30 March 2022
The Relevance of Recyclability for the Life Cycle Assessment of Packaging Based on Design for Life Cycle
The awareness for more environmentally sustainable packaging solutions is steadily growing. With both consumers and manufacturers looking to minimize their impacts on the environment, the need for easy-to-implement and standardized measures strengthening a circular economy rises. In the research, the goal was to determine whether the carbon footprint and circularity of non-food plastic packaging can be improved by simple design changes. The results should then lead to design recommendations, providing a Design for Life Cycle approach. The methodology of the study was to conceptually design a single-use plastic packaging with attributes having positive and negative effects on recyclability. Herein, only design characteristics from products obtainable on the market were regarded. Moreover, a comparison over existing recyclability assessment methods is given. The recyclability was then determined with the selected approach by Cyclos HTP, and a reference calculation was conducted. Life Cycle Assessments were implemented for 14 packaging designs using the GaBi software and the Environmental Footprint method. The results showed that dark color, material compounds, insoluble adhesives, and large labels result in lower recyclability of the single-use packaging. The impacts on climate change range from 0.13 kg CO2-equivalent emissions (100% recyclability) to 0.21 kg CO2-equivalent emissions (0% recyclability) per packaging, showing that lower recyclability leads to a larger carbon footprint in all assessed scenarios. Concluding, the research demonstrated that by applying Design for Life Cycle measures, impacts on climate change can be reduced. Lastly, design recommendations for decision makers are outlined.