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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_0902

Opinion End of Life for

Opinion End of Life for Biodegradable & kg CO 2 eq. 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 -30 Attributional LCA Non Compostabel Cutlery Cutlery Organic Fraction LCA ‘Cradle to grave’ results for the ‘GHG’ impact category of ‘B&C’ cutlery vs. non compostable cutlery (‘Attributional LCA’) including the treatment phase of the organic waste (‘Consequential LCA’) Christian Garaffa, Project Manager, Waste Management Area Novamont S.p.A., Novara, Italy www.novamont.com Total Consequential LCA B&C Cutlery In our modern consumer society especially for short life cycle products, their end of life phase becomes a key issue and providing as many flexible and environmentally friendly recovery options as possible becomes imperative: products made of MaterBi ® by Novamont can be recovered through different ways as they meet the essential requirements of the European Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC) and satisfy the relevant standards EN 13430 (recycling), EN 13431 (energy recovery), EN 13432 (organic recovery). Organic Recovery When organic recovery is considered, we are talking about the treatment of organic waste sent to composting alone or preceded by an anaerobic digestion stage with subsequent aerobic stabilization of the digestate and final production of a quality amendant suitable for soil improvement or peat replacement in agriculture and horticulture. In this context, the goal of biodegradable & compostable plastic products is to replace conventional plastic contaminants and improve the quality of the organic waste turning it into a homogeneous feedstock. Classic examples for such products are biowaste bags, shopping bags or products used in the agricultural sector like clips, pots etc. On the other hand, biodegradable & compostable plastics can play a key role where products get usually heavily contaminated by organic waste (e.g. food service ware, food packaging waste, unopened packaging containing expired food). Mechanical recycling and incineration (where available) are difficult due to the wet organic contamination. In order to better understand the benefits related to biodegradable & compostable products, we need to broaden the focus from the single item to the larger system where this item is operating. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is often used for direct comparisons between products, without really considering the indirect effects on the surrounding systems. This ‘product vs. product’ approach is called ‘Attributional LCA’. However, there is a high risk to overlook indirect impacts that could be stronger compared to direct ones. In order to avoid misleading conclusions it is essential for these hidden impacts to be taken into account. This ‘product into the system’ approach is called ‘Consequential LCA’. The main benefits of biodegradable & compostable products emerge when the increased environmental performance of the system where they operate is analyzed. This is clearly shown in the study 32 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/09] Vol. 4

Opinion Options Compostable Biopolymers ‘Compostable cutlery and waste management: An LCA approach’ by Razza et al. . The graph shows the greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions ‘Cradle to grave‘ for non compostable cutlery (dark green bars) compared to biodegradable & compostable cutlery (B&C) according to the described end of life scenarios. These results relate to the ‘Attributional LCA” taking into account only the impacts directly attributed to the cutlery. The light green bars represent the CO 2 eq. emissions of the organic waste generated after meal consumption, while the blue bars show the overall LCA results (cutlery + organic waste) related to the ‘Consequential LCA”. The difference between the two approaches is striking. Final remarks MaterBi products satisfy the requirements set by the relevant standards EN 13430 (recycling), EN 13431 (energy recovery), EN 13432 (organic recovery). In situations where mechanical recycling or energy recovery show low efficiency due to high contamination with wet food residues, organic recovery is the most sensible choice. In order understand the full potential of this option, a systemic analysis taking into account not only the product but also the surrounding system (Consequential LCA) represents the best approach, unearthing possible hidden impacts and clearly showing the real benefits generated by the use of biodegradable & compostable products. bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/09] Vol. 4 33

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