Impacts on recyclability and sustainability in hanger production by replacing polystyrene with the biocomposite DuraSense® Pure S40 Impact D

University essay from Högskolan i Halmstad/Akademin för ekonomi, teknik och naturvetenskap

Abstract: Biocomposites have gained increasing attention in recent years. The environmental impacts of common plastics have led researchers and industrials to develop alternatives to fully petro-sourced materials (Beigbeder et al., 2019). This paper presents the results obtained from the life cycle assessments conducted for polystyrene (PS) and biocomposite DuraSense® Pure S40 Impact D (DS40). The aim is for DS40 to serve as a more environmentally friendly option to fossil-based plastic in the manufacturing and recycling of hangers. By replacing 40% of the fossil-based PS with wood fibers, DS40 gains an advantage with regard to its environmental impact. Exercising an LCA on a product offers the opportunity to analyze its environmental impacts and sustainability performance based on a cradle to grave perspective. Thus, to determine which factors that could create an adverse effect in the multiple lifecycles of hangers when recycled, four potential environmental factors were used for modelling several scenarios: loss in quality, end-of-life, travel distance, and packaging. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) - kg CO2 equivalent/functional unit was calculated using the GaBi Envision LCA software for each scenario, which subsequently were compared between PS and DS40. After the modelling of multiple scenarios, this study concludes that a hanger recycling system can be a viable activity due to the improved environmental sustainability. However, to remain as the alternative with the lowest GWP, it is necessary to keep what could be detrimental throughout the lives of the hangers made with DS40 to remain out of the loop. Preventing that the incorrect EoL is chosen, abstaining from the use of PE film as packaging, creating products with competent mechanical properties to have good longevity, and reducing the wasted material in each conversion step, make altogether the replacement of PS with DS40 in the production of hangers a less polluting alternative. The result showed that except for travel distance, all other factors considered have the potential to affect the GWP account, and with this, showing that there is more to consider than just the raw materials needed in the manufacturing of goods.

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