COP26 is here. But what does it mean for plastic pollution?

COP26 is an international conference that will be taking place in Glasgow over the first two weeks of November.

Leaders are traveling from all corners of the world to try and secure a safe future for our planet. But where does plastic pollution fit into the conversation?

The aim of COP26 is to achieve a global agreement on how the world can reach net zero by 2050 in order to maximise the chances of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees celsius.

This means setting targets to drastically cut emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

But where does plastic pollution fit in? We hear you ask...

Carbon dioxide is produced when we burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas – for example, to drive our cars or heat our homes.

But there's something else that produces lots of carbon dioxide - making new plastics.

Ultimately, plastic is produced from fossil fuels, and the process of turning those fuels into bottles, cups, straws, trays, and other single-use items, creates an awful lot of carbon dioxide.

In fact, each kilogram of plastic packaging created produces 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

In 2019, we produced 370 million tonnes of plastic across the world, and at current rates of expansion, that's expected to grow by a factor of three or more by 2050 (and yes, that's the same year we're aiming to hit net zero).

Even today, the production of plastic is one of the single largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from industry worldwide.

In 2019, for example, the production and incineration of plastics were responsible for around 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions - that’s as much as the emissions from 190 coal-fired power stations, each producing 500 megawatts of power.

Our reliance on everyday, single-use plastic is helping accelerate us towards a much warmer future, one that will have devastating global impacts - which we won't delve into here.

That's why our journey towards net-zero must include radical reduction of single-use plastic production.

Plastics - the Facts 2020

Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet

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