$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge
Colossal funding in manufacturing plants by fossil fuel companies will increase plastic production by 40%, risking permanent pollution of the earth
The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US.
Fossil fuel companies are among those who have ploughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new cracking facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons.
The new facilities being built by corporations like Exxon Mobile Chemical and Shell Chemical will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade, according to experts, exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis that scientist warn already risks near permanent pollution of the earth.
We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realising we should use far less of it, said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which has analysed the plastic industry.
Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon and Shell, that have helped create the climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics.
Greenpeace UKs senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said any increase in the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans would have a disastrous impact.
We are already producing more disposable plastic than we can deal with, more in the last decade than in the entire twentieth century, and millions of tonnes of it are ending up in our oceans.
The huge investment in plastic production has been driven by the shale gas boom in the US. This has resulted in one of the raw materials used to produce plastic resin natural gas liquids dropping dramatically in price.
The American Chemistry Council says that since 2010 this has led to $186bn dollars being invested in 318 new projects. Almost half of them are already under construction or have been completed. The rest are at the planning stage.
I can summarise [the boom in plastics facilities] in two words, Kevin Swift, chief economist at the ACC, told the Guardian. Shale gas.
He added: There has been a revolution in the US with the shale gas technologies, with the fracking, the horizontal drilling. The cost of our raw material base has gone down by roughly two thirds.
The findings come amid growing concern about the scale of plastics pollution around the world. Earlier this year scientists warned that it risked near permanent contamination of the planet and at a UN environment conference in Kenya this month the scale of plastic in the sea was described as an ocean armageddon.