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Key Terms

Here we cover terms you are likely to come across on our website and in the realm of sustainability! This article covers Greenhouse Gases, Fossil Fuels, Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), and Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR), in more detail than our Glossary.

General Greenhouse Gases

A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. Like a greenhouse, this causes a warming effect. The primary greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and other biological materials, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere (or "sequestered") when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.
  • Methane (CH4): Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices, land use and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O): Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural, land use, and industrial activities; combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste; as well as during treatment of wastewater.
  • Fluorinated gases: These are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of household, commercial, and industrial applications and processes. Fluorinated gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities than other greenhouse gases, but they are potent greenhouse gases as they trap substantially more heat than CO2.

Each gas's effect on climate change depends on three main factors:

  • How much is in the atmosphere?
  • How long do they stay in the atmosphere?
  • How strongly do they impact the atmosphere?


Fossil Fuels

A fossil fuel is made from the remains of dead plants and animals that are buried by layers or rock and sediment. Fossil fuels are embedded in the earth's crust and can be extracted and burned as a fuel. The main fossil fuels are coal, crude oil and natural gas. Each fossil fuel varies based on the organic matter that was present, how long it was buried and what temperatures/pressure existed at the time. Today, fossil fuel industries drill or mine for these energy sources, burn them to produce electricity or refine them for use as fuel for heating or transportation.


Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)

Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) are cohesive studies done on the complete environmental impact of a product from it’s cradle (raw material) to grave (mode of disposal). LCAs look at the following to uncover the true impact of a product: raw material extraction, manufacturing and processing, transportation, usage and retail, recycling ability, and waste disposal.

The environmental impact of a product is not just about its end-of-life (such as recycling, landfill, marine, etc.), but rather a combination of all stages of a product's life. LCAs look at the carbon footprint, energy use, fossil fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions for each of the buckets outlined above.


Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR)

Post-consumer recycled (PCR) is material made from consumer items that are recycled after use. For the recycling industry, PCR stands for Post-Consumer Recycled. PCR material comes from everyday recycled objects ranging from cardboard to plastic bottles to aluminum cans to stretch film. Once the business or consumer uses the product and it is collected for recycling, it is sorted, converted and sold as PCR for companies to incorporate into new products.



Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound. It is a form of propaganda with the sole purpose of convincing the public that a company’s business model, products or services make a positive impact on environmental protection or regeneration.

Greenwashing can include misleading visuals or text, packaging upgrades that use the colour green or nature images to convey a certain narrative, emissions counting and goal setting, or anything that deceives the consumer. While not all greenwashing is done deliberately, it’s important to be mindful of environmental claims made by companies and organizations.


We don't just talk the talk, at Smart Plastic we prove everything we say with credible third-party testing. Below you will find the corresponding tests that apply to all our claims.

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