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South African Journal of Science

On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353


GOGA, Taahira; HARDING, Kevin; RUSSO, Valentina  and  VON BLOTTNITZ, Harro. A lifecycle-based evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions from the plastics industry in South Africa. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2023, vol.119, n.1-2, pp.1-6. ISSN 1996-7489.

Increased production rates of plastic and limited disposal methods have fed concerns regarding environmental degradation. Whilst most of the focus is on plastic litter and marine pollution, greenhouse gas emissions of plastic over its value chains are also of interest and non-trivial at the global scale. To quantify the global warming potential of the local plastics industry, a lifecycle-based carbon footprint is presented encompassing activities such as resource extraction, polymer production and conversion, recycling, and disposal stages. The South African plastics sector is estimated to have emitted 15.8 Mt CO2eq in 2015, with the granulate production stage bearing the highest environmental load. The consumption of fossil fuel based electricity and the burning of plastic waste also contribute notably to the overall emissions. Additionally, the recycling process in 2015 saved approximately 1.4 Mt of greenhouse gas emissions. SIGNIFICANCE: • Research has typically focused on the environmental impacts of the end-of-life stage of plastics, namely disposal and recycling. Despite growing concern, the global warming potential of the local plastics sector across its value chain has not been investigated. • Greenhouse gas emissions arising from the South African plastic sector are non-trivial and are estimated to total 15.8 Mt CO2eq in 2015. • Amongst the lifecycle stages, the resin production process had the highest contribution in South Africa due to the country's coal-based monomer production process.

Keywords : plastics; greenhouse gas; carbon footprint; life cycle; South Africa.

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