Life-cycle assessment of domestic and transboundary recycling of post-consumer PET bottles

  • Jun Nakatani
  • Minoru Fujii
  • Yuichi Moriguchi
  • Masahiko Hirao
LCA OF WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Abstract

Background, aim, and scope

In recent years, besides being recycled domestically, a part of Japanese post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles have been exported to and recycled in mainland China. In this study, life-cycle assessment (LCA) was applied to compare domestic and transboundary recycling scenarios between Japan and China and disposal scenarios from the viewpoints of greenhouse gases (GHG) emission and fossil resource consumption.

Methods

The following 10 scenarios based on our field surveys were evaluated: Japanese post-consumer PET bottles are (i) recycled into polyester staple in Japan, (ii) recycled into polyester filaments in Japan, (iii) recycled into polyester clothes in Japan, (iv) chemically decomposed and recycled into bottle-grade PET resin in Japan, (v) chemically decomposed and recycled into polyester filaments in Japan, (vi)–(vii) recycled into polyester staple via two different flows in China, (viii) recycled into polyester clothes in China, (ix) incinerated and partly recovered as electricity in Japan, and (x) directly landfilled in Japan. In all the evaluated scenarios, the functional unit is the recycling or disposal of 1 kg of Japanese post-consumer PET bottles. The system boundaries range from waste collection by municipalities to the manufacture of recycled products that can be regarded as substitutes for virgin products, and a credit for the avoided production of equivalent virgin products is given to each scenario. The inventories of both foreground and background processes in Japan were quoted from published reports and databases. The actual conditions of PET bottle recycling that were obtained through field surveys in China were reflected to some inventories of foreground processes in China. The inventories of public electricity supplies in China were based on the national statistics, and the inventories of petroleum products, industrial water supply, and waste treatment are based on our field surveys in China. Other unknown inventories in China were substituted by corresponding inventories in Japan.

Results and discussion

The results showed that all the domestic and transboundary recycling scenarios had smaller GHG emissions and fossil resource consumptions than the incineration scenario and that the chemical recycling scenarios had larger GHG emissions and fossil resource consumptions than the other recycling scenarios. The landfilling scenario had the largest fossil resource consumption, while it was better than the incineration scenario and slightly better than the chemical recycling scenarios from the viewpoint of GHG emission. The robustness of the results was examined, and it was found that the differences in GHG emission and fossil resource consumption between the domestic and transboundary recycling scenarios, other than the scenarios including cloth-manufacturing processes in system boundaries, were sufficiently large to be robust against the variability of background parameters for electricity supplies. As for the variability against the substitutions between recycled products and virgin products, interchanging the producer countries of substituted virgin products decreases the GHG emissions and fossil resource consumptions of the domestic recycling scenarios, but increases those of the transboundary scenarios.

Conclusions

When recycling systems between different countries are compared using LCA, it should be noted that the differences in background parameters have an impact on the environmental burdens of recycling and avoided manufacturing processes, and therefore, the result depends on the identification of the producer countries of the virgin products that are substituted by recycled products. However, it is practically impossible to identify in which country the manufacture of virgin products are avoided by recycling. Therefore, it is recommended that the results be presented according to the relationships between recycled and substituted virgin products as described in this paper.

Keywords

Background parameter China Domestic recycling Japan Post-consumer PET bottle Substituted virgin product Transboundary recycling Variability 

Supplementary material

11367_2010_189_MOESM1_ESM.doc (192 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 192 kb)

References

  1. Arena U, Mastellone ML, Perugini F (2003) Life cycle assessment of a plastic packaging recycling system. Int J Life Cycle Assess 8(2):92–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bjorklund A, Finnveden G (2005) Recycling revisited—life cycle comparisons of global warming impact and total energy use of waste management strategies. Resour Conserv Recycl 44:309–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Council for PET Bottle Recycling, Japan (2008) Annual report for PET bottle recycling 2008. http://www.petbottle-rec.gr.jp/top.html
  4. Ekvall T (2000) A market-based approach to allocation at open-loop recycling. Resour Conserv Recycl 29:91–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ekvall T, Finnveden G (2001) Allocation in ISO 14041—a critical review. J Clean Prod 9:197–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ekvall T, Weidema BP (2004) System boundaries and input data in consequential life cycle inventory analysis. Int J Life Cycle Assess 9(3):161–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Frees N (2008) Crediting aluminum recycling in LCA by demand or by disposal. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(3):212–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fujii M, Murakami S, Nansai K, Hashimoto S, Moriguchi Y, Nakamura T, Koshikawa T (2007) Transportation cost survey on sorted collection of municipal solid waste. Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts 18(6):443–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fukushima Y, Hirao M (1998) Lifecycle model for PET bottle recycle system evaluation. Transaction of IEE of Japan 118-C(9):1250–1256Google Scholar
  10. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: IPCC (2001) IPCC Third Assessment Report—Climate Change 2001: synthesis report. Working Group I—Technical Summary, C.6. http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc_tar/
  11. International Energy Agency: IEA (1999) IEA statistics: CO2 emissions from fuel combustion 1971–1997. IEA, ParisGoogle Scholar
  12. Japan PET Bottle Association, Industrial Information Research Center (2004) Report for inventory analysis of PET bottlesGoogle Scholar
  13. Kobayashi K, Tahara K, Sagisaka M, Wei B, Bi J (2008) Issues on development of Chinese inventory database. The 8th International Conference on EcoBalance Proceedings: P-021Google Scholar
  14. Life Cycle Assessment Society of Japan: JLCA (2008) JLCA LCA database 2008 4th edition. http://www.jemai.or.jp/lcaforum/db/01_01.cfm
  15. Matsuda S, Kubota H (2008) LCA analysis of PET bottle recycling by using proposed concept of social energy consumption. Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, Japan 4(1):67–77Google Scholar
  16. National Bureau of Statistics, People’s Republic of China, National Development and Reform Commission, People’s Republic of China (2007) Chinese energy statistical yearbook—2006Google Scholar
  17. Perugini F, Mastellone ML, Arena U (2005) A life cycle assessment of mechanical and feedstock recycling options for management of plastics packaging wastes. Environ Prog 24(2):137–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Romero-Hernandez O, Romero-Hernandez S, Munoz D, Detta-Silveira E, Palacios-Brun A, Laguna A (2009) Environmental implications and market analysis of soft drink packaging systems in Mexico. A waste management approach. Int J Life Cycle Assess 14(2):107–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sugiyama H, Hirao M, Mendivil R, Fischer U, Hungerbuhler K (2006) A hierarchical activity model of chemical process design based on life cycle assessment. Process Saf Environ Prot 84(B1):63–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Tokai A, Furuichi T (2000) Evaluation of recycling policies for PET bottles based on multiattribute utility indices. Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management 2:70–79Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun Nakatani
    • 1
  • Minoru Fujii
    • 2
  • Yuichi Moriguchi
    • 2
  • Masahiko Hirao
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemical System EngineeringThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Research Center for Material Cycles and Waste ManagementNational Institute for Environmental StudiesTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Department of Urban EngineeringTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations