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End-of-life options for bio-based plastics in a circular economy

Status quo and potential from a life cycle assessment perspective
: Spierling, Sebastian; Venkatachalam, Venkateshwaran; Mudersbach, Marina; Becker, Nico; Herrmann, Christoph; Endres, Hans-Josef

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Resources 9 (2020), No.7, Art. 90, 19 pp.
ISSN: 2079-9276
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer WKI ()
bio-based plastics; life cycle assessment; end-of-life options; circular economy

The bio-based plastic market is forecast to grow in the next years. With a growing market share and product range, the implementation of circular thinking is becoming more and more important also for bio-based plastics to enable a sound circular economy for these group of plastics. Therefore, it is important to assess the environmental performance for different end-of-life options of bio-based plastics from an early stage on. This review presents a comprehensive overview on the current status quo of different end-of-life options for bio-based plastics from an environmental perspective. Based on the status quo and the corresponding impact assessment results, the global plastic demand as well as the technical substitution potential of bio-based plastics, the environmental saving potential in case of the different end-of-life options was calculated. The review shows that there is a focus on polylactic acid (PLA) regarding end-of-life assessment, with studies covering all end-of-life options. The focus of the impact assessment has been set on global warming potential (GWP). With respect to GWP, the analysis of a future global potential of PLA showed, for mechanical recycling, the highest saving potential with 94.1 Mio. t CO₂-eq. per year in comparison to virgin material.