Fuel for Thought
New Research Suggests Plastic Industry Guzzles More Oil Than Aviation Sector
Feb 17 2016
When you consider how much oil it would take to get hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of jumbo jet off the ground, it seems unlikely that any sector could rival the aviation industry’s fuel use. Turns out, the latest report from Davos reveals otherwise. Released at by the World Economics Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and consultancy firm McKinsey, the Davos report highlighted some alarming statistics about the environmental impacts of the rapidly growing plastics industry. This includes the fact that the plastics industry uses just as much oil as the aviation sector.
Plastics industry draining non-renewable resources
As well as being a serious environmental issue, plastic waste is a pressing resource problem. Currently, executive lead for editorial and policy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Joss Blériot maintains that “At the moment the plastics industry takes up roughly 8% of oil production, and [given projected growth in consumption] it’s forecast to rise to 20% by 2050.”
“That means we end up with an explosion of the weight of plastic within the system and if it doesn’t get captured it’s a massive economic loss,” she warns.
From an environmental perspective, the world’s hunger for plastics comes with catastrophic consequences. Every minute, one truckload of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean. Every year, this equates to a huge 8 million tonnes of plastic being strewn into our seas. Today, the world’s oceans are burdened with more than 150 million tonnes of plastics, which will see the net weight of this waste outweigh that of fish by 2050.
The planet’s insatiable appetite for plastics
One of the major factors contributing to the huge amounts of oil used by the plastics industry is an increase in demand. Over the last 50 years plastic production has increased by 20x, spiralling from 15 million tonnes to a colossal 311 million tonnes. Growth is only set to continue, with analysts predicting that by 2050, production will hit 1,124 million tonnes. Furthermore, just 5% of plastic packaging is recycled. This means that rather than reuse what’s already been manufactured, the industry chews up more oil in a bid to meet demand.
Petrochemicals are a key part of the plastic manufacturing process. ‘Advance in PID Technology Give Resistance to Humidity Effects and Allow Continuous, Benzene-Specific Monitoring’ explores the sector in more detail, drawing on the expertise of Dr. Werner Haag, Senior Applications Chemist at Ion Science. He discusses the recent advances in Photo-Ionisation Detector (PID) technology, and how the new intel is transforming the petrochemical industry.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Photo credits: Geof Wilson
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