International Industrial Ecology Day 2021

Global plastic production and use in a carbon-constrained world

Plastic is at the centre of our daily lives, but the current plastics economy, characterized by mass production and disposal, is intensifying climate change. Here we show that a suite of supply- and demand-side strategies across the entire plastic lifecycle need to be implemented concurrently and ambitiously to comply with the 1.5-2°C climate goals. We estimate that, under a business-as-usual scenario, the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of plastics will account for more than a quarter of the emissions budget in 2050. To deliver sufficient emissions abatement, global plastic demand needs to be curtailed by around 40% by 2050, compared to business-as-usual, together with the ambitious implementation of low-carbon energy, recycling, and bio-based feedstock. Importantly, such demand reduction targets are more stringent than what is expected in the context of marine pollution, but are technically achievable through lightweighting, reuse, and sharing practices. A key prerequisite for this is to go beyond the overwhelming focus on carrier bags and food service items and explore the opportunities across all product groups, including buildings, transportation, and electronics.


Name Affiliation
Takuma Watari National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan
Keisuke Nansai National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES)
Masahiro Oguchi National Institute for Environmental Studies

« Back to Securing material base for carbon neutrality