How much of global greenhouse gas emissions come from plastics?

Plastic production and disposal emits around 3% of global emissions.

The most visible environmental impact of plastic is the waste that ends up in our rivers and oceans.

Another concern is its contribution to climate change. How much greenhouse gas emissions are emitted in the production and management of global plastics?

The OECD estimates that the life-cycle emissions of plastics – which includes the production of the material and its disposal – was 1.8 billion tonnes. This is measured in carbon dioxide equivalents, which accounts for the different warming impacts of different greenhouse gases.

We can see the breakdown of these emissions in the chart below. Most come from the production stage, and are in the form of carbon dioxide.

Since the world emits around 54.6 billion tonnes of CO2eq, plastics were responsible for around 3.3% of global emissions.1

In the chart below we see how plastic emissions have changed over time – and what stage of the supply chain they come from. Around 90% come from the production stage – that is, converting fossil fuels into plastics. Emissions from the end-of-life tend to be relatively small.


  1. Global greenhouse gas emissions figures are calculated from:

    Jones, Matthew W., Peters, Glen P., Gasser, Thomas, Andrew, Robbie M., Schwingshackl, Clemens, Gütschow, Johannes, Houghton, Richard A., Friedlingstein, Pierre, Pongratz, Julia, & Le Quéré, Corinne. (2023). National contributions to climate change due to historical emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide [Data set]. In Scientific Data (2023.1). Zenodo.

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Hannah Ritchie (2023) - “How much of global greenhouse gas emissions come from plastics?” Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

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    author = {Hannah Ritchie},
    title = {How much of global greenhouse gas emissions come from plastics?},
    journal = {Our World in Data},
    year = {2023},
    note = {}
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