Carbon Capture, Use, and Sequestration

In an effort for industries to mitigate their contributions to climate change, the U.S. federal government has funded the development of a expensive and controversial technology to make doing so economically viable. But how viable, and safe, is this technology really?

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has gathered evidence to comprehensively educate both the public and decision-makers about the risks associated with this technology, known as Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCS). With CCS, corporations emitting carbon dioxide capture, transport, and inject carbon underground, to store or use for industrial purposes. However, there are many risks associated with CCS that far outweigh the perceived benefits.

EIP has collected data on existing and proposed carbon dioxide pipelines in the USA, as well as information on abandoned oil and gas wells, and risk of carbon dioxide leaks. Its map overlays this information with community-level data, such as population, indications of tribal lands and other demographic information, and more.

Our planet is flooded with plastics. While nature, the climate, biodiversity, and human health suffer from the ever-increasing volumes of plastic waste, the fossil fuel industry continues to produce it and to profit from it.

This analysis reveals that the planned trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur (made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay) will eliminate tariffs for plastics exports from the EU to South America – including tariffs for plastic items whose trade and use are banned in the EU in order to protect the environment and human health, such as single-use plastic cutlery. This stands in stark contrast to ongoing negotiations over a Global Plastics Treaty to significantly reduce plastic production and phase out plastic pollution, as well as to EU legislation aimed at reducing plastic use and avoiding plastic waste. This planned trade agreement is a textbook case of double standards.

Fertilizers and pesticides are interdependent inputs to a destructive food production model that is contributing to catastrophic biodiversity collapse, toxic pollution, and the violation of human rights. But there is an often-overlooked dimension of the threat posed by these agrochemicals: their fossil fuel origins. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides are fossil fuels in another form, making them an underrecognized but significant driver of the climate crisis. Further, the close ties between agrochemicals and fossil fuels mean that industrial food production is vulnerable to the volatility inherent in oil and gas markets, as starkly illustrated by the 2022 market shocks in food, fuel, and fertilizer prices. 

For over a decade, the fossil fuel industry has been betting on petrochemicals (namely, plastics) to maintain profits as the world moves away from oil and gas as fuels. Fossils, Fertilizers, and False Solutions exposes how fossil fuel and fossil fertilizer companies are aligning to pursue a new escape hatch: one that purports to solve the climate challenge of hydrocarbon combustion by using the hydrogen and managing the carbon. 

The fertilizer industry, and the processes it already uses to make its products, hold the keys to this new model. Largely unnoticed by media and civil society watchdogs, oil, gas, and agrochemical companies are partnering on a rapidly growing wave of new projects that would use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to produce fossil gas-based “blue” ammonia (and its “blue” hydrogen precursor), not only as a critical fertilizer input, but as a combustible fuel for transport and energy. Through such approaches, the fertilizer and fossil fuel companies seek to greenwash their polluting business, cash in on generous new subsidies for CCS, and access new markets as “clean energy companies.” 

This report begins by summarizing synthetic fertilizer market trends, describing how chemical fertilizer is tied to fossil fuels through feedstocks, examining the 2022 food and fertilizer market disruptions, and calling attention to the ecological and climate impacts of synthetic fertilizers. It then explores how the fertilizer industry and fossil fuel producers are capitalizing on the climate crisis to open new avenues for profit and production by laundering their emissions through the chemicals and agriculture sector. 

The corporate-controlled, input-reliant model of industrial agriculture is in need of a profound transformation to resilient, regenerative models that enhance food and energy sovereignty so that the ecosystems and communities that depend on them can thrive. The need for such a fundamental transformation is as urgent and as compelling as the global energy transition, the transition away from plastic pollution, and the transition to a world free of toxic chemicals. Those transitions can only be achieved if the common roadblock is removed: a fossil-fueled system that has captured politics and is burning, polluting, and poisoning people and the planet. At a time of surging fossil fuel, fertilizer, and food prices, and with the escalating climate crisis as a backdrop, the case for transitioning away from fossil fertilizer and from fossil fuels altogether has never been clearer.

Scientists find that some compostable plastics have similar or even higher levels of toxicity than plastic products, when it comes to chemical additives. These findings suggest that additives in bioplastics and other plant-based compostables must be carefully evaluated before use.

Abstract: This study investigates the toxicity of methanolic extracts obtained from compostable plastics (BPs) and conventional plastics (both virgin and recycled). Additionally, it explores the potential influence of plastic photodegradation and composting on toxic responses using a battery of in vitro assays conducted in PLHC-1 cells. The extracts of BPs, but not those of conventional plastics, induced a significant decrease in cell viability (<70%) in PLHC-1 cells after 24 h of exposure. Toxicity was enhanced by either photodegradation or composting of BPs. Extracts of conventional plastics, and particularly those of recycled plastics, induced 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity and micronucleus formation in exposed cells, indicating the presence of significant amounts of CYP1A inducers and genotoxic compounds in the extracts, which was enhanced by photodegradation. These findings highlight the importance of investigating the effects of degradation mechanisms such as sunlight and composting on the toxicity of BPs. It is also crucial to investigate the composition of newly developed formulations for BPs, as they may be more harmful than conventional ones.

Lead has been detected in a wide range of consumer products, including those made of or with plastic. As plastics are recycled, toxic lead is transferred into new consumer products and pollutes human bodies and the environment. Scientists propose that plastic pollution be classified as hazardous depending on its lead content and according to existing regulations on consumer plastics.

Abstract: X-ray fluorescence spectrometry has been employed to measure Pb in a wide range of consumer and environmental plastics, including food-packaging material, household goods, electronic casings, beach litter and agricultural waste. Results reveal high concentrations of Pb (>1000 mg kg−1) in historical items that are still in use or circulation (e.g. toys, construction plastics, wiring insulation) and variable, but generally lower concentrations in more recently manufactured articles. Analysis of Br, Cl and Cr, proxies for brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chromate pigments, respectively, suggests that as historical material is recycled, Pb from electronic plastics and pigments, but not PVC, is dispersed into a variety of newer products. Although most cases in the consumer sector comply with relevant EU Directives, some products that are non-compliant highlight shortfalls in regulations where recycling is involved and potential problems arising from the direct fashioning of industrial plastics into new consumer goods through attempts to be environmentally positive. The uncontrolled loss of historical and recycled plastics has also resulted in Pb contamination of the environment. Here, it is proposed that litter can be classified as hazardous depending on its Pb content and according to existing regulations that embrace consumer plastics.

Scientists chemically analyze 28 samples of recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE) collected from across regions of the Global South, along with a fresh sample of new HDPE. Their research shows the prevalence of certain chemicals commonly used in processing HDPE increase in recycled plastic, as well as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, and other plastic additives.

Abstract: Plastics are produced with a staggering array of chemical compounds, with many being known to possess hazardous properties, and others lacking comprehensive hazard data. Furthermore, non-intentionally added substances can contaminate plastics at various stages of their lifecycle, resulting in recycled materials containing an unknown number of chemical compounds at unknown concentrations. While some national and regional regulations exist for permissible concentrations of hazardous chemicals in specific plastic products, less than 1 % of plastics chemicals are subject to international regulation [1]. There are currently no policies mandating transparent reporting of chemicals throughout the plastics value chain or comprehensive monitoring of chemicals in recycled materials.

The dataset presented here provides the chemical analysis of 28 samples of recycled High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pellets obtained from various regions of the Global South, along with a reference sample of virgin HDPE. The analysis comprises both Target and Non-Targeted Screening approaches, employing Liquid Chromatography-High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (LC-HRMS) and Gas Chromatography-High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (GC-HRMS). In total, 491 organic compounds were detected and quantified, with an additional 170 compounds tentatively annotated. These compounds span various classes, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, plastic additives.

The results highlight the prevalence of certain chemicals, such as N-ethyl-o-Toluesulfonamide, commonly used in HDPE processing, found in high concentrations. The paper provides a dataset advancing knowledge of the complex chemical composition associated with recycled plastics.