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Global life cycle paper flows, recycling metrics and material efficiency

van Ewijk, S; Stegemann, J; Ekins, P; (2017) Global life cycle paper flows, recycling metrics and material efficiency. Journal of Industrial Ecology 10.1111/jiec.12613. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Despite major improvements in recycling over the last decades, the pulp and paper sector is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental pressures. Further reduction of virgin material requirements and environmental impacts requires a detailed understanding of the global material flows in paper production and consumption. This study constructs a Sankey diagram of global material flows in the paper life cycle, from primary inputs to end-of-life waste treatment, based on a review of publicly available data. It then analyses potential improvements in material flows and discusses recycling and material efficiency metrics. The article argues that the use of the collection rate as a recycling metric does not directly stimulate avoidance of virgin inputs and associated impacts. An alternative metric compares paper for recycling (recovered paper) with total fibrous inputs and indicates that the current rate is at just over half of the technical potential. Material efficiency metrics are found to be more useful if they relate to the reuse potential of wastes. The material balance developed in this research provides a solid basis for further study of global sustainable production and consumption of paper. The conclusions on recycling and efficiency should be considered for improving environmental performance assessment methods.

Type: Article
Title: Global life cycle paper flows, recycling metrics and material efficiency
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12613
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12613
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 The Authors. Journal of Industrial Ecology, published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., on behalf of Yale University. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Waste management, paper recycling, material flow analysis (MFA), pulp and paper industry
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Civil, Environ and Geomatic Eng
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/1537659
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