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Recycling of European plastic is a pathway for plastic debris in the ocean

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dc.contributor.author Bishop, George
dc.contributor.author Styles, David
dc.contributor.author Lens, Piet N.L.
dc.date.accessioned 2020-09-15T11:24:27Z
dc.date.available 2020-09-15T11:24:27Z
dc.date.issued 2020
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10344/9217
dc.description peer-reviewed en_US
dc.description.abstract Polyethylene (PE) is one of the most common types of plastic. Whilst an increasing share of post-consumer plastic waste from Europe is collected for recycling, 46% of separated PE waste is exported outside of the source country (including intra-EU trade). The fate of this exported European plastic is not well known. This study integrated data on PE waste flows in 2017 from UN Comtrade, an open repository providing detailed international trade data, with best available information on waste management in destination countries, to model the fate of PE exported for recycling from Europe (EU-28, Norway and Switzerland) into: recycled high-density PE (HDPE) and low-density PE (LDPE) resins, “landfill”, incineration and ocean debris. Data uncertainty was reflected in three scenarios representing high, low and average recovery efficiency factors in material recovery facilities and reprocessing facilities, and different ocean debris fate factors. The fates of exported PE were then linked back to the individual European countries of export. Our study estimated that 83,187 Mg (tonnes) (range: 32,115–180,558 Mg), or 3% (1–7%) of exported European PE in 2017 ended up in the ocean, indicating an important and hitherto undocumented pathway of plastic debris entering the oceans. The countries with the greatest percentage of exported PE ending up as recycled HDPE or LDPE were Luxembourg and Switzerland (90% recycled for all scenarios), whilst the country with the lowest share of exported PE being recycled was the United Kingdom (59–80%, average 69% recycled). The results showed strong, significant positive relationships between the percentage of PE exported out of Europe and the percentage of exports which potentially end up as ocean debris. Exportcountries maynot be the ultimate countries oforiginowing to complexintra-EU tradeinPE waste. Although somewhat uncertain, these mass flows provide pertinent new evidence on the efficacy and risks of current plastic waste management practices pertinent to emerging regulations around trade in plastic waste, and to the development of a more circular economy. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Elsevier en_US
dc.relation 15RP2763 en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries Environmental International;142, article 105893
dc.relation.uri https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.105893
dc.subject plastic recycling en_US
dc.subject waste management en_US
dc.subject littering en_US
dc.subject Europe en_US
dc.title Recycling of European plastic is a pathway for plastic debris in the ocean en_US
dc.type info:eu-repo/semantics/article en_US
dc.type.supercollection all_ul_research en_US
dc.type.supercollection ul_published_reviewed en_US
dc.date.updated 2020-09-15T11:12:18Z
dc.description.version PUBLISHED
dc.identifier.doi 10.1016/j.envint.2020.105893
dc.contributor.sponsor SFI en_US
dc.relation.projectid 15/RP/2763 en_US
dc.rights.accessrights info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess en_US
dc.internal.rssid 2961562
dc.internal.copyrightchecked Yes
dc.identifier.journaltitle Environment International
dc.description.status peer-reviewed


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