petroleum refining, gas processing, petrochemical, and plastic manufacturing
  • Waste-to-energy

See also: “How Does Plastic Affect Climate Change?” (OneSharedEarth, 2020)

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