“Replacing plastics used in buildings with metal, wood, ceramics and glass, turning to paper and fabric for packaging, and boosting recycling rates could slash planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, researchers said on Monday.
A mixture of substitution, changes in business models and consumer behaviour, and producing more plastics without using fossil fuels could halve global plastic consumption and cut emissions from plastics by more than half, they said.
Otherwise, emissions from plastics are expected to increase threefold by 2050, jeopardising a goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, said a new report from the London-based Overseas Development Institute.
‘Although plastics permeate our lives and every corner of our planet, it is technically possible to largely phase them out,’ the report said.
Lead researcher Andrew Scott told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that all but 1-2% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, principally oil and gas, with the emissions produced at different stages of the value chain.
‘When somebody buys a plastic product, they don’t actually generate emissions when they’re using it. But there’s emissions embodied in the product from the previous stages,’ he said, adding emissions could also come from discarded plastics.
The largest use of plastic is for packaging, accounting for 36% of total output in 2015, followed by construction at 16%, the report said.
However, switching to non-plastic alternatives that are currently available, such as wood and metal, could reduce the use of plastics in the construction industry by 95%, it said.”
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