CAPA, Institutional News

The New Coal

The US plastics industry’s contribution to climate change is on track to exceed that of coal-fired power in this country by 2030, finds The New Coal: Plastics & Climate Change, a report from CAPA Senior Fellow Judith Enck and the Beyond Plastics project.

Image of Beyond Plastics wave logo

Highlighted on over 30 outlets, this groundbreaking report has been featured in Fast CompanyRolling StoneMarketplaceNPR, and more.

Findings from the report include: 

  • The plastics industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are on track to surpass those of coal-fired power in the U.S. by 2030.
  • As of 2020, the U.S. plastics industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year. This amount is equivalent to the average emissions from 116 average-sized (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants. 
  • 90% of the reported pollution from U.S. plastics manufacturing is released into just 18 communities located mostly in Louisiana and Texas. The people who live within three miles of these petrochemical clusters earn 28% less than the average U.S. household and are 67% more likely to be people of color -- a massive environmental injustice.

The report reveals that with regards to climate change, plastic is the new coal.

According to the report, few people in government or in the business community are even talking about plastics' climate impact yet, which must change quickly in order to remain within the 1.5° C global temperature increase scientists have pinpointed as critical to avoiding the most devastating impacts of climate change. 

“We see the world going to the COP [UN climate conference] in Glasgow, and we see Congress debating climate policy,” said Judith Enck, CAPA Senior Fellow, former EPA regional administrator, and President of Beyond Plastics in Rolling Stone. “Our goal with this report is to get plastics into that discussion – where it belongs.”