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Definition and development of functional barriers for the use of recycled materials in multilayer food packaging


Type of information: NEWS

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PLASTICS Responds to Production of Methane and Ethylene from Plastic in the Environment

PLASTICS Responds to Production of Methane and Ethylene from Plastic in the Environment

“Uncollected plastic doesn’t belong in the environment, period. That’s one of the reasons why we support efforts to prevent litter and strengthen recovery systems around the globe.

All unmanaged materials have the potential to impact the environment, including during degradation. Different materials and processes contribute to methane and ethylene emissions, including natural decomposition of organic materials and emissions from livestock or food waste.

In the case of plastics, which are most often derived from natural gas or petroleum, a recently published study reported that plastic materials that degrade in the environment emit methane and ethylene, stating that “[a]t this stage, very little is known about the contribution of plastic to CH4, C2H4 and other hydrocarbon gas budgets.” Encouragingly, while suggesting that these questions be prioritized and addressed, the report also says that “[b]ased on the rates measured in this study and the amount of plastic produced worldwide CH4 production by plastics is likely to be an insignificant component of the global CH4 budget.” 

Plastics do offer many sustainability advantages which significantly reduce emissions of greenhouses gases (GHGs). For instance, plastics contribute to light-weighting automobiles and improved fuel economy; construction products increase energy efficiency; plastic packaging helps prevent food waste; bottles use fewer GHGs and less energy than other material; and products like flexible coffee pouches produce much less waste and take less energy to make than cans or canisters. These are just some examples of how plastic products help people reduce their carbon footprint.

Plastics should never end up as litter in the first place, whether on the street, in the oceans or elsewhere. The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) agrees that the improper disposal of plastics can negatively impact the environment, which is one reason why we have been partnering with organizations and working with policymakers to optimize our waste management infrastructure and make it easier for all plastics to be recycled or otherwise put to their highest and best use.

Caring for the environment is everyone’s responsibility. PLASTICS is serious about working collaboratively to address environmental challenges and making sure that plastic products don’t end up where they shouldn’t.”

For more information, please contact Jacob Barron at or (202) 974-5249

» Publication Date: 07/08/2018

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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