28 JULY 2022
In a recent report, McKinsey examines the performance of plastic against its most commonly used alternatives for industries including packaging and consumer goods, in a bid to understand where its environmental advantages emerge. The company found that plastics offer lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than alternatives in 13 out of 14 cases, including for grocery bags, beverage containers, pet food packaging, and fresh meat packaging. However, a shift towards a lower-carbon economy in the lead-up to 2050 could narrow the gap in emissions between plastics and alternatives like aluminium, highlighting the importance of contextual factors in determining the performance of different materials.
Understanding the impacts of plastics
According to McKinsey, discussions of the environmental impact of plastics largely focus on toxicity, resource use, and pollution and leakage, particularly into oceans. Recent studies, for example, have helped to quantify annual flows of plastic into oceans or highlighted the need for further research into chemicals of concern in plastic packaging that comes into direct contact with food.