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Environmental performance comparison of bioplastics and petrochemical plastics: A review of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodological decisions

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dc.contributor.author Bishop, George
dc.contributor.author Styles, David
dc.contributor.author Lens, Piet N.L.
dc.date.accessioned 2021-03-16T16:03:54Z
dc.date.available 2021-03-16T16:03:54Z
dc.date.issued 2021
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10344/9889
dc.description peer-reviewed en_US
dc.description.abstract There is currently a shift from petrochemical to bio-based plastics (bioplastics). The application of compre hensive and appropriately designed LCA studies are imperative to provide clear evidence on the comparative sustainability of bioplastics. This review explores the growing collective of LCA studies that compare the envi ronmental footprints of specific bioplastics against those of petrochemical plastics. 44 relevant studies published between 2011 and 2020 were reviewed to explore important methodological choices regarding impact category selection, inventory completeness (e.g. inclusion of additives), boundary definition (e.g. inclusion of land-use change impacts), representation of biogenic carbon, choice of end-of-life scenarios, type of LCA, and the application of uncertainty analysis. Good practice examples facilitated identification of common gaps and weaknesses in LCA studies applied to benchmark bioplastics against petrochemical plastics. Many studies did not provide a holistic picture of the environmental impacts of bioplastic products, thereby potentially supporting misleading conclusions. For comprehensive evaluation of bioplastic sustainability, we recommend that LCA practitioners: embrace more detailed and transparent reporting of LCI data within plastic LCA studies; adopt a comprehensive impact assessment methodology pertaining to all priority environmental challenges; incorporate multiple plastic use cycles within functional unit definition and system boundaries where plastics can be recy cled; include additives in life cycle inventories unless there is clear evidence that they contribute <1% to all impact categories; apply biogenic carbon storage credits only to long-term carbon sinks; account for (indirect) land-use change arising from feedstock cultivation; prospectively consider realistic scenarios of deployment and end-of-life, preferably within a consequential LCA framework. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Elsevier en_US
dc.relation 15RP2763 en_US
dc.relation.ispartofseries Resources, Conservation and Recycling;168, 105451
dc.relation.uri https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105451
dc.subject bioplastic en_US
dc.subject bio-based plastic en_US
dc.subject circular economy en_US
dc.subject bioeconomy en_US
dc.subject Life cycle assessment (LCA) en_US
dc.subject environmental impacts en_US
dc.title Environmental performance comparison of bioplastics and petrochemical plastics: A review of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodological decisions 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.identifier.doi 10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105451
dc.contributor.sponsor SFI en_US
dc.relation.projectid 15/RP/2763 en_US
dc.rights.accessrights info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess en_US


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