Plastic, particularly single-use plastics are known to be some of worst  man-made environmental polluters. Plastics is often seen littering  beaches and natural spots, as well as entering food chains in the form of microplastics, losing a threats to human beings and animals.

However, the connection that the plastics have to green house gases (GHS) emissions, the main drives of  the anthropogenic climatic change, and, is perhaps less well known and receives  far less media coverage. In 2019 report, Plastic generated 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases emissions, 3.4% of global emission with 90% of these emissions coming from their production and conversion from fossil fuels. By 2060, emissions from the plastics life cycle are set to more double reaching 4.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases emission.

Plastics are made from fossil fuel. They are essentially a different form of fossil fuel, and have a very large number of carbon footprint. Huge amounts of energy are required to create plastic plus the energy needed to extract and transport fossil fuels comes at a great cost in terms of emissions.

Therefore, the plastics also play a large role in contributing to climate change. Production is projected to continue to grow at an extremely fast rate. It is predicted that plastic production between now and 2050 will contribute over 50 gigatonnes of carbon emissions; however the real figures will likely be much higher.

Additionally, a 2018 study found that when the most common types of plastics are composed to sunlight and begins to degrade, they release trace  amounts of green house gases, specially methane, a greenhouse gases 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Emissions are higher in plastics exposed to air in comparison to those in water i.e, on land compiared to in lakes, waterways and oceans. While these are trace amounts meaning the emissions are small, they could have an impact in the future as plastics production and hence pollution increase over the next thirty years.

Clearly, the carbon footprint of plastics is yet another incentive particularly single use plastics, and an a large scale.  we must continue alternatives that can be mass-produced, and while also having a significantly lower impact in the environment.


A common rebuttal to finding alternatives to plastics is that the alternatives themselves can pose mlre of a risk to the environment, mainly due to plastics requiring less material to make bags, bottles, containers and other products. This is in relation to alternatives like glass and paper, where more of the material is required to make a quality product; this means heavier transport loads, more material used and more waste, which all contribute to environmental degradation and emissions.

However, we have seen that these are not the only solutions, and more and more radical alternatives to plastics are emerging everyday. From bamboo products to algae-based packaging, the innovation that modern technology allows us means that we have access to more solution than simply glass or paper.

About the Author: Aqsa Abid is an environmentalist and a green blogger. She has completed her BS in Environmental Sciences from GCWUS.