Research Institute VITO has screened the environmental impact of a recycled plastic figurine vs. a virgin plastic figurine through its entire life cycle (Life Cycle Assessment or LCA). The study has been commissioned by the Boost recycled initiative within the 2019 SuperFoodies collectibles campaign at Esselunga in Italy. In this campaign all collectable figurines were made out of recycled high impact polystyrene.
The positive effects on the environmental impact are considerable. Using recycled plastic reduces in several ways the environmental footprint of the collectable figurines, compared to the impact of those made out of virgin plastic. More in particular, recycling contributes in this case to e.g. a reduced effect on climate change (almost 40%) and much lower use of energy carriers (fossil fuels and uranium) (approximately 70%). There is also a positive effect in terms of water use, which is partly due to avoided water use in the production chain of virgin plastic. There are also some points of concern for the use of recycled plastics, such as the long (marine) transport of the recycled materials.
The recycling approach in the SuperFoodies project avoided the production of 310 tons of virgin plastic, and saved a portion of plastic waste from being landfilled . At their end of life, the recycled figurines end up in household waste, so it is not possible at the moment to fully close the recycling loop.
Fig. 1 : Boost Recycled Life Cycle
The LCA Screening also shows that there is more potential to decrease the environmental impact further. When recycling of waste polystyrene becomes more mainstream, less materials will be landfilled in the End of Life phase. Moreover, as the local market for recycled materials would grow, this should allow more local sourcing of secondary resources and processing of recycled materials, resulting in shorter transportation distances in the supply chains.
“This is one of many steps Boost Group is taking in order to create more sustainable alternatives within loyalty and collectible campaigns. We are constantly investing in more sustainable and more organic alternatives, far beyond FSC and recycled paper production,” states Mario Schwegler, CEO of Boost Group. “The challenge is to control the material flow in the complete lifecycle and to keep our guarantee on the highest standards for kids toys. Making families and kids not only happy today, but also in the future.”
About VITO and LCA:
VITO is an independent Flemish research organization in the area of cleantech and sustainable development. Their goal is to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world and they specialize in international sustainability research for the industry and the government.
The LCA or Life Cycle Assessment is a methodology that allows to obtain a good insight in the environmental impact of a product, by mapping all incoming and outgoing energy, materials, emissions and/or waste flows in a system.
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