Plastic: The Sustainable Choice to Deliver on Canada’s Climate Goals
Numerous studies show unequivocally that plastics support emissions reductions at every phase of the life cycle when compared to alternative materials.
Plastics and sustainability:
Avoiding the depletion of natural resources, reducing emissions, and investing in cleaner technologies —when we consider the true meaning of sustainability, plastics fit the bill. They facilitate the creation of lighter, more durable products such as electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure. And they require less fuel to produce and transport, reducing their carbon footprint and making packaging for other products lighter and more sustainable than alternatives.
A 2020 Imperial College of London study reviewed 73 LCAs, and most showed plastic performs better than alternatives from a carbon perspective. Several of those studies found materials used as alternatives to plastic packaging – such as cotton, glass, metal or bioplastics – have significantly higher CO2 impact or water usage.
Using plastics leads to fewer emissions during production and in subsequent life cycle phases, compared to alternative materials.
Plastics require fewer resources and less energy to create higher quality, stronger, and more durable products that can easily be recycled via mechanical or advanced recycling systems. Plastics also reduce emissions throughout their life cycle because they are lighter to transport during production, to commercial locations, and to consumer homes. According to life cycle assessments (LCAs), plastics are environmentally advantageous at every step of the life cycle compared to alternative materials in both the United States and Canada. Through several LCAs, it becomes clear that plastics are the obvious solution for not only more resource-intensive alternatives, but to also help Canada reach sustainability goals.
Plastics help reduce food waste and methane emissions
In Canada, food waste accounts for 170 trillion litres of water each year and contributes to 10% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions per year. These numbers are high, but with the help of plastics, food waste can be reduced through the use of innovative, sustainable plastic packaging options that keep food safer during transport and fresher for longer. Better packaging designs can help keep food out of the trash or compost, which can help reduce methane emissions that are currently equivalent to nearly 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. With plastics, the loss of these valuable resources can be significantly reduced.
Plastics are vital for Canada to reach climate and environmental goals.
Plastics are vital to Canada’s ambitious environmental and climate goals recently set out by the Federal Government. Using more plastics, not less, will help Canada slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent to 50 percent by the end of the decade. Additionally, plastics’ cleaner life cycle, from raw material sourcing to end-of-life recycling options, make them the perfect candidate to accelerate Canada along the pathway to a net-zero future.