Environmental Issues of Recycling and Sustainability Models

 Plastic is a adaptable material that has contributed to numerous product innovations and convenience in everyday life. However, plastic production is flourishing at an alarming rate, and so has the generation of plastic waste. Unsound waste management results in plastic leakage to the environment with multiple conflicting effects to ecosystems. Incineration of plastic waste produces enormous greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while plastic as a material is consumed and cannot be used again as a resource within a circular economy framework. For this reason, the European Union (EU) takes measures to increase plastic recycling, introducing higher targets for recycling in its amended waste legislation. Sweden follows suit, prioritizing actions for developing the management of plastic waste. In this contribution, three scenarios of future plastic waste management are analysis  for their sustainability impacts by 2030. The analysis is facilitate by a plastic waste management flow model that calculates environmental, economic, and social impacts. The indicators used in the model to describe the impacts in each axis of sustainability are (1) GHG emissions, (2) monetary costs and benefits, and (3) number of jobs created. The results indicate several trade-offs between the different scenarios and between the different stability aspects of future plastic waste management, with their strengths and weaknesses duly discussed. Concluding, the most promising and sustainable future scenario for plastic waste management in Sweden comprise high targets for recycling in line with EU targets and a gradual phase-out of plastic incineration as a waste management option.

 

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