Sustainability Impact Assessment of Increased Plastic Recycling and Future Pathways of Plastic Waste Management in Sweden
Forskningsoutput: Tidskriftsbidrag › Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Plastic is a versatile material that has contributed to numerous product innovations and convenience in everyday life. However, plastic production is growing at an alarming rate, and so has the generation of plastic waste. Unsound waste management results in plastic leakage to the environment with multiple adverse effects to ecosystems. Incineration of plastic waste produces excessive 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 revised waste legislation. Sweden follows suit, prioritising actions for improving the management of plastic waste. In this contribution, three scenarios of future plastic waste management are analysed for their sustainability impacts by 2030. The analysis is enabled 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 sustainability 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 includes high targets for recycling—in line with EU targets—and a gradual phase-out of plastic incineration as a waste management option.