This report by Greenpeace USA, exposes the business links between the world’s largest consumer goods and fossil fuel companies and the overall lack of transparency around emissions from plastic packaging.
As the climate crisis intensifies, there is growing worldwide acceptance of the need to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to limit global heating to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. As this need for drastic cuts in fossil fuel emissions begins to assume concrete form – as car companies invest heavily in electric technology, and local and national governments start to timetable bans on gasoline and diesel vehicles and domestic gas boilers – the fossil fuel industry’s future is necessarily coming into question. Institutional and equity investors, banks and insurers have been progressively withdrawing from the sector because of its doubtful future in a world increasingly alert to the urgent need to halt global heating.
Companies that have invested and continue to invest huge sums of money in finding and developing new oil and gas fields and building refineries (even though the oil and gas in already operational fields would by itself be enough to take the world past the 1.5 °C carbon budget5) risk being left with stranded assets6 and plunged into financial jeopardy. In response to this existential uncertainty, vertically integrated fossil fuel majors such as Aramco, Total, Exxon and Shell have reportedly been making massive investments in petrochemical and plastic production. They are well placed to do so, as more than 99% of plastic is produced from fossil fuels,11 with an estimated 6% of global oil production either used as feedstock for plastics or burned to provide energy for the production processes.12 Significant amounts of ethane and propane separated from natural gas are also used. Coal is also used as a plastic feedstock, particularly in China.13 Global production and consumption of plastics have increased dramatically since the 1950s.14 According to trade body PlasticsEurope, in 2020 global plastic production reached 367 million metric tons, up from 359 million metric tons in 2018.15 If business as usual continues, idustry estimates predict that plastic production could double by 2030-2035 and triple by 2050, in comparison to 2015.16 Indeed, according to a recent report by the Minderoo Foundation, producers of the five primary single-use plastic polymers plan to increase capacity by 30% – an additional 70 million metric tons – in the five years between 2020 and 2025 alone.
Call on the NZ Government to ban unnecessary single-use plastic bottles* in NZ, and to incentivise reusable and refillable alternatives.