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How circular are plastics in the EU?: MFA of plastics in the EU and pathways to circularity

Hsu, W-T; Domenech, T; McDowall, W; (2021) How circular are plastics in the EU?: MFA of plastics in the EU and pathways to circularity. Cleaner Environmental Systems , 2 , Article 100004. 10.1016/j.cesys.2020.100004. Green open access

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Abstract

Plastic is valued for its versatility, but concerns have been raised over the environmental impacts of mismanaged plastic waste. A better understanding of plastic flows can help to identify areas of inefficiency and potential leakage to natural systems. This research provides an overview of plastic flows in the EU and discusses options to increase plastic circularity. The study conducted a comprehensive stationary material flow analysis covering over 400 categories of plastic-containing products with detailed analysis of the final destination of waste. The results show the relevance of the EU plastic sector with production of over 66 MT of plastic polymers/fibres and an estimated consumption for plastic products of 73 MT in 2016. Plastic waste arisings amounted to over 37 MT and, though increasing plastic recycling rates have been reported, the analysis shows that a significant amount of plastic waste was not returned to production in the EU. The uncertainty analysis highlights important data quality issues that need to be addressed, particularly: data on the plastic fraction in plastic-containing products, and data on the final destination of plastic waste. Building on the analysis, the paper discusses a number of strategies for re-directing the plastic system to more circular pathways.

Type: Article
Title: How circular are plastics in the EU?: MFA of plastics in the EU and pathways to circularity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cesys.2020.100004
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cesys.2020.100004
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/bync-nd/4.0/).
Keywords: Plastic, Plastic waste, Circular economy, Material flow analysis, EU Plastics strategy, Resource management
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10119808
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