The New Coal: Plastics & Climate Change is a comprehensive account of the United States plastics industry’s contributions to the climate crisis. Using the coal-fired power industry as a benchmark, the report examines ten stages in the creation, use, and disposal of plastics. Key findings include:
- Plastics manufacturing is currently a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
- The petrochemical industry’s plastics infrastructure is expanding, and emissions are slated to increase dramatically.
- The health impacts of emissions released by the plastics industry are disproportionately felt by low-income communities and people of color.
- “Chemical recycling” shares more in common with incinerating than recycling waste.
- Much of the ongoing buildout is export-oriented.
- Overall, this report finds that the U.S. plastics industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year.
- Reports generated by the plastics industry are incomplete, and consequently understate the quantities of gases, especially methane gas, it releases.