Action needed to combat plastic life cycle
Author: Tamela Trussell
The lifecycle of plastic, from extraction to disposal, is linked to significant harms: climate change, poor quality air, water, and soil, decreased biodiversity, social and environmental injustice, and numerous, sometimes fatal health problems for all forms of life. The lifecycle of plastic begins with fracking. Ethane gas, collected during the fracking process, is used to make nurdles. Nurdles are the feedstock for creating all plastic materials. According to FracTracker, “As of Jan. 11, 2023, there are records of 218,260 drilled and proposed wells in Pennsylvania, which have been assessed 64,880 violations since 2008.” Fracking impacts our aquifers, rivers, and lakes. Roughly 4-12 million gallons of water are taken from our watersheds to frack a single well, according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. Each well can be fracked 20 times and can contain more than 20,000 proprietary chemicals, including hazardous benzene, radium, & Per, and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. The plastic lifecycle contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Pennsylvania’s Beaver County Ethylene Cracker plant CO2 emissions equal half the amount produced by the city of Pittsburgh. Annually, 1,000 new wells will be needed to maintain production. This will take us further from solving our climate crisis. Nurdles often spill into waterways and absorb mercury, pesticides, and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl). To fish, they resemble eggs, so the chemicals bioaccumulate in the food chain. Half of all plastic produced is single-use plastic. The waste resulting from disposal, minimal recycling, and incineration makes up 20% of human-caused methane emissions contributing to climate change.