Greenhouse gas emissions from the treatment of household plastic containers and packaging: Replacement with biomass-based materials

Yano, J.; Hirai, Y.; Sakai, S.; Tsubota, J. (2014) Waste Management & Research, 32(4): 304-316

   The purpose of this study was to quantify the life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction that could be achieved by replacement of fossil-derived materials with biodegradable, biomass-based materials for household plastic containers and packaging, considering a variety of their treatment options. The biomass-based materials were 100% polylactide or a combination of polybutylene succinate adipate and polylactide. A scenario analysis was conducted considering alternative recycling methods. Five scenarios were considered: two for existing fossil-derived materials (the current approach in Japan) and the three for biomass-based materials. Production and waste disposal of 1 m3 of plastic containers and packaging from households was defined as the functional unit. The results showed that replacement of fossil-derived materials with biomass-based materials could reduce life-cycle GHG emissions by 14-20%. Source separation and recycling should be promoted. When the separate collection ratio reached 100%, replacement with biomass-based materials could potentially reduce GHG emissions by 31.9%. Food containers are a priority for replacement, because they alone could reduce GHG emissions by 10%. A recycling system for biomass-based plastics must be carefully designed, considering aspects such as the transition period from fossil-derived plastics to biomass-based plastics. 


Biodegradable plastic; Biomass-based plastic; Greenhouse gas (GHG); Life-cycle analysis; Plastic containers and packaging; Polylactide (PLA); Scenario analysis