Plastic dinosaurs: Digging deep into the accelerating carbon lock-in of plastics

Fredric Bauer, Germain Fontenit

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The continued expansion of plastics production all over the world entrenches modern societies and life styles deeper in the dependence on fossil resources. This research note develops the main aspects of the carbon lock-in in the plastics industry and how it extends into many aspects of contemporary life. With data collected from trade press and reports, we present insights of the investment trends in the plastics industry from the past decade. We show that among the twelve largest companies 88 new projects for production capacity increase and infrastructure expansion were announced between 2012 and 2019. We connect this increasing infrastructural lock-in to actions and strategies enacted by the industry to restrict regulations on the use of plastics and support specific consumer behaviour to uphold also an institutional and behavioural lock-in. The paper outlines the need for more extensive research on the plastics and petrochemical sectors, especially regarding data from Asian companies and activities in China in particular. We also point to areas of grave concern for new policy, aiming to reduce the high growth rate for the volumes of oil and gas that feed the industry as the current focus on plastic waste collection and recycling is insufficient.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112418
Number of pages7
JournalEnergy Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Energy Systems
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


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