Life cycle assessment of integrated recycling schemes for plastic containers and packaging with consideration of resin composition
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- Nishijima, A., Nakatani, J., Yamamoto, K. et al. J Mater Cycles Waste Manag (2012) 14: 52. doi:10.1007/s10163-011-0032-y
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Many life cycle assessment studies have evaluated and compared the environmental performance of various technologies for recycling plastic containers and packaging in Japan and other countries. However, no studies have evaluated the combination of recycling technologies in consideration of the resin composition in terms of the quantity of each recycled product so as to maximize their environmental potential. In this study, 27 scenarios of recycling schemes for household waste plastic containers and packaging are developed through integrating a conventional recycling scheme with additional recycling schemes. The conventional recycling scheme involves municipal curbside collection and either the material recycling or feedstock recycling of waste plastics. The additional recycling schemes are feedstock recycling in steel works of the residue from conventional material recycling processes, and corporate voluntary collection and independent material recycling of specific types of plastic trays. Life cycle assessment based on the modeling of recycling processes considering the resin composition in terms of the quantity of each recycled product is applied to evaluate and compare these scenarios from the viewpoints of fossil resource consumption and CO2 emission. The results show that the environmental loads are reduced in all scenarios including the additional recycling schemes compared with the conventional recycling scheme. However, the independent plastic tray recycling scheme exhibits lower additional environmental savings when the residue recycling scheme is integrated with the conventional material recycling scheme. This is because both additional recycling schemes aim to utilize polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate, which would otherwise be incinerated as residue from material recycling processes. The evaluation of the environmental loads of plastic recycling with consideration of the resin composition in terms of the quantity of each recycled product makes it possible to investigate recycling schemes that integrate different technologies to maximize their environmental potential.