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This list of papers will continue to grow as we conduct the literature review, and will become a public repository of resources on climate-relevant plastic impacts. This sampling of papers is grouped into the three major categories of impacts. 

Climate Impact #1:
Emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon from the plastics lifecycle

Plastic lifecycle by Chris Boutillier.jpg

Greenhouse gas emissions from industry. Photo credit Roxanne Desgagnes on Unsplash

The following documents help identify and quantify the emissions of greenhouse gas emissions (including methane and ethylene) and black carbon across the lifecycle of plastics, from fossil fuel extraction to end-of-useful-life treatment or degradation in the environment. 



Climate Impact #2:
The impact of plastics on carbon cycling including sequestration

Microplastics in zooplankton. Photo credit Cole et al. 

These documents help identify and quantify the climate-relevant impacts of plastics on carbon cycling, including on carbon fluxes, sources, and sinks.

Climate Impact #3:
The impact of plastics on the Earth's radiation budget

Ocean albedo by Roxanne Desgagnes.jpg

Ice cover and atmospheric aerosols affect the Earth's radiation budget. Photo credit Chris Boutillier on Unsplash

These resources investigate the changes in Earth surface albedo, direct aerosol effects, and/or indirect aerosol effects due to environmental plastics



Below are citations for information presented elsewhere on this website.

[1] Because more than 99% of plastics are made from and produced using energy derived from fossil fuels, plastics are implicated as a significant and growing contributor to global climate change. Plastics were responsible for 1.7 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 equivalent (CO2 e) in 2015, a number that is expected to grow to 3.5 Gt by 2050 if we continue producing plastics as we do today. Making plastics emissions transparent, Coalition for Materials Emissions Transparency (COMET)

[2] Zhu (2021) The plastics cycle - an unknown branch of the carbon cycle; Stubbins et al. (2021) Plastics in the Earth System; Loiselle and Galgani (2020) Plastic pollution impacts on marine carbon geochemistry; Sharma et al. (2023) Contribution of plastic and microplastic to global climate change and their conjoining impacts on the environment; Shen et al. (2023) Recent advances in the research on effects of micro/nanoplastics on carbon conversion and carbon cycle: a review 

[3] Reyna-Bensusan et al. (2019) Experimental measurements of black carbon emission factors to estimate the global impact of uncontrolled burning of waste

[4] A Poison Like No Other - How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet & Our Bodies says that if the plastics industry were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter after China, the U.S. India and Russia. According to National Geographic and The Global Carbon Atlas, the plastics would be the fourth largest.


[5] Beyond Plastics (2021). The New Coal: Plastics & Climate Change

[6] Shen et al. (2020). Can microplastics pose a threat to ocean carbon sequestration?

[7] Maity and Pramanick (2020). Perspectives and challenges of micro/nanoplastics-induced toxicity with special reference to phytotoxicity

[8] Brahney et al. (2020). Plastic rain in protected areas of the United States

[9] CIEL (2019). Plastic & Health - The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet

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