The new study measures how much energy and greenhouse gases are generated in single manufacturing of various plastics in the United States.

Today we use predominantly linear savings for many materials, including plastics. Many people and organizations around the world are looking for ways to make our material economy loop.

Greg Beckham, NREL Senior Research Fellow

In order to help achieve this goal, scientists have carried out work that is aimed at studying the production of plastics and their impact on the environment.

We are talking about 18 plastics, each of which is produced on an industrial scale: their global consumption is more than 1 metric tons per year. In work, this kind of production is evaluated using a resource developed at NREL: it tracks energy and material flows throughout the production supply chain to estimate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The polymers covered in this study account for approximately 95% of global production, which collectively amounts to about 360 million metric tons per year.

As of 2014, plastics production accounted for about 11% of all industrial energy use in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Agency. According to a recently published analysis in Science Advances, the United States is responsible for the largest share of plastics waste in the world.

The new analysis reflects only the consumption of plastics in the United States and takes into account mono-manufacturing, as well as related industries. Polyester fiber, for example, is not counted if it is produced overseas to make garments that are then imported into the United States.

The team is now continuing to develop MFI tools that will allow users to analyze global supply chains in the future, not just those based on US manufacturing.