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What are Petrochemicals and Why Are They Bad?

by Paula Gallacher |

Ok so we know you care about the environment. Clearly. You are here reading this blog!

But sometimes it gets really technical and overwhelming. And let's be honest, you have enough going on. Trying to also understand the complex workings of the eco system and climate changes seems like a big ask.

So here is your 3 minute quick and easy climate action lesson! We made it simple, informative and we hope, kinda fun. 

Let's talk about petrochemicals. Petro what? We know, it feels like we're back in a chemistry class. But trust us! It’s important to understand a little more about petrochemicals and their impact on the planet.

What are Petrochemicals?

Petrochemicals are chemicals that are made using fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. It all started around the 1970's when the mass production of things like plastic where more prominent. And once we hit the 90's, the petrochemical industry skyrocketed and is now a $536 Billion USD industry that is still growing (unfortunately). Lots of the products that we use in our daily lives come from petrochemicals. From detergents to clothing. To food colourings and fertilisers.

Ok cool, but what's the problem with petrochemicals? Well, there are a few…

They Release a LOT of Carbon Emissions

When petrochemicals are created, they release a LOT of carbon dioxide and methane into the environment. In 2018, it was reported that the chemical sector emits 1.5 gigatonnes of C02 emissions. That's 18% of total industry emissions.

They Use Non-Renewable Resources

And guess what? We don’t have a lot of fossil fuels left! Petrochemicals are made from finite resources that we cannot rely on long term which means that eventually- we will run out. 

They Release Toxic Chemicals

Another nasty side of petrochemicals is they can be pretty toxic. Levels of certain petrochemicals can be harmful to aquatic life if leaked into river systems or the ocean. They also have negative impacts on eco systems when chemical waste ends up in soil and landfill. With about 10% of petrochemical supply producing plastic and 55% of that plastic ending up in landfill. The overall industry contributes significantly to our landfill pollution problem.

So...What Can We Do?

It’s hard to take on a +$500 Billion industry but we can all do our bit to consciously switch to non petrochemical based products where we can, and encourage companies to move away from using petrochemicals.

Reduce Plastic Consumption

We go on about this a LOT but reducing your need for plastic will help create greater habits and reduce the amount of new plastic that needs to be created from petrochemicals.

Choose More Plant- Based, Natural Options

Whenever there is a more eco friendly option in terms of ingredients list. Try and take it! This can be in your shampoos, cleaning products or fertilisers. And if you aren’t sure of the ingredients get in touch with the company and ask.

There you go! 3 minutes of your time and now you know more about the petrochemical industry. Feel smarter? We thought so.

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