LCA: recycling of household plastic packaging waste

This study answers the question whether current Dutch initiatives on collection, separation, sorting, processing and recycling of household plastic packaging waste yield significant environmental benefits compared with incineration of this waste as a power plant fuel. Consideration was given to systems of at-source separation (kerbside collection from households or delivery to neighbourhood collection points), post-consumer separation (removal of plastic packaging waste from household waste collected unsorted) and deposits on large and/or small PET bottles. 

The main conclusion is that both at-source and post-consumer separation of plastic packaging waste and a deposit on large PET bottles all have significant environmental benefits over incineration for power generation. A second conclusion is that this holds for all the types of plastic that are currently collected (PET, PP, HDPE, LDPE and mixed). The determining factor for overall environmental performance is the volume of recyclate emerging from recycling that can be used in new products. This is more important than any differences in separation routes or between the respective types of plastic.  

In the report the full range of environmental impacts are calculated at midpoint, endpoint and single-score level using the ReCiPe methodology, accompanied by an extensive sensitivity analysis to assess the uncertainty margins of the results. 

This study for the Dutch Waste Management Association, conducted under the guidance of a broad supervisory committee, can support policymakers in drawing up future policy on plastic packaging waste.

report (Dutch)

Authors CE

Geert Bergsma
Marijn Bijleveld
Matthijs Otten

Delft, November 2011