Devin Sidhu | July 27, 2021
Reducing carbon emissions has been at the forefront of worldwide environmental issues; we have heard mantras like “reduce, reuse, recycle,” “using less is better,” “lighter is better,” and more.
These are all relating to carbon emissions and global warming, as they relate to plastics.
Many companies all over the world have committed to carbon neutrality, and the number keeps increasing. The companies that have not committed to this laudable goal have to assess their business, check their supply chains and chart a course as they move forward. This is not going to be simple.
However, we know the importance of this goal, as it touches on our future, quality of life, and eventually, the survival on this planet. Achieving carbon neutrality is a necessity. We know that living without Plastic is virtually impossible in this age; however, plastic waste negatively affects the environment
Business leaders have a vital role in finding the best equation for achieving zero waste and zero carbon emissions and producing the services and goods that the world needs to keep growing sustainably.
Therefore, we are left with the plastic paradox: finding the best equation to achieve reduced plastic waste and reduced carbon emissions
Finding the right solution
With over thirty years of exceptional experience in packaging and sustainability, I am uniquely informed of the great benefits and debilitating effects Plastic has had and is still having on our world.
Unlike in the past, presently, we can do a lot to significantly reduce our production of plastic waste while making great strides in reducing carbon emissions. To do this, we have to assess the life cycle of our plastic products and the systems we use. To do this, we have to adopt new models of plastic packaging to reduce our consumption of the resource; we also need to aggressively start making products that we can recycle and that would not significantly impact our environment during its lifespan.
The paradox becomes more apparent at this point. In producing and using Plastic, we make greenhouse gas emissions but using Plastic reduces our greenhouse gas emissions compared to some other available alternatives. Many do not consider this side of the equation, although it is vital to consider this when we want to plan a sustainable future and allow for lowering carbon emissions. We cannot eliminate our use of Plastic; therefore, we need to attend to emissions from the production of Plastic and the emissions we produce throughout our supply chain.
To implement the zero-carbon plan, we need to attend to environmental and material costs during our use phase of Plastic, efficient fuel use while shipping, and the appropriate materials to protect the products.
There are some variables to consider:
How to efficiently use energy when shipping goods
The role plastic plays in offsetting carbon emissions are usually unrecognized; however, they are necessary materials we use when shipping and preserving products we cannot do without, like wellness products and food. These products produce most of our carbon emissions; therefore, we should check the entire process and system to reduce carbon emissions. Most of us do not know that natural gas and other fossil resources are used to produce Plastic; less energy is used in the production of Plastic than in the production of alternatives to Plastic like cardboard and glass. This invariably means that the output of Plastic leads to less greenhouse gas emissions than the alternatives.
Think about how things would be if all the goods we use were packed in metal containers and glass bottles. These materials are heavier to transport than Plastic and will use more energy in producing them; therefore, they would invariably lead to more carbon emissions because producing, distributing, and collecting them for recycling would consume more energy.
While considering the benefits of Plastic, we also need to check how we can reduce the negative impact it has. To do this, we have to speed up developing plastic products that can be recycled 100% and make new plastic products from already existing plastic waste. This would help reduce plastic waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, leading us to achieve our goals of a better quality of life, healing our planet, and making it safe for the future.
How to ensure better fuel efficiency
Increasing fuel efficiency is a vital part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.if we replace our use of plastic and use alternatives, things we use them to produce (like cars) would become heavier and would need more fuel. Further, we would have to use more powerful engines with them, which leads to further use of more fuel. When fuel efficiency rises, greenhouse gas emissions reduce, this is evident in the fact that from 2004 fuel efficiency has increased by 29% while carbon emissions from those sources have declined by 23%. (source: www.epa.gov/automotive-trends/highlights-automotive-trends-report)
Our production and use of electric cars owe a great deal to Plastic; this is because our use of Plastic to produce cars has led to lighter vehicles that are environmentally friendly. You cannot dispel with the use of Plastic when you want to produce lightweight, durable vehicles.
How to assess the suitable product materials to achieve neutral environmental cost
Your ability to find the right product to use for packaging, be it plastic or its alternatives, is vital to our carbon-neutral goal. You need to get a material that balances recycling rates and overall carbon cost. As manufacturers, we should assess our products against this variable, so we ensure sustainability.
We know from research that if we use alternatives of Plastic to package consumer goods, the negative impact on the environment is approx 3 – 4 times more than when we use Plastic. This is part of why we prefer using Plastic for packaging; of course, Plastic is not better for everything; we are simply referring to packaging consumer goods.
We have to equip ourselves with the correct information to make the right choices and inform companies and people properly to make the right decisions in this regard. This is the way to ensure lasting change—the vital role of Plastic in achieving carbon neutrality. The coming months will present world leaders and decision-makers with tremendous opportunities on climate issues.
The important role of Plastic in achieving carbon neutrality
We have the gathering at COP26 this Fall, and this is an opportunity to speed up the Paris Agreement. The innovations made by businesses will reduce greenhouse emissions; this is key, especially innovations in the supply chain. These businesses will lead the path of implementing innovations and making lasting improvements in our society.
The role of Plastic in ensuring lower carbon emissions, carbon neutrality, and economic growth cannot be replaced.
As we continue our fight against climate change, our well-informed discussions on the role of Plastic in this fight and ensuring a better future are invaluable.