Plastic waste releases greenhouse gases

Amsterdam, August 27, 2018 – It’s no news that plastic contributes to climate change. The production of plastic amounts to about 5% of the world’s annual production of oil. This way, plastic contributes to global warming. A new study also proves that plastic waste contributes to climate change. It’s mostly related to the emission of the greenhouse gases methane and ethylene, which are released from plastic waste under the influence of sunlight. Polyethylene, the most-used type of plastic, emits the most of these two gases. It’s the first time the emission of greenhouse gases in plastic waste has been studied.

All types of plastics that were tested emitted gases. The quantities are relatively low, but because there’s a constant increase in plastic production and plastics disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces, both the size and the speed of the greenhouse gas production will increase, researchers suspect. It’s a source, in short, that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The results are a nice example of serendipity. Oceanographer Sarah-Jeanne Royer of the University of Hawaii was conducting a study on methane gas from organic materials, which she kept in plastic bottles. When, unexpectedly, a lot more gas was released than expected, she realized it came from the bottles as well. Read the BBC article here.