- Journal Article
Abstract: Plastic pollution is a big source of concern around the world. Research to date has focused on the types of plastic in the environment and the processing of plastic waste. For policymakers and consumers to be informed decision makers, they need to understand the industries which use plastics and the plastic intensity of those industries.
Using input–output data for the USA, we calculate the plastic intensity (the value of plastic inputs per dollar of output) of 415 non-plastic industries for 13 types of plastic. We find the most plastic intensive industries are related to clothing and fabric manufacturing. This is true for aggregate plastics as well as plastics most likely to contribute to pollution. The high plastic intensity of the clothing and fabric industries is consistent with the abundance of clothing-related microplastics found in waterways.
The results indicate that policies focused on consumer-facing plastics such as plastic bags do not address key plastic pollution pathways, and can help policymakers and consumers make decisions that improve environmental outcomes.