Through our Energy Outlook we are not advocating any course of action, but looking to understand the impact on global energy systems of various scenarios.”
Oil giant BP has suggested in a new report that a potential global ban on single-use plastics to tackle climate change could lead to an increase in overall energy demand and food waste. In its recently published Energy Outlook, the company also said that a plastic ban could lead to an increase in carbon emissions.
In its document, BP highlights various energy scenarios. One of these scenarios assumes that the “regulation of plastics tightens more quickly than in the past” due to growing environmental concerns. As a result of this, BP speculates that there could be a worldwide ban on single-use plastics by 2040.
In a statement, BP (@BP_plc)suggested that demand for oil will be limited in the coming decades if the world shifts from using plastics to alternatives to plastics.
However, BP said that swapping plastic for other materials like glass or paper could have a bigger cost in terms of energy and carbon emissions. It also said it could lead to more food waste if alternative packaging were not as effective.. This is because there may not be further advances in these alternative materials and widespread deployment of efficient collection and reuse systems.
BP chief economist Spencer Dale told the BBC: If you swap a plastic bottle for a glass bottle, that takes about 80% more energy. That will be more energy, more carbon emissions. That bottle is a lot heavier so it takes an awful lot more energy to transport it around.
BP are not the first organisation to claim that a plastic ban could have unintended consequences.
Last November, researchers at UK-based Heriot-Watt University published a study showing that an outright ban on plastics could cause significant damage to the environment.
Professor David Buckland, who led the study, said that plastics were lightweight and transportation of consumer goods in plastic packaging means fewer vehicles are required for transportation of those goods, therefore burning less fuel and greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
However, environmental campaigners have called for reductions in plastic manufacturing or outright bans in some areas due to concerns about the large amounts of plastic pollution in the worlds ocean.
Missing the point
Roberta Arbinolo, communications officer at environmental campaign group Zero Waste Europe (@zerowasteeurope), told Bio-Based World News: BP are missing the point here, which is moving away from a throw-away culture. It is not just about substituting one material with another, but rather switching to reusable products with a lower impact on human health, our environment and the climate.
Products that are designed to be reused again and again, and that are easier to recycle as they are toxic-free, allow to save resources and energy, even more so when they can be produced, reused and recycled locally.
In response to these comments, a BP spokesman told Bio-Based World News: Through our Energy Outlook we are not advocating any course of action, but looking to understand the impact on global energy systems of various scenarios.
One of the scenarios we looked at this year considered the potential impact if a complete ban on single use plastics were to be introduced by 2040. We found that this could be expected to reduce global oil demand by up to 6 million barrels a day (out of c 105mmbpd) compared with the scenario without such a ban.
We also said that this didnt take into account the impact of alternative materials that would be needed to replace single use plastics, in packaging and other uses.
Separately, many environmental groups have cited a report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which claimed that there would be more waste plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.
The EU has taken the issue seriously and has made moves to tackle marine plastic pollution. Last December, the main political EU institutions reached a provisional agreement to ban single-use plastic products across the continent in its Single-Use Plastics Directive. This ban outlaws plastic bags, straws, plates, cups, drink stirrers and cotton swabs.
In response to this move, trade body European Bioplastics said it supported the transition from a linear to a no-leakage circular and bio-based economy in Europe. However, it also said the directive failed to acknowledge the potential of bio-degradable plastics.
Franois de Bie, chairman of European Bioplastics, said biodegradable certified compostable plastics fulfilled Europes requirements for health and safety and could be recycled organically together with food waste.
He added that European Bioplastics would be discussing the use of bio-based feedstock for the production of plastics as well as the benefits biodegradable plastics can offer in a circular economy context with the European institutions and member states throughout this year.