|NORSUS, Norway, presents LCA on plastics end-of-life|
The Norwegian Institute for Sustainability Research, NORSUS, has carried out an updated lifecycle assessment (LCA) regarding the sorting and further treatment of plastics packaging from the nation’s households.
The LCA was designed on behalf of Plastretur, Norway’s ‘Green Dot’ system for plastics, not only to quantify environmental impacts in the post-consumer phase of the plastics lifecycle, but also identify those factors significantly affecting these outcomes. It also took into account, for instance, the emissions avoided when recycled material substituted virgin polymer.
The NORSUS LCA compared the impacts of the current system with a hypothetical alternative where plastics waste is not sorted at all but sent to incineration with energy recovery, along with other residual domestic waste.
“The Norwegian system for sorting and material recycling of plastics 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 plastics is incinerated instead,” says NORSUS.
Impacts were measured specifically as they related to sorting at source and sorting conducted by two waste operators (individually analyzed). But the LCA team emphasizes that no direct comparison can be drawn between the three, since different plastics and materials combinations are involved in each case.
The team explains: “Household sorting 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.”
The report found that critical factors affecting the results included: sorting rates for each plastics type; the quality of the polymer and what it is able to substitute; and the market for recycled plastics. Transport and energy use are calculated to have low impacts on the results.