We could start this article by telling you how many tons of CO2 is released into the atmosphere every hour, or how much plastic goes into the ocean every minute. But when we hear numbers like these over and over again, without any frame of reference, they start to lose meaning. So let’s cut to the chase and look at which industries are the biggest polluters and where possible point out a few practical solutions.
Keep in mind. There’s no cut and dry way of comparing one industry to another. When it comes to how much they pollute, partly because there are such big overlaps between them. One industry relies on another and you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.
That’s why this list isn’t in any particular order, but we’ve managed to choose not one but two industries that we think are the biggest polluters of them. All of course, we’ll explain why we think that. And we’ll save those til last.
1 – Agriculture
One of our most basic needs, which means we can’t live without it, but with the world’s population rising, can the world handle our food meat for the time being probably yes, but with a big, Kivvit not when we’re eating as much meat as we are right now, agriculture accounts for around 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and more than half of that comes from cattle production.
When we’re talking about raising cows, there are some big problems that every link of the chain from manufacturing, fertilizers, for cattle feed to burning forests, to make way for grazing land, it all means that gram for gram of protein, beef production takes up 20 times more land and causes 20 times more carbon emissions than beans and 10 times more than chicken.
So if you give up beef and go, plant-based, you’re doing the planet a big favor and even replacing beef with chicken is a big thing. Improvement.
2 – Food retail
This one’s not about growing food. We’re talking about how it’s packaged, transported and sold and how much of it ends up getting wasted. The amount of packaging isn’t only ginormous. It’s also totally unnecessary to nearly a million.
Tons of plastic is used in food retail every year that goes into landfills or oceans where it kills hundreds of thousands of Marine animals solutions. You’ve heard most of them before use reusable shopping bags go to sustainable supermarkets that have no or very little packaging and packaging aside to avoid wasting food. It has. That’s another huge problem.
3 – Passenger transport
This one accounts for a fifth of all CO2 emissions. And even though the travel is slowed down in the pandemic, the general trend is upwards between thousand 10 and 2019. The number of flights we made went up by 40%.
Now you’re probably thinking planes are the main culprit here, but get ready to be surprised. Air travel only accounts for 16% of all of those land-based travel pollutes a lot more, either way. It’s still good to limit your plane journeys, carpool, take public transport and go for an electric car. Especially now that they’re becoming more available.
4 – Commercial freight
The other side of transport, not carrying people, but carrying the stuff we buy over the pandemic. We’ve all been ordering more online and getting it delivered to our homes, whether that’s dinner or something that’s been flown halfway across the world.
It’s not that we weren’t already doing it, but just that we’re doing it even more. And of course, most commercial freight isn’t addressed to individuals, but companies all told commercial freight. Doesn’t pollute as much as passenger transport, but still a lot around 40% of all CO2 emissions from transport.
5 – Tourism
According to carbon brief.org. Tourism is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Now it’s true that a lot of this is included in other figures here, like passenger transport, but there’s a whole load of other factors to remember when we’re talking about how tourism pollutes like cheap tacky, plastic souvenirs, that soon go in the trash.
That’s a load more plastic to clog up the oceans and landfills. And we all like to be spoiled in a plush hotel or restaurant, but a lot of food is wasted in restaurants. And when hotels wash our towels every day, that’s not exactly efficient energy use. And guess what? It all adds up to more pollution.
6 – Construction
Now to an industry that ranks high in pretty much every kind of pollution imaginable. All of the building sites around the world add up to 23% of air pollution. Harmful dust ends up in tap water and accounts for 40% of drinking water pollution. And the construction industry produces around half the garbage that ends up in a landfill.
Let’s also give a mention to the world’s most ignored kind of pollution, noise pollution. You don’t need a PhD in environmental sciences to figure out that construction is a huge offender of that one too. And we haven’t even gotten to the raw materials. It uses around half of all natural resource extraction, a sixth of global fresh water, a quarter of wood, and it produces a quarter of global waste.
7 – Natural gas
We’ve often thought of natural gas as the friendlier cousin of all the fossil fuels, which is kind of true. But given the company it’s in, it’s really not saying much in 2019 natural gas was responsible for 8 billion, tons of CO2 that went into the atmosphere.
That’s about a fifth of the total carbon emissions and includes half a billion tons from flowering. When gas gets burned during processing and speaking of fossil fuels like coal and gas.
8 – Fashion
Any industry fashion uses energy to make stuff. And a lot of it, the clothes we wear use enough energy to account for 10% of all carbon emissions. But what pushes fashion even further up the list of polluters is the amount of clothes that get dumped every year.
Of course, the world of fashion has a lot of different types of players involved and there’s one section of it. We can really point our fingers at fast fashion because fast fashion items are made up of cheap material that doesn’t last long.
They often contain harmful micro-plastics and tend to be made in lower income countries with worse environmental regulations where factories are more likely to run on coal and gas. And when all of that energy’s gone into making fast fashion, 85% of textiles get dumped every year.
What can we do about it? Don’t be fooled by fast fashion as we’ve often said by quality that will last and don’t look past, say in a year or two, also buy secondhand clothing and sell or recycle yours instead of just spinning them.
9 – Chemical manufacturing
Every kind of manufacturing uses energy, and a lot of it is dirty energy, but it just happens that the chemicals industry is the biggest industrial user of energy by a long shot. That means the cleaning products we use at home pesticides farmers put on their crops or construction materials.
Builders use all took their toll on the environment even before they were used. And besides that, the chemicals industry releases toxic substances into the environment which contaminates the water, soil, air and food. Worst of all is in lower income countries, where there are fewer regulations.
10 – The plastics industry
The plastics industry comes to plastic over 8 billion. Tons of it have been produced and only 9% of that have been recycled. We are sure you’ve seen photos of clogged up beaches or islands of it in the middle of the ocean, killing sea animals from small fish to whales. So it’s no need to explain where a lot of it ends up.
The good news is it will decompose the bad news. It’ll take hundreds of years to do that. So a good solution is the same for a lot of environmental problems that consume less, especially when it contains plastic. And you know, what’s going to end up in the trash sometime soon, reuse and recycle as much as possible.
11 – Waste management
The average American produces around a ton of garbage every year, which means there’s a big market and getting rid of it. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The global waste management industry is currently worth $2 trillion.
And to be fair, when you think about how much waste they have to deal with doing it in a way that’s clean is an impossible job. Still, when you look at the facts, they sure make it onto the list of the most polluting industries.
We’ve already talked about plastic in the seas. What about garbage and landfill sites? That’s where about half of our trash ends up and when harmful chemicals come out of it, they end up poisoning the land around it and the groundwater, and it creates health problems from asthma to cancer, even birth defects,
12 – Mining
Mineral and metals that come from the ground may be useful, even pretty, but it’s a fact that getting them out of the ground doesn’t do any favors for the natural surroundings where we can find them. And it’s not just a case of ruining the view.
Mining can lead to a whole load of problems like soil erosion and sinkholes destruction of forests. Yep. That’s bad news for carbon emissions and biodiversity, as well as harmful substances like arsenic, mercury and sulfuric acid getting into the soil and the water beneath it, which ends up in rivers and in people’s faucets, it kills wildlife and destroys ecosystems.
13 – Technology
We’re talking about a huge sector and it’s true that this one’s very two edged. We’ve got to give the tech industry credit for revolutionizing energy, with solar power and other renewables. And it’s giving us ways to recycle plastics and solutions to plenty of other environmental problems.
But there are serious downsides to like the amount of energy tech products use currently around 3% of the world’s electricity goes into powering our servers and charging our devices. Those figures are going up every year.
And for as long as the world still relies on fossil fuels. That’s a problem on top of that phones and computers use rare minerals that cause environmental destruction when their mind like Colton, a metallic or mind, mostly in central Africa, polluting lakes and rivers, and we need it to make phones, tablets, and computers.
14 – Oil
t’s a fact that oil is a huge polluter as well as being behind climate change oil companies, pollute areas where they drill and they pollute the world seas and oceans through oil spillages in 2020, a thousand tons of oil were spilled worldwide.
The biggest reason for oil being so damaging to the environment is the amount of carbon dioxide it sends out into the atmosphere. Currently 12.25 billion tons, 34% of the world’s carbon emissions.
15 – Coal
The global industry that contributes more to global warming than any other is coal. It emits more CO2 than any other fossil fuel when it’s burned the biggest contributor to CO2 in the atmosphere.
On top of that it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that has 25 more global warming potential than CO2. Even though a lot of countries are phasing it out, 27% of the world’s energy supply comes from coal in places where it’s burned.
It causes smaug, which leads to serious health conditions from respiratory problems to heart disease. This is a big concern in China, which still uses coal for around 60% of its energy, as well as other countries, including India and Poland.
Coal does release more CO2 into the atmosphere than oil, 14.62 billion tons or 40% of all CO2 emissions.
It’s hard to avoid any damage to the environment. Even crypto currencies come under fire for being a big polluter. The reason is the amount of energy it takes to make a transaction or worse still to mine, it using networks of high powered, supercomputers. It’s been claimed that crypto uses 0.4% of all electricity consumption.
That’s nowhere near chemicals, tourism, or fashion, but still significant. And if crypto grows at the rate a lot of us are expecting it to, and we don’t make a fast switch to cleaner energy. It’s going to get worse.
And the counter argument from the crypto and blockchain community is the idea behind crypto is it works for a better future for us all where the main focus is literally eliminating waste.
So even digital money is harming the world. What a positive note to end on. Thanks all, that was the 15 industries making the biggest negative impact on the world.