Is there more petroleum in a plastic bag or a plastic water bottle?



  1. 0 Votes

    Both plastic bags and water bottles are usually mostly polyethylene. Most polyethylene starts as natural gas, not petroleum (The American Chemistry Council says 79% of thin polyethylene films such as those in grocery bags derive from natural gas). But depending on the nature of the plant making the plastic, the feedstock might come more from petroleum (for example, an oil refinery generates the kind of gas needed for plastic as a byproduct of gasoline refining, so that particular plant might produce more plastic feedstock derived from oil than from natural gas – but in general, natural gas is the prime source for polyethylene.)

    Simply based on the mass/weight, it would seem reasonable that a heavier water bottle would have had more original hydrocarbon than a much lighter plastic bag. In either case, the amount is pretty tiny.

    The total proportion of oil that goes to make all feedstocks for plastics, paints, synthetic rubber, chemicals, etc. is about 2.7 percent – about 1.2 gallons from a 42-gallon barrel of crude oil make all the plastics we use.

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