14.09.2021 -

Is Plastic Carbon Neutral?

Carbon neutrality and plastics as ideas combined together raise some eyebrows, but what is the actual truth of the matter in the grand scheme of things?

In the year 2021, it is an absolute fact that plastic is everywhere. We use it, we see it, and the demand seems to be on a constant rise. If you have visited this blog before, you probably are aware of where we as a company stand on the matter of plastics. 

It is impossible to get rid of plastics altogether but rest assured that our vision of redesigning plastics is something truly astonishing. Plastics get a bad rep, and that is no wonder when you look at the pollution and harm caused when misplaced or misused by the vast majority of people. 

When discussing plastics, it can be a double-edged sword in many ways, and some refuse to believe facts and accurate conclusions. For those usually interested in the subject of plastics, a certain prevailing question lands on the ears and mouths of many.

Is plastic carbon neutral? 

When tackling a question such as this one, it’s good to go over the basics for starters. 

Carbon neutral plastic does exist

From where things stand as of now, there are six types of plastics used in mass product production which are Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), high-density Polyethylene (HDPE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), low-density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polypropylene (PP), and Polystyrene (PS). 

When manufacturing these plastics, carbon neutrality simply cannot be achieved with current methods used in the industry. The raw materials utilised to create these plastics originate from fossil crude oil and on average cause 2,3 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per kilo of plastic produced.

In a nutshell, as you can probably decipher yourself, plastic is not carbon neutral by default. But it can be if the circumstances allow it. 

By altering the manufacturing process from the start, we can achieve carbon-neutral plastics, but it requires effort and longevity. 

What needs to be done? 

It is well documented that emissions are the main problem with manufacturing plastics. The two biggest causes for emissions are the origin of the raw materials and the energy used in the various processes. Emission levels need to be cut down in order to produce carbon-neutral plastic. 

Woodly’s CCO Tomi Nyman believes we need not look further than our own soil. 

The origin of the raw material can be changed to natural, bio-based raw materials that have absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the growth of plants and organisms, thus reducing the systemic emissions,” explains Nyman. 

Secondly, there are many popular and environmentally friendly ways to produce the energy and heat necessary for manufacturing carbon-neutral plastic.

“Renewable or low emission energy, such as wind, solar, nuclear, wave power, geothermal, sea thermal can be used to produce the heat and electricity required in the chemical processes,” continues Nyman. 

As long as the process is green and the energy clean from the get-go, carbon neutrality in plastics can be achieved. In fact, our Woodly® material, a carbon-neutral wood-based plastic, shows that reaching the goal of carbon neutrality takes time and effort but eventually is possible. Changing the way we use plastics is a formidable task, though a challenge that needs to be taken head-on.

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