Life Cycle Analysis of three polystyrene waste scenarios : Biodegradation by mealworms as an alternative to incineration or recycling of polystyrene waste?

University essay from Mittuniversitetet/Institutionen för ekoteknik- och hållbart byggande

Abstract: In this research three waste scenario’s for polystyrene plastic are analysed and compared from an environmental perspective. Incineration, recycling and biodegradation by mealworms (Tenebrio Monitor Linnaeus) of polystyrene are to be compared through a gate to grave Life Cycle Analysis. This LCA is conducted through the International Standard Organisation, 14040 Standard. The biodegradation facility is non existing and based on assumption backed up by peer reviewed literature. Incineration and recycling are based on facts and figures from national authorities and supplemented and peer reviewed literature. All three processes are analysed using IPCC Global Warming Potential (GWP) 2013 GWP 100a & 1.03 ReCipe 2016 Midpoint (H) 1.02 within SimaPro 9. Results show that the biodegradation of polystyrene by mealworms is inferior to the two already existing methods of recycling and incineration from an environmental perspective. The environmental preference of recycling or incineration cannot be clearly defined. From an energy perspective (GWP) recycling is highly preferred over incineration. From ReCiPe 2016 methods incineration is highly favourable compared to most impact categories. However results are not likely to represent realistic values valid today due to lack of (accurate) data within this LCA. It is unlikely that without supplemented data results from this research can be used in any form. Nevertheless this lack of information shows the need for further investigation on biodegradation by mealworms.

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