New Investments in Plastic Deserve Greater Scrutiny
Industry is currently investing billions in capacity to expand plastic production. But as the world phases out fossil fuels and awareness of the dangers of plastics increases, it begs the question: Is plastic production a good long-term investment?
Around the world, countries, cities, and individuals are ramping up efforts to phase out fossil fuels, but as they do so, the impacts of fossil fuel phase-out have gone largely unexamined for the plastics industry.
Almost all plastics are formed from chemicals that begin as fossil fuels. As end products of the fossil fuel supply chain, plastics too will be profoundly disrupted by global efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and confront climate change. As the world grows more alarmed by the accelerating plastic pollution crisis and is taking steps to reduce — or eliminate — plastic pollution, the fossil fuel, petrochemical, and plastics companies are making huge investments in additional production capacity, especially in the United States. The shale gas boom has fueled a massive influx of investment in new and expanded plastic production capacity because it dramatically reduced the price of ethane, a by-product of natural gas production that is an important chemical for producing plastic.
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