Strides are being made in the climate department and they’re happening fast. As young activists lead the movement, businesses are prepared to meet consumer demand. However, new plastic is in production. Oil companies are not blind to the cut on plastic use. In response, they are setting out to create a new type in an effort to remain relevant in the industry. Implications this poses on the future are not certain.
Plans to Expand Plastic Production
According to Yale Environment 360, “Companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Saudi Aramco are ramping up output of plastic — which is made from oil and gas, and their byproducts — to hedge against the possibility that a serious global response to climate change might reduce demand for their fuels, analysts say.”
Shell has plans to build a $6 billion ethane cracking plant in Pennsylvania by the end of 2020. This facility turns ethane into ethylene which is a useful ingredient when making plastic. Up to 1.6 million tons of plastic will be produced on an annual basis.
Other companies have similar plans for expansion and have invested more than $200 billion in 333 plastic projects.
“That’s why 2020 is so crucial. There are a lot of these facilities that are in the permitting process. We’re pretty close to it all being too late,” said Judith Enck, founder of Beyond Plastics and a former regional director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “If even a quarter of these ethane cracking facilities are built, it’s locking us into a plastic future that is going to be hard to recover from.”
An Attempt to Argue for Plastic
The harmful effects of plastic are already experienced ranging from large gyres in the ocean to bits ending up in our food. However, industries continue to argue in its favor stating it is the main component used to build cars, insulate homes, and provide sanitary options in the medical field.
While plastic does play a major role in the construction of useful tools, it’s not so much about why it’s good or bad. Instead, it’s more about the how behind our relationship with it. Plastic is typically approached for single-use conveniences such as take-out containers and to-go cups. And while many have opted for reusable methods, companies also have their hand in it when purchasing packaged goods and equipment.
As a collective, we are shedding these quick habits. However, as new cracking plants are built, they’ll do their best to remain in service—whether or not consumers desire their byproducts. Cooperation on all levels from consumers, businesses, and lawmakers will soon require a revamp in response to new plastic production.
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