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.


Amsterdam, 6 July 2018 – British chemical giant Ineos announces an investment of 2.7 billion euro in a complex that’s to be built in north-west Europe. The choice is between Rotterdam and Antwerp. It concerns a factory for propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and a so-called ethane cracker. The PDH factory will convert propane into propylene. This is then turned into polypropylene, which is the raw material needed to make plastic for fields such as the automotive industry. The cracker, in turn, converts ethane into ethylene. This is processed into an intermediate product in the shape of pellets, which are used to make a variety of plastic.

The ethane originates from shale gas sources in the United States. According to the press release by Ineos the company profits from cheap shale gas from the United States. To transport the gas, Ineos uses huge multigas carriers: ships that can carry up to 800.000 ton of gas at a time. The first shipment arrived at Ineos’ cracker in Norway in 2016. Back in 2012 Ineos had already signed a treaty with American producers to be the first company in Europe to import ethane, according to a very critical report by Food and Water Europe.

An Ineos factory in Scotland is being held responsible for an enormous pellets pollution on beaches. This May the BBC reported that 450.000 pellets had been found in 2 hours on a beach only 12 miles from the factory. Ineos’ promise of “zero pellet loss” appears to be empty.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “While State Secretary Van Veldhoven announces a Plastic Pact to ban single-use plastic such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds at the front, the door at the back is put wide open for a gigantic investment in even more production of cheap plastic. If the government truly wants to limit plastic, they definitely can’t give Ineos a permit.”

Also read: The European commission and pellet loss


Microplastics in bottled water

Amsterdam, 4 April 2018 – Last September, Orb Media, an American research journalism organization, published a report about the worldwide microplastics pollution in drinking water. For this research 159 samples from across the globe were examined and over 80% of them proved to be contaminated.

Now the organization speaks out again. This time it was not tap water Orb had examined, but bottled water. No less than 250 1-liter bottles from prominent brands, bought in nine different countries, were examined by the State University of New York. An average of 10 particles were found per bottle. The research has not yet been published in a scientific magazine.

Despite the fact that the bottlers of water satisfy strict quality and safety requirements, it is apparently inevitable for plastic particles to end up in the water. Only unscrewing the cap from the bottle causes a friction that already releases particles into the water.

Head of research Professor Sherri Mason is not looking to point fingers at the examined brands with the rapport, but says, as quoted by the BBC, that: “it’s really showing that this is everywhere, that plastic has become such a pervasive material in our society”.