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The Implications of Packaging Plastic Recycling on Climate Change Mitigation and Fossil Resource Savings

In 3R International Scientific conference on Material Cycle and Waste Management,10-12 March 2014, Kyoto, Japan 2014-03

Waste recycling activities contribute to critical environmental challenges such as Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and depletion of fossil resources, mainly due to the consumption of fossil energy. However, material recovery from waste recycling can offset both GHG emissions and resource depletion that would otherwise occur through the production of an equivalent amount of materials through virgin production processes. This study aims to assess the effects of packaging plastics recycling on GHG mitigation and resource saving by using a practical example in Yokohama. In order to quantify the environmental impacts, the life cycle assessment framework was designed by taking into consideration all of the phases of the life-cycle such as transportation, baling, recycling etc. The functional unit was defined as one tonne of packaging plastic waste recycled in a recycling plant in Shizuoka.

The potential material recovery from recycling amounted to 903 kg of plastic granules per tonne of plastic waste and thereby it is assumed that an equivalent amount of virgin plastic production could be eliminated. Credits were provided for avoided GHG emissions and resource consumption via the virgin resin production process. The estimated net GHG emissions and net fossil resource consumption amounted to -853 kg CO2-eq and -1,374 kg crude oil-eq per tonne of recycled packaging plastic respectively. The resulting negative values indicate that packaging plastic recycling can make a significant contribution to GHG emissions mitigation and can significantly contribute to avoiding the depletion of fossil resources.