As plastic waste chokes the planet, can petrochemical industry respond?

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

The Houston Chronicle

By Katherine Blunt, The Houston Chronicle

Jim Becker arrived in Asia in 2010 to market plastics for Chevron Phillips Chemical only to be confronted by a problem that the petrochemicals industry had for years done little to address: plastic waste.

It littered streets. It clogged rivers that swelled during storms and emptied into the ocean. It washed up on beaches and rode out with the tide.

“I got to see it first hand, and it really solidified in my mind,” Becker said. “We’ve got to get this out of the environment.”

Eight years later, some of the world’s largest petrochemicals companies have begun to take that responsibility more seriously as billions of tons of plastic waste imperil both the environment and future of their industry. No longer able to discount their role in creating the problem, chemical makers have turned their attention to waste management and recycling as plastics pile up in landfills and chokes the world’s oceans.

The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington environmental advocacy group, has estimated that the world’s oceans now contain more than 150 million metric tons of plastic waste -- roughly the weight of a million blue whales, the world's largest animals. That amount is expected to increase by an estimated 8 million metric tons a year, putting plastic waste on track to outweigh all the fish in the ocean by 2050...

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