The Environmental Impact of PLA and the Importance of Addressing Scope 3 Emissions

Alfred Tang

Hatched by Alfred Tang

Oct 13, 2023

3 min read


The Environmental Impact of PLA and the Importance of Addressing Scope 3 Emissions


In recent news, there has been a growing concern about the use of PLA (polylactic acid), a type of biodegradable plastic, and its impact on the environment. Despite being touted as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastics, PLA has faced restrictions and challenges in its proper disposal. This article aims to shed light on the reasons behind these restrictions and explore the broader issue of Scope 3 emissions, which play a significant role in the overall sustainability of a product or company.

The Dilemma of PLA:

PLA, being a biodegradable plastic, was initially seen as a promising solution to the plastic waste crisis. However, its classification as a plastic material has led to its mismanagement, similar to traditional plastics. The mixing of PLA with traditional plastics during the recycling process has compromised its ability to be effectively recycled and reused. As a result, PLA has often ended up in landfills, contributing to the accumulation of plastic waste.

Understanding Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions:

To fully grasp the environmental implications of PLA and any other product, it is essential to consider the concept of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. These emission scopes refer to different categories of greenhouse gas emissions that occur within a company's operations and supply chain.

Scope 1 emissions encompass direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the company. For instance, the emissions generated by a manufacturing facility or a company-owned vehicle fall under Scope 1.

Scope 2 emissions, on the other hand, include indirect emissions resulting from the generation of purchased energy. This refers to the emissions produced by the power station from which a company buys its electricity.

Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions that occur throughout a company's value chain, both upstream and downstream. This includes emissions generated by suppliers, transportation, and the use of the company's products. For example, the emissions produced during the transportation of raw materials to manufacturing facilities or the delivery of finished goods to customers fall under Scope 3.

The Importance of Addressing Scope 3 Emissions:

While the focus on reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions has been prevalent, addressing Scope 3 emissions is equally crucial in achieving sustainable practices. Companies that solely focus on their direct emissions overlook a significant portion of their carbon footprint, which lies within their value chain. By considering Scope 3 emissions, companies can identify areas where they can make substantial environmental improvements.

Actionable Advice for Addressing Scope 3 Emissions:

  • 1. Supply Chain Collaboration: Establishing partnerships with suppliers and transportation providers can help optimize logistics and reduce emissions. Collaborative efforts can focus on efficiency improvements, such as route optimization, vehicle sharing, and the use of low-emission transportation modes.
  • 2. Product Life Cycle Assessment: Conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) of products can provide insights into their environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle. This assessment allows companies to identify areas where emissions can be reduced, such as material sourcing, manufacturing processes, and end-of-life management.
  • 3. Sustainable Packaging Solutions: Packaging is a significant contributor to Scope 3 emissions. Companies can explore sustainable packaging alternatives, such as using recycled materials, minimizing packaging sizes, and implementing reusable or compostable packaging options. Reducing unnecessary packaging and promoting recycling initiatives can further minimize environmental impact.


The restrictions and challenges faced by PLA highlight the need for a comprehensive approach to sustainability. By understanding the concept of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, companies can address their indirect environmental impact and make informed decisions to reduce their carbon footprint. Through supply chain collaboration, life cycle assessments, and sustainable packaging solutions, companies can take actionable steps towards achieving a more sustainable future. It is crucial to recognize the importance of holistic environmental management and the role of all stakeholders in creating a greener and more sustainable world.

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