Oil, gas and petrochemicals companies are responding to public revulsion about plastic waste in their own special way: by investing billions to INCREASE plastics production.
Thanks to their efforts, global output of ethylene and propylene, the two main raw materials for plastics production, is expected to RISE BY ONE-THIRD in the next seven years.
I am all in favour of campaigns to cut down the insanely wasteful use of plastic bottles, bags and
packaging. But let’s also make sure we understand the root of the problem: systems of production and consumption that aim only to raise output, and the mighty corporate interests that control them.
The trail from gas, oil and coal production, through petrochemicals plants, to manufacturing and trading companies thatgorge on needless mountains of plastic, has been well researched by campaigning NGOs, lawyers and journalists. Here is People & Nature’s handy guide:
Production: the US shale gas boom
Nearly all plastics are made from coal, oil or gas (see “Quick chemistry catch-up”, below). The recent boom in shale gas production has caused US gas supply to outstrip demand. That in turn has triggered a wave of investment in petrochemicals plants that make ethylene, the key raw material for several types of plastic.
In other words, it is the availability of cheap raw material – not any obvious human need – that is driving plastics production growth.
The US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report last month that three new ethylene plants (called “cracking” plants) had started up in 2017, and another six are due Read the rest of this entry »