Fact Sheet




NCEL Point of Contact

Julia Meltzer
Zero Waste Coordinator



Petrochemicals come from fossil fuels, often that are fracked for very cheap, and are used to make single-use plastics. As we transition to renewable energy and the demand for oil and gas decreases, extraction is becoming less profitable. As a result, companies are now turning their focus to refining the oil and gas into petrochemicals used to make more plastic. While petrochemical companies promise economic benefits, they often bring in their own workers rather than hire locally for jobs in petrochemical and plastic facilities. The facilities - predominantly located in low-income areas and communities of color - pose major health risks and can also force schools, churches, and homes to relocate leaving communities with the choice of staying and risking their health or negotiating a buyout and abandoning their homes.

Key Points

Key Point 1

Plastic contributes to climate change at every step of its lifecycle, from extraction to waste management. (Debris Free Oceans)

Key Point 2

Petrochemical and plastic facilities pose severe health threats to nearby residents and are disproportionately located in communities of color and low-income areas. (Sierra Club)

Key Point 3

99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels. (Center for International Environmental Law)

Key Point 4

The fracking boom has fueled an expansion of plastic production and created a flood of single-use plastics. (Surfrider)

Key Point 5

The petrochemical industry is spending over $200 billion on more than 300 different plastics projects across the U.S. (Center for International Environmental Law)


Legislators can address petrochemicals through regulation of toxic chemicals and reductions in plastic pollution.

Toxic Chemical Regulation

  • Pennsylvania’s HB 1302 closes a loophole regarding state laws governing the disposal of toxic drilling waste. Oil and gas companies would no longer be exempt from thoroughly testing or treating waste prior to disposal.

Reducing Plastic Pollution

  • Oregon’s EPR for Packaging bill (SB582) builds on local community programs and leverages the resources of producers to create an innovative recycling system for all. The bill requires packaging producers to share responsibility for effective management of their products after use.
  • Maine’s EPR for Packaging bill (HP 1146) requires packaging producers to pay a fee for the total amount of packaging material introduced into the state’s waste stream. Through Product Stewardship Organizations (PSO), producers will reimburse municipalities for the costs of managing their waste and improving recycling infrastructure.


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet - CIEL

A report highlighting the many hidden environmental, economic, and health costs associated with the petrochemical industry.

Go to resource
How Plastics Contribute to Climate Change - Debris Free Oceans

An overview of the plastic industry’s contributions to climate change.

Go to resource
Factsheet on Oregon's EPR bill - Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Go to resource

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