Life Cycle Assessment of End-of-Life Treatments for Plastic Film Waste
Plastic film waste can cause a variety of environmental impacts and pose a significant challenge for the consumer product industry. Understanding the environmental tradeoffs of various end-of-life strategies for plastic film waste is thus important for developing and deploying appropriate sustainable solutions. In this paper, we use life cycle assessment (LCA) to assess the environmental impacts of various plastic film waste treatment systems. We consider four different waste treatment scenarios for plastic films: landfill disposal of mixed waste; incineration of mixed waste; recycling of mixed waste; and recycling of recyclable waste. The results demonstrate a considerable advantage of recycling over landfill disposal or incineration. The main environmental benefit is from the recycle of plastics that can substitute for the production of plastics from virgin materials. From a sensitivity analysis, five key parameters are identified that affect the aggregate environmental impact including mass fraction of films in the waste, recycling rate, utilization rate, waste-to-energy conversion rate, and the type of energy can be substituted by the recovered energy from incineration.