Oil Industry’s Shift to Plastics in Question as Report Warns $400 Billion in Stranded Assets Possible

By Sharon Kelly, an attorney and freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has reported for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, National Wildlife, Earth Island Journal, and a variety of other publications.Originally published at DeSmogBlog.

Off Africa’s eastern coast, north of Madagascar, lies Aldabra Atoll, a cluster of coral islands that surround a tropical lagoon.

Aldabra is a UN World Heritage Site that’s home to a stunning array of wildlife, including tens of thousands of wild giant tortoises, far more tortoises than in the Galapagos Islands. Sir David Attenborough, the documentary filmmaker, has calledAldabra “one of the wonders of the world.” The atoll is exceedingly difficult to visit, not only because it’s so remote, but also because new arrivals must contend with a $225 per-visitor daily environmental impact fee — as well as piracy in the region.

This wild, protected place is also, according to newly published research from Oxford University, littered with over 500 tons of plastic waste.

That’s the amount remaining after the Oxford team itself removed 25 tons of plastic debris, a manufactured mountain of plastic trash that included 360,000 used flip flop sandals and literal tons of plastic nets, ropes and other fishing industry trash. “This is the largest accumulation of plastic waste reported for any single island in the world,” Oxford noted as the findings were announced.

The story of how even one the most inaccessible places on Earth has become clogged with plastic trash and industrial waste starts, in some ways, with a deliberate deception.

Approaching a Point of No Return”

Back in 1989, according to an extraordinary new investigation by NPR and PBS Frontline, executives from Exxon, Chevron, Amoco, Dow, DuPont, Procter & Gamble and others met privately at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington D.C., where they discussed the growing problem of plastic trash.

Since the 1950’s, the world has produced over 8.3 billion tons of plastic, according to UN Environment, virtually all of it derived from fossil fuels. During the 1970’s and 80’s, plastic waste generation rates more than tripled, causing growing concern among consumers.

“The image of plastics is deteriorating at an alarming rate,” Larry Thomas, a former president of a plastics industry association, wrote in records obtained by NPR from that meeting. “We are approaching a point of no return.”

The solution the gathered executives arrived at, NPR found, was to advertise a solution that industry officials knew was unworkable: recycling.

“They knew that the infrastructure wasn’t there to really have recycling amount to a whole lot,” Thomas, now turned whistleblower, told NPR.

Nonetheless, the plastics and oil industries forged ahead. They launched and advertised plastics recycling initiatives (which NPR found all fizzled within a handful of years), campaigned for states to require plastic goods to carry a triangle of arrows around a recycling code, and convinced consumers to dutifully sort their plastic trash alongside items that can genuinely be profitably recycled, like glass and metal.

The campaigns resulted in very little actual plastic being recycled. Less than ten percent of the plastic ever made has been recycled even once, a 2017 peer-reviewed scientific paper found — and global recycling ran further aground the following year, when China banned imports of most used plastics after that nation’s attempts at processing and recycling the world’s plastic scrap became inescapably overwhelmed.

Now, Interpol reports an “alarming increase in illegal plastic pollution trade,” citing a rise in illegal dumping and burning of plastics, forgeries, and even the murder of the mayor of a small town in France who’d attempted to stop illegal plastic dumping, “pointing to the kind of violence usually associated with organized crime.”

But from the plastic and oil industries’ perspectives, pro-recycling campaigns proved to be extraordinarily effective — not just because advertising plastic recycling helped to insulate the industry from public concern, but also, as NPR noted, because recycled plastic was always actually a poor and expensive substitute for new plastics — which meant less competition for oil companies and plastics manufacturers.

“Climate Fires”

Today, the oil industry faces new and unprecedented levels of pressure because of a different kind of environmental catastrophe directly linked to its products: climate change.

The world’s need to curb its use of oil and other fossil fuels has never before been so visible or stark. In the US, this past month has brought three of the four largest wildfires in California history — including one fire that’s burned nearly three quarter of a million acres and that remains just 25 percent contained.

The entire western coast of the United States is covered by a dense wall of wildfire smoke that, viewed from above in NASA satellite imagery, stretches nearly unbroken from Mexico to Canada and that, viewed from the ground, has turned the skies an unearthly orange. In images seen worldwide, the Golden Gate bridge stands illuminated by the yellow blazes of hundreds of burning trees as the waters below and skies above glow brightly through the smoky haze. Dozens of people are dead, and more missing, CNN reported on Saturday.

“These are not just wildfires,” Washington governor Jay Inslee said at a Sept. 11 news conference. “They are climate fires.”

There’s solid evidence to back up that claim, starting with the connection between fires, drought, extreme weather and a warming world. “Hotter temperatures, less dependable precipitation and snowpack that melts sooner lead to drier soil and parched vegetation,” Scientific American reported in August. Over 12,000 lightning strikes, the product of a week of unusual storms, provided sparks that lit up to 600 fires across California in mid-August. That same week, temperatures in Death Valley spiked to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly the hottest temperature in recorded history.

More extreme wildfires are, horrifyingly, just the most currently-visible tip of the climate iceberg. Climate change will accelerate the pace and scale of crises worldwide — a process that is already underway. More than one in ten people worldwide could be forced from their homes over the next few decades, the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Ecological Threat Register warned on Wednesday.

“People are always asking, ‘Is this the new normal?’” climate scientist Philip B. Duffy told The New York Times recently. “I always say no. It’s going to get worse.”

Amidst all this, the oil and gas industry has visibly grown increasingly alarmed — about its own economic future. The scienceconnecting fossil fuels to climate change has never been more certain. And while the US has still failed to take the sorts of action that scientists say is necessary, businesses and their investors have been forced to increasingly consider the possibility that major efforts to slow the climate crisis through stronger greenhouse gas regulation — long on the horizon but never yet materialized — might arrive.

In recent years, oil industry leaders have sought to reassure investors that they have a plan even if the world starts to shift away from burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation. And their message to investors about the future for oil demand has found a central theme: more plastics.

A “Plastic Pillar”

This past year has brought massive disruptions for fossil fuel producers, who saw oil prices briefly dip far below $0 a barrel in some places amid pandemic lockdowns and witnessed ExxonMobil, once the king of blue chip stocks, unceremoniously bootedfrom the widely-watched Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The last decade saw US oil and gas production skyrocket — but the sector also underperformed the market eight out of the last nine years, according to industry analysts.

And going forward, the oil industry faces increasing doubts about demand for oil in the future because of an expected shift to electric vehicles. The gas side of the oil and gas industry also faces growing competition from renewable energy, which has gone from being the most expensive way to generate power to, in many cases, the cheapest.

But executives with major oil giants have said that even if oil demand grown dries up, they expect they’ll still be able to sell an increasing amount of their products as petrochemicals. “Unlike refining, and ultimately unlike oil, which will see a moment when the growth will stop, we actually don’t anticipate that with petrochemicals,” Andrew Brown, a Royal Dutch Shell official,told the San Antonio Express News in 2018.

This strategy, according to a report published this month by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, carries significant financial risks, putting $400 billion of petrochemical industry investments at risk of becoming stranded assets. That’s nearly an entire year’s revenue for the worldwide plastics industry, based on 2018 figures from the Plastics Industry Association, potentially down the drain.

And the vast majority of those petrochemical investments are, in fact, investments in plastics. “Whilst most commentators have noted that petrochemicals are a major driver of expected oil demand growth, we can go one stage further,” the Carbon Tracker report notes, “and demonstrate that it is specifically plastics within petrochemicals that drive the expected growth in oil demand.”

Part of that narrative centers on demand for plastics in Africa and Asia — but already that effort is running up against bans on single-use plastics and efforts to prevent plastics pollution from spreading.

The vast majority of nations worldwide — 127 of 193 countries— have some sort of rules or regulations that limit plastic use, according to a December 2018 United Nations report found.

A New York Times investigation recently found that the American Chemistry Council (ACC) pushed for policies that would expand the use of plastics in Africa, including single-use plastic produces. “We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” an ACC official wrote in a letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

The ACC takes credit on its membership page for working to protect the plastics industry in the US. “We also orchestrated a powerful response to mounting public concern about plastics, uniting industry stakeholders to confront 282 bills in 42 states,” the ACC says, representing roughly half of the bills that the Council saw as “requiring our engagement” in 2019.

The Times’ reporting, incidentally, was attacked by the ACC, which suggested in a blog post that a Pulitzer-winning reporter had breached journalistic ethics by not getting comment from a Kenyan trade official. “Maybe they sent a courtesy email and didn’t hear back,” the ACC suggested, adding that “people are left questioning whether the New York Times should be considered a reliable source on this issue in the future.”

There was, however, no need to speculate — the Times article explicitly noted that reporters had sought comment from both US and Kenyan trade officials but did not receive answers. (“The Office of the United States Trade Representative didn’t respond to interview requests or to detailed lists of written questions, nor did officials at Kenya’s Trade Ministry,” the Times wrote.)

In other words, that attack is the sort of messaging that collapses upon scrutiny — a message that’s not grounded in what’s true, but in what would be convenient for the speaker if it were true.

But facts, as the saying goes, are stubborn things. And the world we live in today has already changed significantly from the world that existed in 1989, when messaging around plastics, even if untrue, was enough to affect reality for the oil industry.

There are some signs that impacts being felt in the petrochemicals industry. This month, Saudi Aramco canceled plans to build a $20 billion petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia, and said it was reviewing its purchase of gas export infrastructure in Texas. Oil giant BP anted up $1.1 billion for wind energy projects in the US and in June announced it was selling its petrochemicals division.

“We’re seeing a deterioration of the plastics market right before our eyes,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’ finance director Tom Sanzillo said in July, citing a plunge in plastic prices.

The pandemic and the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) doesn’t really make a dent in the industry’s prospects, Carbon Tracker concluded. “At the outset it is worth noting that the amount of plastic used in PPE equipment is very low and not sufficient to outweigh falling plastic demand elsewhere as a result of the economic shock of COVID,” they wrote. “In their analysis of the global plastics market in 2020, Wood Mackenzie is for example forecasting a 4% fall in global plastic demand this year in spite of rising demand for PPE.”

“Remove the plastic pillar holding up the future of the oil industry, and the whole narrative of rising oil demand collapses,” said the report’s lead author, Kingsmill Bond, a Carbon Tracker energy strategist. “It is simply delusional for the plastics industry to imagine that it can double its carbon emissions at the same time as the rest of the world is trying to cut them to zero.”

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35 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    With luck the industry will choke itself in plastics. There is an element of desperation in the oil industry in its mass investment in plastics as a solution to overproduction. This will drive prices down so low that it will be only very marginally profitable at best. Any real reduction in demand -whether through public sentiment, anti-waste laws – or just a failure to generate new markets – will be catastrophic for the industry.

    It is anecdotal I know, but I’ve noticed quite a few major retailers and consumer brands announcing anti-plastic and anti-waste initiatives. This to me indicates that they are reflecting customer demand, plus a fear of regulation. Retailers tend to be far more sensitive to these things than the manufacturers, they are usually ahead of the curve. If this is the case, then its all very ominous for the oil industry.

    Incidentally, excess plastics also creates a problem for the waste disposal industry. Managing landfills is far more difficult with a high plastics content (it interferes with modern designs intended to increase natural stabilisation rates) and can also be an issue for incinerators, as they result in a waste mix that has too high a calorific value (put simply, the incinerators burn too ‘hot’). This can result in the industry seeking more paper and organic waste for disposal – actually competing with composting and recycling. The only good news for incinerator operators is that oil based plastics (PP, PET, etc) are displacing chlorine based ones (PVC) – the latter are a huge problem in incinerators as they can increase dioxin formation.

    Also related – anecdotally I’ve heard landfill managers complain that the big problem they face now is not plastics packaging waste – but actual plastic products. Too many modern products are made of disposable plastics and they are all ending up in landfills – for the reasons I’ve outlined above, they aren’t actually all that welcome in landfills, they much prefer organic or construction waste for management reasons. So it may be that we’ll see a move by the plastics industry away from packaging, into a wider range of products. Lets not forget that the Grenfall fire was the result of plastic cladding replacing the usual brick or aluminium.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Thanks for this.

      Is there anywhere a semi-layman explanation of the difficulty in recycling plastics? I mean I look at my gallon of milk, and I look at my laptop, and I look at the quart of oil in the garage… and it’s weird that I’m being told that it’s easier to get from the quart of oil to either product than to transform between the two.

      Reply
      1. anEnt

        There are two major types of plastics: thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermosets are things like epoxy with a resin and a hardener – once set, they’re set. I think ancient plastics like bakelite are thermosets too. Thermoplastics are any plastic that melts before charring under heat. Most plastics in our lives are thermoplastics, but that is not all of the issue. Even between thermoplastics the working properties are different and not necessarily compatible. So there are (at least) two major hurdles to recycling into new products: sorting and process risk.

        The fact that it’s difficult to sort these different types of plastic automatically at scale seems obvious. There are two ways: hire people to do it or build computer vision robots to do it. Both are too expensive and consumers have proven unable to do it reliably at the recycling bins.

        Process risk consists of what happens to expensive tooling and dies when bits of plastics that are incompatible with the temperature and pressure regimes designed for the sort of plastic expected run into plastics that flow differently (or worse don’t flow at all) in that process. The result is jams and breakage and costly line repairs. And this is before we get into whether the finished plastic products are strong and presentable enough for purpose which is yet another risk.

        Finally, it has been discovered that plastics have a limit on the number of times they can be reprocessed even under optimal circumstances. How then do we keep that reprocessed plastic from going through too many times?

        I’m sure these aren’t all of the issues, And welcome correction or clarification by people in the industry.

        Reply
        1. Ignacio

          I think your post is very good making the main points of plastic recycling. Alternatively, there is the possibility of plastic degradation to their backbone constituents and using these materials for new plastic synthesis. This is again quite a difficult process, impractical for most plastics with the possible exception of PET. There are also possibilities that include recycling for materials with different purposes that wouldn’t require stringent plastic properties. For instance recycling of PET from bottles to make garments. Of course these applications are of limited use when we are talking about millions of tons. I think that a very important point you make is that of additives that make recycling impractical and also provide with further chemical contamination of the environment.

          Reply
      2. Eyan Nemus

        The feedstock for plastic production is produced as part of the refining process for petroleum, whereas you have to use energy to reuse and recycle plastic that’s already been created.

        In other words, it will always take less energy to produce new plastic then to reuse already existing plastic, .

        Reply
      3. PlutoniumKun

        There are a number of reasons, but the key one is that very few plastics are used in pure form. They are mixed (for example, the top of a water bottle being made of a different plastic than the main body) and the industry uses fairly random mixes of plastics according to what is cheap and available at the time. While most have their origin as oil or gas (some are based on chlorine instead), by the time they become consumer products they’ve been changed radically.

        Most consumer plastics could be fairly easily recycled (if not to a high quality product) if a pure raw product can be guaranteed. However, this is pretty much impossible with modern waste streams. For most plastics feeds, its like trying to reconstruct food from compost.

        The only really recyclable plastic that is meaningful is PET – it can be made into relatively high quality fabrics and other products. But it still needs to be sorted by hand in order to provide a good quality product, and thats expensive. Its only really viable because some consumers will pay more for a post-PET fleece from someone like Patagonia.

        BP did develop a cracking plant in Grangemouth in Scotland which was claimed would break mixed plastics down to base chemicals that could be re-used. It was opened with some fanfare about 20 years ago, but went quiet after that. I’ve no idea if it proved technically unfeasible, or economically unfeasible, or it was all just propaganda.

        Reply
        1. cnchal

          > (for example, the top of a water bottle being made of a different plastic than the main body)

          No. It is the same material.

          The plastic bottles are made in two steps. The first is an injection molded preform with the neck and threaded portion and a thick test tube shape that becomes the bottle at the next step, where the test tube shape is precisely heated and inserted into a blow mold and blown into it’s final shape.

          Reply
          1. anEnt

            I think that PK is referring to the bottle cap / sports cap, etc that goes on top of the bottle. Those frequently are the same plastic As the bottle, but even those can be hard to tell due to the frequent use of different dyes to color the tops and the fact that the recycling symbol indicating the type of plastic only appears on the bottle itself.

            Reply
      4. a different chris

        thanks guys

        Seems this problem, unlike global warming, has a “large world” issue. We are all seeing, and if not, at least reading about GW problems as they are instant and newsworthy. Something *might* actually happen, despite the fact that my opinion of the human race has never been lower.

        But a mountain of plastic in a third world country is just not something that’s going to be on the news night after night. Out of sight out of mind even moreso that GW.

        Reply
    2. anEnt

      It would seem that compressing/melting plastic waste into blocks and putting them in abandoned strip mine pits would serve as a form of carbon capture given how long plastic takes to degrade.

      This of course does not address the input side, but it seems more honest and practical than telling people their recycling is being recycled when it’s not. It also seems to reduce most landfill operators’ issues with plastic by removing some (hopefully most) of it from the mix of regular garbage. It also seems likely to reduce the amount of plastic put in the oceans by giving it a place to go that doesn’t involve shipping it to countries likely to dump it there due to economic pressures.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Arguably, burning plastic for power and so displacing other fuels minimises the carbon output, although even the industry doesn’t claim that its a particularly good option. But the random mix of different plastics going into the waste stream can be as problematic for incinerator operators as it is for recyclers.

        Reply
        1. Ian Ollmann

          Not it isn’t. Carbon in plastics is effectively sequestered in materials that may last for thousands of years. If you burn it, it is in the atmosphere immediately.

          Rule of thumb: if you are burning carbon containing material, that right there is where you went wrong.

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            How much carbon do you have to burn for the energy to turn some other carbon into plastic?

            If the goal is visible solid-form sequestration of carbon, growing sustainable fuelwood plantations and harvesting them to semi-burn for some energy while not burning the solid carbon part of the harvested woody tissue would leave the solid carbon part ( charcoal) available to build that big pyramid in the desert with.

            At a totally net-net removal of some carbon from the air.

            Reply
      2. Michael

        I like ideas like this when looked at in conjunction with Eyan’s point about energy. As Americans, we take pride in doing the least to solve problems.

        Storage in the “outback” may have some issues but seems far more practical than all of the fuss we go to now.

        Greens will hate it though. sigh

        Reply
        1. Alex Cox

          I am a Green and I don’t hate it! EnAnt’s suggestion seems very sensible. It will also keep big oil in business, so maybe some carbon sequestration via the burial of massive plastic blocks is on the cards…

          Reply
          1. Michael

            I am a green too…
            How many plastic water bottles to create another series of pyramids in the southwest? A base of concrete with a plaster veneer, they would fit nicely in Monument Valley.

            Reply
      3. Ignacio

        Another possibility, if it wasn’t for the fire risk, could be the use of residual plastics as thermal insulators in buildings. If at least a good enough fire barrier could be devised this could give good use for residual plastics IMO. For instance in underground isolation where oxygen supply is poor.

        Reply
        1. anEnt

          I think it’d be great to find industrial uses for bulk trash plastic. I’m just not familiar enough with the potential material properties and hazards like plasticizer leeching into water bodies/tables to begin to fathom what responsible uses might be other than filling back up strip pits in arid and semi arid areas.

          Reply
    3. Ignacio

      I would like very much if you can provide an opinion on this but I very much doubt that a barrel of oil can be made profitable on the sole basis of plastics and gums. The article forgot gums made from butadiene which is also one of the major products of stream cracking of oil besides the precursors of plastics.

      Reply
      1. Ian Ollmann

        The plastics market is also MUCH smaller, less than 1/10th the size. The last thing we need is a scale up of plastic trash to match the amount of oil needed for the petroleum industry. Hopefully, at some point it will be the case that the most profitable thing to do with oil is leave it in the ground. If we are going to avoid cooking ourselves, that is the solution to the existential problem, and therefore what will happen.

        Reply
  2. Olga

    We met the enemy and it is …plastics (?)
    Sure seems that way. Didn’t they recently find plastics in the deepest spots of the Pacific o.:
    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48230157
    One of the funniest links I ever read on NC was this New Yorker article:
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/10/learning-to-speak-lingerie
    It talks about Muslims and lingerie, but also plastics recycling:

    “But they were the first to respond by importing a polyethylene-terephthalate bottle-flake washing production line, which is manufactured in Jiangsu province, and which allows an entrepreneur to grind up plastic bottles, wash and dry the regrind at high temperatures, and sell it as recycled material.
    “I saw that it was just lying around, so I decided that I could recycle it and make money,” Lin told me. He and his wife had no experience in the industry, but in 2007 they established the first plastic-bottle recycling facility in Upper Egypt. Their plant is in a small industrial zone in the desert west of Asyut, where it currently employs thirty people and grinds up about four tons of plastic every day.”

    Perhaps this is not a full solution, as we still end up with a plastics product.
    The real solution would be to curtail consumption… are we willing to do that?

    Reply
    1. Ian Ollmann

      It may never happen in our lifetime, but the ultimate solution will be the evolution of plastics consuming organisms. People will want plastics a lot less if they go all moldy after a few weeks at room temperature.

      Reply
  3. Oh

    It’s time to ban plastics. Start from plastic bottles for beverages and progressively move to other plastics. At the same time it will be good to levy a 100% tax on all plastics.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      >Start from plastic bottles for beverages

      Actually today’s glass bottles have a lot of plastic content.

      Funny thing happened, we have “PCN”” aka a little Pennsylvania cable network that puts on shows about local industries and etc. They had the Yungling guy on — he’s quite a wingnut but like so many, actually OK in person (it’s like you hit Jekyll/Hyde some switch or something) and he let that slip.

      It was about, and again he’s a wingnut but, it was about recycled bottles and how he had a hard time, but kept trying, to keep supporting them. He slipped and said that as they were “all glass” the beer tasted better. He blushed and tried to backtrack but the way it came out you know it was just an essential truth.

      Reply
  4. Rod

    it is a mess. The ACC and API and et al their enablers saw it, talked about it, and made their decisions–Stranding Assets was always part of the calculation and coercion.
    Coercion because they were not using their money–Pension Funds were the biggest Institutional Investors–my Pension is part of this. The writing was on the wall, behind the golden haze of Profit.
    Despite the change in ownership, National Geographic has been dogged on this despite their Sponsers:

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/planetorplastic/

    Capitalism just doesn’t work so well without Consumption on a grand scale and Consumption is killing our world–right before our eyes.

    The Mahoning Valley–bridging eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, with a 400$ million Investment, has pegged their post Steel Future on plastics using the Frack Gas and Oil from the Marcellus Shale.

    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25022019/plastics-hub-appalachian-fracking-ethane-cracker-climate-change-health-ohio-river

    This is how the Enemy Thinks:

    https://www.plasticsnews.com/news/shale-deposits-drawing-plastics-attention-ohio-valley

    Proprietary Formulations for Patent that impede Reuse/Recycling need to be outlawed.
    We are so shortsighted— Someday I should wish Rex Tillerson needed a nice Catheter and be presented with a used Soda bottle.

    Reply
    1. Rod

      An Excellent Companion, with Fixes, from todays Links( thanks JLS)
      https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/radical-green-overhaul-to-avoid-climate-lockdown-by-mariana-mazzucato-2020-09

      The Last Two Paragraphs:
      Finally, we need to reorient our energy system around renewable energy – the antidote to climate change and the key to making our economies energy-secure. We must therefore evict fossil-fuel interests and short-termism from business, finance, and politics. Financially powerful institutions such as banks and universities must divest from fossil-fuel companies. Until they do, a carbon-based economy will prevail.2

      The window for launching a climate revolution – and achieving an inclusive recovery from COVID-19 in the process – is rapidly closing. We need to move quickly if we want to transform the future of work, transit, and energy use, and make the concept of a “green good life” a reality for generations to come. One way or the other, radical change is inevitable; our task is to ensure that we achieve the change we want – while we still have the choice.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I saw a problem at the start of that Mazzucato article. And that was where she said part of Carbon Lockdown would be “ban red meat”. Really? Including farmer Gabe Brown’s red meat which sequesters more carbon than what it emits?

        Maybe she just doesn’t know about Gabe Brown, Alan Savory, Mark Shephard, etc. etc. etc. If she DOES know, and she is trying to suPPRESS the knowledge in order to Stop OTHER people from EVen FINDing OUT about their work . . . because she is a stealth undercover secret vegan-agent militant, that would make her part of the problem. And eligible for killing along with other millions of grokes in the Civil War which will erupt if the government tries to “ban red meat”.

        Reply
  5. ptb

    As with fossil fuels, the facts presented in the article point to plastics becoming cheaper, which means the action of the market will produce the opposite of the desired outcome.

    This would be addressed firstly with bans, but that must necessarily also involve a transformation of short-life-cycle (de-facto disposable) consumer goods. I.e. design-for-end-of-life-processing), and a transformation of our waste-management culture — sorting trash, actually recycling it instead of shipping the contents of our recycling bins to a landfill as has been the case since China underbid our domestic recycling and then shut its doors shortly after.

    Actually if someone wants a good “AI” application that isn’t BS, sorting trash is one.

    Reply
  6. a different chris

    >Start from plastic bottles for beverages

    Actually today’s glass bottles have a lot of plastic content.

    Funny thing happened, we have “PCN”” aka a little Pennsylvania cable network that puts on shows about local industries and etc. They had the Yungling guy on — he’s quite a wingnut but like so many, actually OK in person (it’s like you hit Jekyll/Hyde some switch or something) and he let that slip.

    It was about, and again he’s a wingnut but, it was about recycled bottles and how he had a hard time, but kept trying, to keep supporting them. He slipped and said that as they were “all glass” the beer tasted better. He blushed and tried to backtrack but the way it came out you know it was just an essential truth.

    Reply
  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    There are disposable plastics and there are perma-use plastics.

    Hit all plastic with a plastic tax that makes plastic so expensive to buy and pay for that disposable no longer pays and is no longer affordable outside necessary fields like medicine. Such a tax would also encourage people to keep perma-use plastic items and perma-use them.

    I have a mostly plastic garden sprayer that I bought from Smith and Hawken about 35 years ago. It was made by Le Berthoud of France. It still works quite well. And when the moving parts are too broken to repair or replace, I will figure out how to custom-fit new fittings onto the still-usable-no-doubt plastic liquid-under-pressure containment tank. https://www.berthoud.fr/en/

    I gather one of the biggest plastic user and thrower-away industries in the world is fishing. Fishing plastic needs such a torturous penalty-tax that the fishing industry will be driven back to phyto-organic
    fiber nets, kapok floats, etc. The price of fish will go up to pay the tax and buy the non-plastic replacements. Fish buyers will have to accept that as the price of no more plastic trash from the fishing industry. If fish buyers don’t want to accept that, let them run out of fish as they deserve when plastics drive the fish extinct.

    I read recently that farming itself, including organic farming , is a vast user of disposable plastic. Plastic mulch, etc. Non-plastic farming needs more labor and inputs and more intelligent management and knowledge, which costs more money. If people don’t want to pay the more money for food grown without billions of tons of disposable plastic out in the fields, then people don’t deserve to have a low-plastic world.
    Such people also don’t deserve to have food either, but that is another matter.

    Reply
  8. drumlin woodchuckles

    It is often noted that “individual action is not enough”. The problem is that, given the current and future policy of the PetroGovernment-Industrial Complex to increase plastic production and disposal as much as possible, individual action is all that is left.

    So whole nation-loads of individuals will have to create among millions of their individual members a permanent culture of opposition and rejection and underminement . . . . a green-life betterculture with more staying power than the counterculture of the sixties. And that betterculture will have to in part base itself on the personal rejection by all its members of the use of disposable plastic as much as possible, not just as much as feasible.

    Plastic not used is plastic not bought, which eventually means plastic not sold. How long can various plastics remain not-sold until the industry becomes partly unable to keep making and selling plastic in the teeth of mounting inventories ( mountains of nurdles) and cratering sales? A persistent semicott can turn plastic into the unremovable plug shoved up the rectum of the oil industry, perhaps giving it petro-megacolon and petro-megacolonic rupture or petro-megacolon necrosis and intra-abdominal gangrene.

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    1. Rod

      Yea, I harbor some animosity toward big oil also.
      Good point in differentiating disposable-v-permause (implied Chem. formulations and immediacy of threat are things to discern).
      Taxing accordingly is a reasonable start.
      Remember TupperWare the permanent plastic replacement before The Proliferation? Priced like they were proud of it too.
      Great point on fishing gear not often spotlighted unless involving eco gore.
      But I really like the connotation of “better culture” and plan on incorporating it into my protest vocabulary.
      I use the word decommissioning to describe the action necessary to have a future.

      Reply

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