What the Looming Plastic Production Increase Means for Earth

Today’s largest oil companies are ramping up their production to reach full capacity. That means our planet will soon be awash in new plastic products. That means we will continue to see issues with pollution, including the oceanic garbage gyres that distribute microplastics throughout the food chain.

Public concerns about the looming plastic production increase have people reaching for metal straws, reusable bottles, and canvas bags. Those efforts may be noble, but it is also creating more potential pollution. Petrochemical production now accounts for 14% of all oil used in the world today.

Why Are Oil Companies Focused on Plastic Production?

The petrochemical industry includes plastic production. Up to 50% of the oil on the market could get directed toward this product by 2050. Shell, Aramco, and ExxonMobil all see plastics made from their oil and gas as being the future of their industry as more people look to use renewal resources.

Americans see significant growth in the plastics market because of the country’s fracking boom and abundant feedstocks of ethane.

Since natural gas prices have remained low, energy operations have been losing money. Converting their product into plastic creates a new revenue stream.

It’s a new way to monetize fossil fuels. That’s why plastics are not going away any time soon.

Over $200 Billion in Investments Have Reached the United States

During the decade of the 2010s, investors put more than $200 billion into over 300 plastic and petrochemical projects in the United States. This work includes the building of new facilities, expansion projects, and infrastructure improvements.


Several facilities are still in the permitting process. Experts believe that if even 25% of the ethane cracking facilities get built, our planet will become locked in a future of plastic that could send our societies in the wrong direction.

Plastics and climate change are often seen as separate issues. The production methods often generate greenhouse gases because the combustion of fossil fuels is necessary to produce items.

The rate of global

 linked to plastics could be the equivalent of 300 coal-fired power plants by 2030. That means 1.3 billion tons of carbon could reach the atmosphere.
That means recycling programs, plastic product bans, advocacy, and other efforts to reduce consumption will be necessary to limit the impact of this industry. Even if every solution were to start today, we must be prepared to live in a world with even more pollution before things have a chance to start getting better.