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Quantifying Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Embodied in Global Primary Plastic Trade Network

  • Joseph Zappitelli
    Joseph Zappitelli
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 3700 O’Hara Street, 742 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States
  • Elijah Smith
    Elijah Smith
    Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 3700 O’Hara Street, 1025 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States
    More by Elijah Smith
  • Kevin Padgett
    Kevin Padgett
    Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 3700 O’Hara Street, 940 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States
  • Melissa M. Bilec
    Melissa M. Bilec
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 3700 O’Hara Street, 742 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States
  • Callie W. Babbitt
    Callie W. Babbitt
    Golisano Institute for Sustainability, Rochester Institute of Technology, 190 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, New York 14623, United States
  • , and 
  • Vikas Khanna*
    Vikas Khanna
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 3700 O’Hara Street, 742 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States
    Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 3700 O’Hara Street, 940 Benedum Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States
    *Tel.: +1-412-624-9604. E-mail: [email protected]
    More by Vikas Khanna
Cite this: ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2021, 9, 44, 14927–14936
Publication Date (Web):October 28, 2021
https://doi.org/10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c05236
Copyright © 2021 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract

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    We present a model of the global primary plastic trade network (GPPTN) and report estimates of embodied impacts including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, cumulative fossil energy demand, and embedded carbon. The network is constructed for 11 thermoplastic resins that account for the majority of global primary plastic trade. A total of 170 million metric tonnes (Mt) of primary plastics were traded in 2018, responsible for 350 Mt of embodied GHG emissions, 8.9 exajoules (EJ) of cumulative fossil energy demand and 95 Mt of embedded carbon. In 2018, embodied GHG emissions for GPPTN were comparable to annual carbon dioxide emissions of developed nations like Italy and France. The cumulative fossil energy demand of GPPTN was equivalent to 1.5 trillion barrels of crude oil and the carbon embedded in GPPTN was equivalent to carbon in 118 Mt of natural gas or 109 Mt of petroleum. Statistical inference and network measures provide evidence that a few key trade relationships account for a majority of plastic flows and subsequent embodied impacts through the network. The significant embodied impacts and materials in GPPTN must be considered going forward as policies are developed to improve the circularity and environmental sustainability of the plastics industry.

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    Cited By

    This article is cited by 1 publications.

    1. Chao Wang, Wenju Sun, Ming K. Lim, Xiaoqian Hu, Yang Gao, Pezhman Ghadimi. Structural evolution of global plastic life cycle trade: A multilayer network perspective. Sustainable Production and Consumption 2022, 33 , 1031-1042. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2022.08.027

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