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

Langeveld, Eline; Schwarz, Anna; van Harmelen, Toon

The problem of plastic pollution has increasingly gained more attention. Rough estimates of the amount of plastics getting lost from the technosphere annually and per country have been published. However, no detail on losses of plastics per sector and polymer have been included in these estimations. Furthermore, to date no comprehensive analysis has been carried out on the pathways through which plastics enter the environment and the fluxes of plastic waste towards various environmental compartments (terrestrial, aquatic, marine). The purpose of this research is to determine the relative contribution of each sector, polymer and country to the global plastic pollution and to assess the amount of plastic waste flowing from the technosphere towards various environmental compartments. Besides pinpointing the countries and sectors with a high contribution to plastic pollution, the results of the fate and loss quantities from this research could, in combination with environmental transportation and harmful impact of plastic pollution, be used as basis for a new impact category on plastic pollution in life cycle assessments. The current research consists of a global extension of material flow analyses, executed for seven polymers in Switzerland. For each country, data was collected and assumptions were made on the most significant factors that influence the loss of plastics from the technosphere. Factors included are: plastic consumption, production and recycling quantities, waste management practices (collection and processing), littering and waste water treatment. Subsequently, the influence of import/export of plastic waste, on the losses per country, was assessed in a sensitivity analysis. The resulting outcome of this research is a comprehensive list of plastic losses from the technosphere per country, sector and polymer and the relative discharge towards different environmental compartments. No results are available yet, these will be presented during the conference.