The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division released a report on the shrinking carbon and energy footprints from the production of four common plastic resins. While the production of these four resins increased over more than a decade, associated greenhouse (GHG) emissions decreased significantly—by the equivalent of removing more than one million cars from the road for an entire year.

“The U.S. has newer facilities that use shale gas coupled with improved efficiencies that have reduced carbon emissions per pound of plastic produced. This has made our manufacturing emissions lower than in many parts of the world,” said Joshua Baca ACC’s vice president of plastics. “That progress is helping essential industries, from healthcare to transportation, meet their own sustainability goals while delivering on the needs of Americans. Any policies to restrict plastics production domestically would kill U.S. jobs and result in less efficient production overseas, which would be a step backward for the environment.

Based on Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) prepared by Franklin Associates, a division of Eastern Research Group, the report compared 2005 and 2017 data for low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polypropylene (PP). Key findings from the report (per 1,000 kilograms of resin) show:

  • A 6% decrease in CO2 emissions and 4% decrease in energy consumption during LDPE production.
  • An 18% decrease in CO2 emissions and 7% decrease in energy consumption during LLDPE production.
  • A 10% decrease in CO2 emissions and 6% decrease in energy consumption during HDPE production.
  • A 13% decrease in CO2 emissions and a 2% decrease in energy consumption during PP production.
  • A total reduction of 4.97 billion kg CO2 eq. despite a total combined increase in production of the four resins by more than 4 billion pounds between 2010 and 2020 assessments (using data from 2005 and 2017).

The inventory data from the report was submitted to the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database and is accessible to LCA professionals, academics, policymakers, and regulators for use in future studies or comparative analyses.

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