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Life Cycle Assessment and Socio-economic Cost Benefit Analyses of the Treatment of Plastic Packaging Waste from Households in Norway

Summary

The study has been carried out for two different regions in Norway (Hamar and Drammen), which have different collection systems for source sorted plastic packaging waste. Before the system for plastic sorting was introduced in the two regions, plastic packaging waste deposited on landfills.

The following conclusions are reached based on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Socio-economic Cost Benefit Analyses (CBA) of the different systems:

  • Material recycling systems are the most environmentally beneficial when compared to systems without recycling (all plastics to landfill). The analyses also show that the higher the collection rate, the greater the environmental benefit.
  • Transport contributes very little to the total environmental loads.
  • The relatively newly established sorting systems give higher socio-economic costs than the systems without recycling (all plastics to landfill).
  • When examining the recycling and energy recovery processes in isolation (transport and sorting not included), recycling is more beneficial than energy recovery for both the LCA and CBA.
  • There seems to be potential for optimising the recycling systems to be more socioeconomically beneficial. This applies especially to costs for transport, sorting and information.
  • Choosing to discount external costs, so that future emissions are worth less than emissions that occur today can affect the conclusions of the CBA.
  • It is important to be aware of the assumptions that these analyses are built on. The results must be used carefully as a basis for making decisions about whether one should recycle a waste material or not.

 

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