Plastic pollution has gained attention as plastic production and use keeps growing while sustainable waste management is lacking; the amount of waste is expected to triple by 2060 [1,2]. Although many different environmental impacts are considered in common LCAs, plastic pollution is not. There is also an overall lack of data regarding plastic flows, plastic leakage and the impacts of different types of plastic pollution.
At GreenDelta, we have been working on developing an extension to the popular ecoinvent database that takes plastic pollution into account – a first attempt to use already existing life cycle data to estimate a plastic footprint of different products. In short, the idea is pretty simple and based on a probabilistic model by Ciroth and Kouame from 2019 ; a plastic content is estimated and assigned to all flows, and a littering probability is estimated for all processes. The plastic footprint of a certain unit process is obtained by summarising the plastic flows (i.e., the plastic content of each flow) connected to that process, and later multiply the total by the littering probability.
The database comes with an impact category, “plastic litter”, accounting for the total plastic footprint of a product system.
The extension can be bought on Nexus, where you also find the documentation of the database (under “Documents”).
Don’t hesitate to share it with us! As mentioned, this is a first step for how to take plastic litter in LCAs, and if you have any thoughts or comments we’re happy to discuss them. Reach out on ask.openLCA (Q&A, support and public knowledge platsform for openLCA, Nexus and the collaboration server), or contact us by e-mail.
 – OECD. Global Plastic Outlook. [Online]. Available https://www.oecd.org/environment/plastics/
 – OECD. Global plastic waste set to almost triple by 2060, says OECD. [Online]. Available: https://www.oecd.org/environment/global-plastic-waste-set-to-almost-triple-by-2060.htm
 – Ciroth and Kouame. Elementary litter in life cycle inventories, approach and application. Presentation. [Online]. September 2, 2019. Available: https://www.greendelta.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Litter_LCM2019.pdf