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Assessment of Plastic Commissioned by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) Brussels Darmstadt, 11 April, 2000 Öko-Institut e.v. Institut für Angewandte Ökologie Institute for Applied Ecology Institut
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Assessment of Plastic Commissioned by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) Brussels Darmstadt, 11 April, 2000 Öko-Institut e.v. Institut für Angewandte Ökologie Institute for Applied Ecology Institut d écologie d appliquée Geschäftsstelle Freiburg Postfach D Freiburg Tel.: / Fax: / Büro Darmstadt Elisabethenstr D Darmstadt Tel.: / Fax: / Büro Berlin Novalisstr. 10 D Berlin Tel.: 0 30 / Fax: 0 30 / Assessment of Plastic Authors: Dr. Ing. Volrad Wollny Dipl.-Ing. Martin Schmied Contents I Öko-Institut e.v. Contents Contents... I TablesIII Figures...III Introduction... 1 Summary Scope of the Assessment of Plastic The Plastic Recycling Sector Review of Studies on Plastic Recovery: LCA Results; Costs and Cost-Benefit Analysis Analysis and Assessment Methods for the Evaluation of the Environmental Performance LCA as a Tool for Analysis LCA in Waste Management LCA in Waste Management Policy Environmental Benefits and Costs of Different Options Factors affecting the results of LCA The Time Horizon The Bonus Calculation Case-Specific vs. System Comparison The Influence of Specific National and System Conditions Technology, structure and market development: dynamics in the recovery systems Specific Environmental Problems not Covered by LCA Regional and Global Impacts Toxic Emissions Which Plastic Waste is Recovered? Environmental Standards and Levels of Recovery Plants Economic Impact of Co-Incineration PVC Heavy Metals and other Hazardous Substances Conclusions Environmental Policy Recommendations General Aspects Specific Aspects... 30 Öko-Institut e.v. II Contents 7 Literature Annexes Comprehensive Review of Studies on Plastic Recovery Report by Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kunststoffverwertung [TÜV ARGE 1995] Report by Centre for Energy Conservation and Environmental Technology [CE 1997] Report by Gesellschaft für umweltfreundliche Abfallbehandlung [GUA 1998] Report by Østfold Research Foundation [STØ 1999] Reports by Frauenhofer Institute for food technology and packaging with focus on the topic energy recovery [FhG-IVV 1998 and 1999a] Report by Frauenhofer Institute for food technology and packaging [FhG-IVV 1999b] Report by Frauenhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research [FhG-ISI 1999] Report by Öko-Institut [Öko-Institut 1999] Report by CIT Ekologik [CIT Ekologik 1999] Report by TNO [APME 2000] Glossary...58 Contents III Öko-Institut e.v. Tables Table 4.1 Review of studies of plastic recovery - summary Table 9.1 Table 9.2 Contribution of systems steps to the reduction (-) or increase (+) of the GWP as a difference from the reference scenario landfill in kg CO 2 -equivalent per kg recycled plastic Plastic packaging waste recovery scenarios considered: share of the different options Figures Figure 5.1 Product orientated LCA Figure 5.2 Principal process units/modules of packaging LCAs and related influencing political decisions Figure 5.3 Policy orientated LCA Figure 9.1 The result of the environmental assessment of the shampoo bottle for material recycling and energy recovery in comparison to the landfill option (landfill = 100%) Figure 9.2 Eco-efficiency of scenarios... 55 Environmental Assessment of Plastic 1 Öko-Institut e.v. Introduction EU Waste policies presently are a very dynamic policy field. Priority waste streams have been identified, where the EU is trying to establish the producer responsibility principle, to strengthen environmental standards of disposal and to divert waste streams from landfill. Recycling targets and prevention measures belong to the most controversial elements of this policy approach, which is driven by the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy assumes that certain waste management options should be preferred to others. The best is to prevent waste by changes of product design and packaging logistics. EEB is supporting the waste hierarchy as a guiding policy approach, claiming that preventing waste is the most environmentally friendly option, followed by recycling, incineration with energy recovery and final disposal. Industry federations claim however that the waste hierarchy is obsolete. They argue, that a more flexible case by case approach is needed to identify the environmentally friendly option. Recent studies seem to confirm their point. The EEB therefore asked the Öko-Institute to prepare a literature review, if this general position is still up to the state of science. It identified for the study the part of the waste stream, which is presently most controversially discussed: plastics packaging waste. It has furthermore asked the Öko-Institute to focus on those options, where grey zones between different levels of the hierarchy may be expected: different recovery options. This explains the focus of the study. The study shows, that there is a case for more differentiated arguments, but that as a guiding policy principle the ladder principle of waste management is valid. More ambitious plastic recycling targets are not only environmentally justified, but they may become also a cost-effective option in the near future. Realistic plastic recycling targets hence are sustainable: they contribute to environmental improvement, they offer employment opportunities and they will be cost-effective. Hopefully this study contributes to a more balanced debate on the revision of the packaging directive. The EEB is grateful to IGBE and namely to its director Jean Pierre Hannequart, which supported this research. It is also grateful to the scientists from Öko-Institute who prepared this important piece of research. Christian Hey EU Policy Director, EEB Öko-Institut e.v. 2 Environmental Assessment of Plastic Summary Plastic recycling is an emerging sector with large potentials of improvement. Development and innovation are driven by environmental legislation mainly. The assessment of environmental benefits and costs has to take into account the rapid development of this sector. A review of the most important plastic recycling LCA studies confirms the environmental plastic waste management hierarchy: 1. Mechanical and monomer recycling 2. Feedstock recycling and mono-incineration 3. Waste incineration with energy recovery 4. Landfill Divergences from this hierarchy occur in LCA if mechanical recycling is restricted to low quality mechanical recycling. Divergences arise in single case studies e.g. incineration plants with very high energy utilisation ratio, narrow system borders in LCA and assumed substitution of heavy polluting energy resources like coal. In future the recycling costs will not generally contradict the plastic waste management hierarchy from an economic point of view. Usually, LCA does not cover local environmental impacts and those caused by toxic substances. It may underestimate the environmental impacts of energy recovery processes and certain feedstock recycling options. Co-incineration may act like a economic subsidy for less competitive elder plants with high emissions values. To cope with these problems recovery plants should fulfil BAT standards or must comply with a specific audit scheme, according to an alternative concept. There is no proof of a general advantage of plastic waste incineration over landfill independent on the energy recovery ratio. Therefore, policy should not favour incineration unless a high energy recovery ratio is guaranteed. EU environmental policy should serve as a driver for plastic recycling by setting increasing recycling targets as minimal standards. Policy should follow the extended producer responsibility (EPR) concept. Additional measures should be taken against hazardous substances like a ban on PVC in disperse applications and on hazardous additives. Environmental Assessment of Plastic 3 Öko-Institut e.v. 1 Scope of the Assessment of Plastic Recovery Options The recycling activity is relevant to such important dimensions of human life such as environment, economy and social welfare. Environmentally speaking recycling represents a high level of waste management which in most of the cases reduces emissions to the environment including landfill avoidance, reduces materials flows in the economy, saves energy and allows landscape conservation. Recycling is crucial in achieving a global sustainable development through saving growing amounts of primary materials used in the economy, contributing in this way to the conservation of resources that are becoming scarce in the world. [Recycling Forum 2000] With regard to recycling targets in the revision of the EU Packaging Directive, to recycling targets for other waste as from electric and electronic equipment or from end-of-life vehicles, and to waste policies in the member states of the EU, the question arises whether plastic waste should be collected separately and recycled mechanically or utilised as feedstock for chemical processes or whether it should be co-incinerated in industrial combustion plants or waste treatment plants (energy recovery). The discussion is determined by the environmental effects of the options as well as by their specific costs. On this issue, a lot of research has been done in studies on LCA. The results seem to differ quite strongly. The interpretation of the results by different groups is extremely different in the political discussion. In order to explain the differences in the results and to draw conclusions for the environmental benefits of the options and costs in reality it is, therefore, necessary to review the most important analyses published already,. From the results policy recommendations will be derived for the EU and the member states in order to give a better understanding of the issue and a sound scientific basis for argumentation to EEB and its member organisations. Basic questions to be answered are: Does the plastic waste management hierarchy (mechanical recycling, feedstock recycling, energy recovery, waste incineration, landfill) correspond to the state of knowledge of environmental performance and costs? Should recovery and recycling targets differ between those options? Does the level of environmental protection (BAT) influence the evaluation of the environmental impacts of recovery concerning the plants involved? Öko-Institut e.v. 4 Environmental Assessment of Plastic Policy recommendations are given under the following aspects: Legislation on plastic waste management shall support the Sustainable Development and implement sustainable consumption and production patterns. Policy shall reduce the overall environmental impact of plastic production, use and waste management. The legislative implications and influence should be mid- to long-term and strategic. Legislation is not able to cover each specific case in an appropriate way and does not reach necessarily its intended effects. There will always be negative, unintended effects and shortcomings, which can be minimised by more sophisticated and flexible rules such as the admission of certain exceptions. However they can never be totally excluded. They have to be taken into account as long as the overall effects are positive. Legislation should support the progress in environmental sound technology, organisation and logistic as integral part of sustainable development as well as the building up of sustainable structures which will not hinder future progress. The specific benefits which plastic may have in sustainable production and consumption patterns should be strengthened without distorting the competition between plastic and other materials. The choice of options should keep in mind the effects on the national economy as well as the competitiveness of the branches involved. Structures to be build up should be flexible and adaptable to future developments. Therefore investments should be favoured in plants which have a large flexibility towards the input in terms of quantity and quality and where future changes do not increase the costs excessively. Environmental Assessment of Plastic 5 Öko-Institut e.v. 2 The Plastic Recycling Sector An overview 1 of the different recycling sectors was recently published [Recycling Forum 2000] [sector profiles 2000]: Plastic Recycling is an emerging sector. Generally, is has have a relatively low level of development yet, but efforts are made to expand the recycling activities. Recycling rates are growing in the plastic sector for industrial arising and feedstock recycling. Rates are reducing for post-consumer mono-materials (due to the high growth of the virgin market) in plastic. Recycling of plastic produces environmental benefits in different areas. It contributes to the conservation of energy resources and reduction of primary material flows linked to fuels extraction, to the conservation of mineral resources and to reduce landfill as well as primary production emissions to air, land and water. The prices for waste/secondary raw materials are positive for production and postconsumer mono-material plastic waste. The prices are negative for mixed, complex or contaminated grades of plastic. The prices for plastic are considered transparent. Collection or sorting costs and primary material prices influence recyclable prices that are influenced by market forces. Recycled product quality can be similar to that obtained from virgin materials for industrial and mono-materials in the plastic sector. The quality is good enough for a great deal of uses for post-consumer mono-material plastic. Recycled products from mixed, complex plastic, represent a quality that makes them suitable only for a limited number of uses. The plastic sector is currently active in producing standards at EU level. A main topic is the need for accurate identification and sorting technologies for plastic, with special emphasis on cost reduction and high sorting accuracy. For waste from specific products the development is considered of effective marking of parts, which could contribute to further sorting. Together with this, there is a need for technologies for separating post-shredding non metallic materials, especially in those cases where dismantling is not viable because of economic or technical limitations. The plastic sector supports instruments to facilitate materials identification already in place (e.g. ISO), selective collection dismantling, and diversion of plastic waste from landfills. The development of the plastic recycling sector is driven by market forces, public intervention in collection and sorting (post consumer material), environmental legislation (EPR), in some member states by economic instruments and technical innovation. 1 Summary from different pages of the reports prepared by Öko-Institut. Conclusions on other materials have been erased. Öko-Institut e.v. 6 Environmental Assessment of Plastic In contrast to these results associations (APME, EuPC, EuPR) do not see a need for legislative intervention to initiate growth. Plastic producers, plastic converters, intermediates as the producers of complex products (cars, EEE) and recycling industrie are involved in plastic recycling. Generally plastic producers are not interested in closing the loop. While the recycling of production waste is common industrial practice as in other material and industrial sectors, the recycling of post-consumer plastic waste, especially, is underdeveloped. The packaging sector is well suited for the development of technology, products and markets because the plastic consists of six basic polymer types only, the products are comparable young due to the short time between production and waste generation and do not contain hazardous substances as the main application is food packaging. In the member states with high collection rates for plastic packaging, innovation and market development has started. The main reason for that has been the extended producer responsibility (EPR) which has strengthened the supply side and created a demand for technology and applications as a consequence. Examples for technology development are: Automatic sorting technologies (Kerium, Sortec) for mixed material from households Polymer separation by density, by solubility, by identification via NIRspectroscopy Product development by creating new materials and applications from plastic waste The technological and market development is not at its end yet but is going into industrial and commercial application. It is expected that increasing amounts of plastic waste will be collected. Design for recycling of plastic products will improve and enhanced sorting and recycling plants will reduce additional costs of mechanical and feedstock recycling in comparison to incineration [Deutsche Bank AG 2000]. Conclusion: Policy and its evaluation of environmental effects and costs of plastic recycling options has to take into account the rapid development of this sector and its potentials. Environmental Assessment of Plastic 7 Öko-Institut e.v. 3 Review of Studies on Plastic Recovery: LCA Results; Costs and Cost-Benefit Analysis The results of various European studies of current interest which deal with environmental and ecological analyses of recovery processes of plastic waste are comprehensively presented in the annex. Moreover, main results and important issues of theses studies are summarised in table 5.1. All studies which are presented in this context investigate the recovery processes of post-consumer plastic packaging waste. At the moment there is no recent study available which has investigated the ecological and economic impacts of various recycling processes for plastic from the automotive and electronic sectors. 2 The studies reviewed assess the following recovery and disposal processes: Mechanical recycling where recyclables substitute primary plastic or wood, concrete or steel, feedstock recycling (back-to-monomer, back-to-feedstock), energy recovery (mono-combustion, co-incineration of plastic in a municipal solid waste incineration, co-incineration in cement kilns) landfill. The purpose of all studies is to investigate the environmental burden and benefits of the various recycling and energy recovery processes and to check whether the plastic waste management hierarchy (mechanical recycling, feedstock recycling, energy recovery, waste incineration, landfill) corresponds to the state of knowledge of the environmental performance of these options. The methodology used in these studies is an LCA approach. Besides the ecological analyses, some studies analyse the costs of the various recycling and energy recovery options and discuss the ecological costeffectiveness of the different options [CE 1997, GUA 1998, FhG-IVV 1998 and 1999a, FhG-ISI 1999, Öko-Institut 1999, APME 2000]. Concerning ecological aspects the results of the studies reviewed can be summarised as follows: Of all processes investigated, mechanical recycling this is a result of all studies has greater ecological benefits than feedstock recycling, energy recovery or landfill, provided that the recycled material substitutes at least a proportion of virgin polymers and losses during processing are low. Mechanical recycling is particularly advantageous with regard to the ecological categories Primary energy consumption and Greenhouse gas emissions. 2 The Frauenhofer Institute for food technology and packaging is investigating the ecological advantages and disadvantages of different processes for plastic recycling in the automotive sector currently. The report is commissioned by VKE and VDA, Germany. Öko-Institut e.v. 8 Environmental Assessment of Plastic The ecological advantages of mechanical recycling are the same whether consumers transport the plastic waste to the collection points (e.g. Sweden and Norway) [STØ 1999, CIT Ekologik 1999] or whether a kerbside collection system is in operation for mixed plastic with post-collection separation (e.g. Germany or the Netherlands) [FhG-IVV 1999b, CE 1997]. Further results of the studies show that collecting, sorting and pre-treatment of waste for recycling contribute only s
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