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Multiple data sets and modelling choices in a comparative LCA of disposable beverage cups
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Environmental Strategies Research (fms). Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands .
2014 (English)In: Science of the Total Environment, ISSN 0048-9697, E-ISSN 1879-1026, Vol. 494, 129-143 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study used multiple data sets and modelling choices in an environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) to compare typical disposable beverage cups made from polystyrene (PS), polylactic acid (PLA; bioplastic) and paper lined with bioplastic (biopaper). Incineration and recycling were considered as waste processing options, and for the PLA and biopaper cup also composting and anaerobic digestion. Multiple data sets and modelling choices were systematically used to calculate average results and the spread in results for each disposable cup in eleven impact categories. The LCA results of all combinations of data sets and modelling choices consistently identify three processes that dominate the environmental impact: (1) production of the cup's basic material (PS, PLA, biopaper), (2) cup manufacturing, and (3) waste processing. The large spread in results for impact categories strongly overlaps among the cups, however, and therefore does not allow a preference for one type of cup material. Comparison of the individual waste treatment options suggests some cautious preferences. The average waste treatment results indicate that recycling is the preferred option for PLA cups, followed by anaerobic digestion and incineration. Recycling is slightly preferred over incineration for the biopaper cups. There is no preferred waste treatment option for the PS cups. Taking into account the spread in waste treatment results for all cups, however, none of these preferences for waste processing options can be justified. The only exception is composting, which is least preferred for both PIA and biopaper cups. Our study illustrates that using multiple data sets and modelling choices can lead to considerable spread in LCA results. This makes comparing products more complex, but the outcomes more robust

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 494, 129-143 p.
Keyword [en]
Life cycle assessment, Multiple data sets, Modelling choices, Disposable cups, Uncertainty and variability
National Category
Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-153251DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.06.084ISI: 000341340000015ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84904391069OAI: diva2:754089

QC 20141009

Available from: 2014-10-09 Created: 2014-10-03 Last updated: 2014-10-09Bibliographically approved

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Potting, Josepha
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Environmental Strategies Research (fms)
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