Plastics: Doing more with less

Over the last five years, the attention and research into the environmental footprint of plastic and the products it goes into has skyrocketed. However, some of the most important studies that have surfaced are Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), which evaluate the environmental impact of a given product at every phase of its life, from sourcing and production to use and post-use options. LCAs are a vital tool in ensuring that we are using the most environmentally advantageous materials for consumer and industrial goods.

Canadian plastic manufacturers are dedicated to understanding the impacts of all materials on the environment and are committed to using the most environmentally beneficial materials in both consumer products and industrial applications. That’s why industry continues to support and invest in research that will help consumers better understand the impacts of the products they use.

While industry contributes substantially to supporting research projects, LCAs are also carried out by academic institutions and environmental journals. Despite differing origins, most LCA findings point to similar results: plastics are among the most valuable materials when it comes to comparing their life cycle impacts to alternatives. They use fewer resources and reduce emissions, water use, and energy inputs at every step of the life cycle.

With LCA research over the last five years pointing to plastics as the smart option for packaging, auto and aircraft part replacement, and innovations in aerospace and defense technologies, it is important that more attention is paid to these findings as Canada works toward robust climate goals.

Although plastics have been found to be the most environmentally beneficial material when compared to alternatives, industry is also aware that end-of-life options for plastic materials needs to improve.

That’s why industry has teamed up across Canada to ensure that all plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment.

Players across the plastic value chain support and are driving the advancement of innovative Advanced Recycling Technologies (ARTs) alongside traditional, mechanical recycling programs to increase recycling rates throughout Canada. British Columbia-based Merlin Plastics is increasing capacity to recycle polyethylene, Saskatchewan-based Cleanfarms is ensuring the proper management of agricultural waste, and Ontario-based GreenMantra is transforming low-value waste plastics destined for landfill sites into value-add specialty chemicals.

Industry and government should work together to secure new investments in advanced recycling systems and new technologies to turn plastic waste into a valuable commodity. LCAs will continue to be an important part of this process to ensure that all new technologies and innovative systems align with climate goals and continue to contribute to lower emissions and reduced energy use.