Publication / 03 May 2016

Scaling Sustainable Plastics

Trucost and Ocean Recovery Alliance examine how we can ensure a sustainable future for plastic use globally.

The use of plastic has advanced society by improving healthcare through its use in medical equipment, providing packaging to reduce food waste, and cutting transportation costs and emissions due to its lighter weight.

However, huge volumes of plastic are also used for disposable packaging and products leading to many negative environmental consequences. If predicted strong growth of plastics continues with production from fossil fuels, the plastics sector will be responsible for 15% of the 2050 global annual carbon budget needed to achieve the internationally accepted goal to limit global warming to 2°C.

The benefits of switching to sustainable plastic can be huge. If the entire computer manufacturing industry switched to using closed-loop recycled plastic, society would see an environmental benefit of $700 million per year. Through the use of algae-based bioplastic, the footwear sector could reduce environmental costs of plastic by over $7,000 per $1m of revenue, equivalent to 5% of its total supply chain environmental cost. So, the opportunities presented by sustainable plastics are positive, but they are often happening in a fragmented way. In order for the sector to truly become circular, sustainability needs to be scaled up – and quickly.

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