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Life Cycle Assessment of Different Scenarios for Waste Treatment of a Plastic Bottle Used for Food Packaging

Summary

This project has been carried out for Stabburet AS and Plastretur AS. Three different waste treatment methods for a plastic bottle have been analysed, as an example of waste treatment of plastic packaging from households.

The following conclusions are reached based on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the different treatment systems:

  • The material recycling system is the most environmentally beneficial when compared to energy recovery and landfill. The main reason for this is the benefit gained from avoided virgin material.
  • Energy recovery also gives a net environmental benefit for several of the impact categories, but when compared to recycling, the benefit is considerably lower.
  • Landfill gives the highest environmental burdens when compared to recycling and energy recovery.
  • Transport contributes very little to the total environmental loads.
  • This study has not taken into account that when plastic packaging waste is recycled, it is made available for use in several future life cycles and can therefore replace virgin material more than just once. A recycled material is not at the "end-of-life" phase of the life cycle; it is entering a new life cycle as a raw material. In order to assess the complete picture of the burdens and benefits arising from recycling, the system boundaries must be expanded to allow for recycling many times.
  • 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. However, the analyses show that there is a potential for great environmental benefit in systems with high recycling rates.
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