MO.3.D || Addressing Marine Litter Within Life Cycle Assessment and Management

Scagnetti, Carla; Lorenz, Manuel

The proposed theoretical framework explores how packaging could be assessed from gate-to-grave including the probability to become litter. A growing number of studies have confirmed the omnipresence of plastic pollution. Likewise, it has been revealed that marine litter is mainly caused by poor or insufficient waste management. In this line, the environmental impact of packaging have gained much attention due to significant increase in public awareness. Packaging is often designed for single-use and rapidly transforms into waste after a short life-time. A missing circularity and plastic leakage pathways lead to packaging being released into the environment in an uncontrolled manner. Other properties influence the fate of packaging, most are related to the design, but also consumer behavior, in all cases these properties are product and country specific. An impact assessment method to account plastic as a pollutant and include marine litter into Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is currently being developed. LCA practitioners who assess packaging will need a framework to determine the probability and percentage of packaging material that becomes litter. Currently the available end-of-life (EoL) scenarios to model the fate of packaging are: recycling, incineration and disposal in landfill. With the estimation of packaging litter potential (‘marine litter rates’) and littering as an EoL scenario, the life cycle inventory flows of pollution can be determine. Altogether the potential flows of plastic as pollutants entering different compartments of the environment, the associated environmental impacts – creation, accumulation and toxicity of plastic as a pollutant, and the research being done on impact pathways and impact assessment method, will provide a holistic framework to address this gap in LCA. A framework like this could be adopted by LCA practitioners and decision-makers, it could enable fairer and more realistic LCA comparisons of packaging, and help prioritize regulatory action as well as choices within companies.