The aim of this project is to understand where recycled plastic should be used. The project will analyze the environmental impact from using recycled plastics in product applications with different lifetimes. For example, how beneficial is it to recycle packaging material (short lifetime) in furniture products (longer lifetime). The project will also study the impact of different recycling systems on these results. Which type of products should be recycled in closed loops rather than open loops? Or are reuse solutions preferred? A better understanding of these dynamics will help policy makers and companies to make well-informed decisions when designing new circular systems.
Microplastics ending up in nature as a result of end-of-life processes for plastic packaging is a serious environmental concern, and was addressed in the Packnoplast project through sampling at three sites: one biogas facility in Norway and two thermoplastic recycling plants, one in Norway and one in The Netherlands.
The amounts of microplastics ending up in soil from biogas digestate was estimated to represent 0.4-2 mg/kg soil per year if 6 t/daa of biogas digestate is used as fertilizer. Food packaging is estimated to represent 75% of this. The amounts of microplastics measured are significant, but too small to affect soil properties even on a time-scale of decades. The risk of adverse effects on soil quality, plant growth or soil organisms seem very low at the current predicted rates of plastic inputs to soil. Since plastics are virtually non-degradable, they are still prone to accumulate in soil, and waste streams recycled to soil need to address and prevent plastic contamination even better than today.
Thermoplastic recycling plants are handling large amount of plastic, and during processes in the plant, microplastic are generated. Concentrations of microplastic particles varied from 7 to 51 particles per liter in the effluent water from the two plants. Discharges of effluent water are often through the sewer system and/or into a water body. Today regulations regarding discharges of microplastic are missing. Sand filter treatment of the effluent water was a promising treatment technique to remove the microplastics. Background concentrations of microplastic, comparable to pristine areas, were found in blue mussels sampled outside the thermoplastic recycling plant in Norway. Knowledge about the risk imposed by microplastics to the aquatic environment is today not known.
This study was commissioned by Plastretur (Green dot Norway) and was carried out by NORSUS. The overarching goal has been to quantify the environmental impacts of Plastretur’s system for collection and material recycling of plastic packaging waste from households in Norway, and to identify factors which have large impacts on the results.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology was applied to calculate the environmental impacts of collection and treatment of plastic waste resources, as well as the avoided emissions when recycled material substitute virgin material, and when energy from waste substitute other energy carriers. The current system of sorting and recycling plastic waste was compared with an alternative with no sorting, where plastic waste goes to incineration with energy recovery together with residual waste. The assessment is made for the treatment of the amount of plastic waste sorted from Norwegian households during a year.
The plastic collection of household plastic waste in Norway consists of three systems, and each system is analysed and summarised to quantify the annual environmental impacts:
Note that the results for the three systems are not comparable since different functional units (representing different plastic compositions and quality) have been used for each system.
Specific data were collected, e.g. from Plastretur, ROAF and IVAR, to represent these systems to the extent possible. When specific data were unavailable, generic data were utilized. Four environmental impacts were assessed, including climate change, freshwater eutrophication, fossil resource scarcity and fine particulate matter formation.
The results from the study show that the Norwegian system for sorting and material recycling of plastic waste contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 72 300 tonnes CO2 equivalents compared to the alternative with no sorting where all plastic is incinerated instead. The system for sorting in households contributes to a reduction of approximately 51 000 tonnes CO2 equivalents, and the sorting facilities of ROAF and IVAR contribute to a reduction of approximately 10 500 and 10 800 tonnes CO2 equivalents, respectively, compared to incineration. In municipalities with sorting in households, each kg sorted contributes on average to an emission reduction at 2.0 kg CO2 equivalents compared to the same amount being incinerated.
The results from this study show that sorting and recycling of household plastic waste is preferable to incineration with energy recovery in terms of climate change and fossil resource depletion. In terms of fine particulate matter formation and freshwater eutrophication, on the other hand, incineration with energy recovery gives lower impacts. For fine particulate matter formation, this is a result of higher avoided impacts from incineration compared to avoided impacts from recycling and incineration of plastics in the systems for sorting and recycling of plastics. For freshwater eutrophication, this is due to impacts from the resources needed for recycling processes, such as electricity, while incineration avoids contributions to freshwater eutrophication when substituting Norwegian district heat generation.
Critical factors affecting the results include:
Transport and energy use have low impacts on the results.
In the future, Plastretur is advised to collect more specific data from the sorting- and recycling facilities, which to various extent had to be modelled using generic data. More information on recycling rates per plastic type, the quality and market of recycled materials and what type of material that is substituted by these recycled materials would be beneficial. Furthermore, Plastretur is advised to select sorting- and recycling facilities that produce high quality recycled material that in turn can substitute virgin plastics.
This project has not included a comparative assessment of the different sorting systems (sorting at source compared with residual waste sorting facilities). In such a study the comparison must be done based on the amount of plastic waste generated in the households. As more data is available for the different systems, it is recommended to set up analyses with the aim of a direct comparison of the different systems to better understand the implications of choosing one system over the other. In such a study, it would be interesting to address under what circumstances that one of these systems becomes preferable to the other. This could be done by, for example, assessing how well consumers need to sort the household plastic waste for the sorted at source system to be environmentally preferable over a sorting facility system where plastics are disposed with the residual waste.
There is an increasing interest in reusable bottles as an alternative to single-use packaging from the perspective of assumed reduced littering, waste generation and environmental impacts. In the assessment of a possible shift from single use to reusable bottles, it is important to apply a systems perspective to avoid potential trade-offs between various impacts. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is commonly applied to assess the life cycle impacts of products, typically including the processes of raw material extraction, production, use phase as well as waste management of the products assessed. The goal of this study is to review LCAs of reuse systems for bottles as well as the current European practice in such reuse systems. A recent review of LCAs of reuse systems was applied as the point of departure and complemented by recently published LCA studies. The focus of the review was on methodological aspects and on empirical data for trip rates, i.e., the number of times that the bottle is used during its lifetime. In total, nine LCAs of reuse systems and four European reuse system actors were included in the review as well as some additional highly relevant reports on trip rates.
Several aspects were highlighted as important in the reviewed LCAs of reuse systems. These include the size and composition of beverage packaging, trip rate, transportation distance between retailers and manufacturers, as well as the modelling of end of life of packaging materials, including collection rates. It is important that all these aspects are considered, that the data applied for the compared systems are selected, and that the interpretation of the study results are made, in line with the study goal, which can be to e.g. to compare current or potential future reuse and recycling systems. For example, the collection rate of the packaging in the systems assessed, in turn affected by the type of collection system in place, is one important and sensitive parameter both for single-use and reusable beverage packaging. The reason for this is that the collection rate affects the recycling rate, trip rate and littering rate in the respective single-use and reuse systems. However, detailed discussions on various collection systems, their varying collection rates, or potentials for improving these systems are rarely provided in the reviewed studies. When different collection systems are applied for the compared reuse and single-use bottle systems (e.g. a deposit for reusable bottlesand a voluntary system for single-use bottles), different collection rates will typically occur. A direct comparison of the environmental impact for such systems might therefore be misleading unless the difference in collection rates between the systems are described and in line with the study goal. If the goal of a study is to compare potential future bottle systems, the collection systems applied should be carefully selected to ensure a comparison focusing on differences between the bottle systems (e.g. single-use bottles which are collected for material recycling and converted to raw material for new bottles, or reusable bottles which are collected for refilling), rather than on differences reflecting the underlying collection systems. This is especially important when there are no clear arguments for why the selected collection systems should be different for the bottle systems assessed. However, if the goal is to compare the impact of existing bottle systems, the collection systems applied for the respective bottle systems should be used. Nevertheless, important aspects, such as the collection systems applied for the compared systems, their related collection rates as well as their impact on the results should be acknowledged.
Other important aspects such as social and economic ones were also identified in the reviewed studies. Littering, which commonly is highlighted as an issue related to single-use plastic products, were only assessed in one of the reviewed studies. This literature review is non-exhaustive but provides an overview of recently published LCAs of reuse systems for bottles. The results from this study can provide recommendations to LCA practitioners in conducting future LCAs of reuse systems for bottles to be compared to single-used bottles, as well as to beverage packaging actors, such as reuse system actors.
NORSUS has carried out study evaluating the environmental impacts of beer serving using different types of beer cups, based on life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The study was commissioned by the largest music festival in Norway, Øyafestivalen and was funded by Handelens Miljøfond. The aim of the project has been to contribute with increased knowledge about the environmental impacts of various solutions for beverage serving, and thus contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and plastic waste. The results show that the return rate and loss of cups after use impacts which type of glass that results in the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. This shows that the festival's system for collection and handling of beer cups, and the extent to which the festival audience returns the cups, influences which solution the festival should choose.
Festivaler som har et engangssystem der ølglassene kastes etter bruk kan oppnå en betydelig klimagevinst ved å innføre et innsamlingssystem og sende glassene til materialgjenvinning, for eksempel gjennom en panteordning. Bruk av frivillige eller andre til å oppnå en ekstra oppsamling ved å plukke opp ølglass og kildesortere gir en betydelig reduksjon av klimagassutslipp på grunn av reduksjon i svinn. På bakgrunn av studien anbefaler NORSUS at festivaler som ønsker å redusere sin miljøbelastning etablerer gode systemer for innsamling av ølglass, og at de kvantifiserer svinn og returgrad over tid. Bransjen som helhet oppfordres til å utveksle informasjon og erfaringer med hverandre.
The whole report can be found (in Norwegian) here.
Here kan du lese Øyafestivalens sak om rapporten.
This report describes the results of an environmental assessment of the serving of beer at festivals, using several different types of beer glass. The project was carried out by NORSUS on behalf of the Øya Festival. The project is funded by Handelens Miljøfond.
The primary goal of the project has been to contribute increased knowledge regarding the environmental impact of various solutions for beverage serving. This will in turn contribute to a reduction in both potential climate impact and plastic waste at festivals and events.
The following four options have been analysed:
1a. Polypropylene (PP) disposable glassware
1b. Disposable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recyclable glass
2. Disposable polylactate disposable glasses (PLA)
3. Recycled glass made of PP
The two environmental impact categories to have been assessed are potential climate impact and the risk of littering. The risk of littering is evaluated by means of mass balance and a qualitative assessment, while potential climate impact is determined using life cycle assessment (LCA). The functional unit in the analysis is defined as serving 1000 pints of beer. In the life cycle analyses, two different methods, cut-off and system expansion, have been employed for modelling recycling. Both methods are defined as being valid means of modelling recycling, while having different procedures for distributing burdens and gains in relation to recycling between the first and second product systems. The use of cut-off favours the utilisation of recycled material in the product under analysis, while the employment of system expansion favours recycling of the product after use. There are also other modelling modes for recycling, such as the European Commission's Circular Footprint Formula (CFF) within the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) system. The two modelling methods chosen in this report represent two extremes and their use therefore assists in testing the robustness of the results.
The analyses have been carried out for festivals in two different categories: those with a collection system and those with a collection system plus additional collection. The extra collection is carried out by volunteers who pick up rubbish and sort the waste at source, thus helping to reduce waste. Return rates and wastage in the analysis are based on experience statistics from the Øya Festival, assuming the deposit and fee rates that have been used until now. There has been no assessment of how a possible change in mortgage or fee rates would affect the results.
The results of the analyses show the following three factors as being important in relation to the climate impact of the beer glasses:
• How much new plastic has to be produced per serving?
• How much plastic is sent for incineration?
• How much is recycled and can therefore replace the extraction of virgin raw material?
In other words, the degree of return and wastage has a substantial impact on the results. These two factors also have a bearing on the risk of littering for the various alternatives. The qualitative assessments show that the choice of collection system at the festival can be assumed to have a greater impact on the risk of littering than the choice of beer glass alternative. With this as a basis, it is recommended that festivals wishing to reduce their environmental impact establish efficient systems for collecting beer glasses, and quantify wastage and degree of return, regardless of the beer glass solution they choose. The industry as a whole is encouraged to quantify and follow the development of wastage and degree of return over time, and to participate in experience exchange identifying the measures that are most effective in reducing wastage.
Festivals that currently have a disposable system can achieve a significant climate benefit through the introduction of a collection system; the glasses then being sent for material recycling, using, for example, a deposit scheme.
For festivals with extra collection, recycled glass made of PP and disposable glass made of PET with a minimum of 80% recycled material give the best result.
For festivals with extra collection, recycled glass made of PP and disposable glass made of PET with a minimum of 80% recycled material give the best result.
For festivaler uten ekstra oppsamling gir engangsglass av PP og engangsglass av PET med minimum 50% resirkulert materiale best resultat.
A significant degree of collection and accumulation has even more importance regarding the climate impact of reusable glass, than for disposable glass, as the reusable glass is thicker and thus consists of more plastic. The sensitivity analyses showed that when the recycling is the solution of choice, the shrinkage must be less than 15% if it is to give a better result than disposable glass PP with a recycling system. This is because the same loss percentage of beer glass within the two systems results in a greater loss of plastic in the case of recycled glass. When compared with disposable glass, this entails both higher combustion emissions and the requirement for putting more plastic into the system.
The purpose of this report has been to shed light on the environmental aspects to solutions for serving drinks at festivals. When making a decision on the selection of a beer glass solution, it is essential to look at the results together with other considerations, such as those of economics and practicality.
In a presentation on the 4th of May at the SETAC-conference Cecilia Askham, NORSUS, presented findings from the collaboration between PacKnoPlast and MarILCA.
The presentation “How Can Risk Assessment Data for Micro- and NanoPlastics Contaminations Be Generated in a Way That Is Useful for the Development of LCIA Models?” is based on findings from PacKnoPlast and the collaboration with MariLCA.
Cecilia Askham presented the work during the conference session «3.08 – Harmonized Data reporting and analyses in micro- and nanoplastics research».
An impressive group of international researchers have authored this work:
Cecilia Askham, NORSUS AS, Norway
Valentina Pauna, Parthenope University of Naples, Italy
Anne-Marie Boulay, CIRAIG – École Polytechnique de Montréal, Canada
Peter Fantke, Technical University of Denmark
Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan, United States
Jérôme Lavoie, CIRAIG, UQÀM, Canada
Andy Booth, PhD, SINTEF Ocean, Norway
Claire Coutris, Bioforsk, Norway
Francesca Verones, NTNU, Norway
Miriam Weber, HYDRA Marine Sciences GmbH, Germany
Martina Vijver, CML Leiden University, Netherlands
Amy Lusher, NIVA Norwegian Institute of Water Research, Norway
Carla Hajjar, CIRAIG, Canada
Naiara Casagrande, MARE – Faculty of Sciences and Technology, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal
This report is a part of the DGRADE project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and Handelens Miljøfond. It presents the status of ongoing development of the LCA methodology with respect to plastic littering issues and how plastic products can be eco-designed for the avoidance of littering.
This report first summarises knowledge regarding littering, the reasons for it and its consequences. Thereafter, the inclusion of littering within the current LCA methodology and on-going work is described. Finally, a summarised literature review and synopses of research into the littered environment is presented, laying the foundation of eco-design tips for singe use plastic products for the avoidance of littering. The literature review comprises issues such as the amount, composition and location of the litter; research on the litterer, including social, demographic and behavioural factors; and research concerning littered items with reference such as size, form or design, which might influence littering. The literature review forms the basis for identifying independent considerations with respect to the littering potential of a specific item or product group.
The report concludes with suggestions, pointers and advice concerning eco-design, as a contribution to the work on the reduction of littering of single use plastic articles. These suggestions do not apply solely to single use articles and can be relevant in the case of many other product types.
ReducePack er et Forskningsrådsfinansiert prosjekt, no 296335, hvor nye alternativer for å redusere plastbruk i matemballasje utredes med hensyn til funksjonalitet og miljøprofil for matvarene (margarin, fersk kylling, prosessert kjøtt og poteter). Formålet med rapporten er å presentere en kartlegging av hvilke metoder som kan omfatte plastforsøplingsproblematikken i et livsløpsperspektiv (LCA) og hvorvidt det er stor risiko for naturforsøpling av matemballasjen undersøkt i ReducePack. Konklusjonen fra rapporten er at det per i dag ikke er gode nok metoder for å inkludere plastforsøpling som del av en helhetlig emballasjestudie på dette nivå. Til gjengjeld er det gjort en kartlegging og kortfattede oppsummeringer av eksisterende forslag til hvordan plastforsøpling på sikt kan implementeres i LCA. Samtidig ble det funnet ut at for matvarene inkludert i denne studien er det ikke en signifikant sannsynlighet at emballasjematerialene vil bli spredt i naturen.
PacKnoPlast Task 1.2 has reached a milestone, which is presented in this report The report presents NORSUS’s work om mapping and characterising the different options for waste management alternatives for post-consumer plastic packaging and loss of plastic throughout the value chains. The report also contains a chapter about quality of the plastic reaching the recycling plants.
There is still a lot of work to do, filling knowledge gaps on plastic losses in Norway.