The Environmental Impact of an Automotive Plastic Component : A lifecycle approach of a deco panel scenario analysis of two different plastics
Abstract: The transport sector is a major end-user of energy. As consumers are becoming aware and conscious of their environmental footprint making the enviromental footprint of automobile components one of the requirements in new product design development. The purpose of the study is to identify environmental impacts of a plastic panel. The main objective of the study is to perform an environmental life cycle assessment (E-LCA) of an existing panel regarding four scenarios with a nonbio-based plastic and a bio-based plastic. The first two scenarios have the same production and use phase, but different end-of-life treatments. The plastic in these scenarios is non-biobased. The last two scenarios have the same bio-based plastic and use phase, but different end-of-life-treatments. The first three scenarios have a surface material covering the plastic. The environmental impacts analyzed are global warming potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, photochemical ozone creation potential, primary energy demand and particulate matter. The analysis is carried out according to the ISO14040/44 with the four steps of LCA: 1) Goal and Scope Definition, 2) Inventory Analysis, 3) Impact Assessment, and 4) Interpretation. The functional unit of the anaysis is a plastic panel. The inventory was collected by literature, the LCA software GaBi, and the commissoner of the study. The environmental impact assessment was conducted in GaBi 8 with the method of CML2015, Primary Energy, and IMPACT2002+. A dominance and a contribution analyses were applied to identify the hotspots of the life cycle. The hotspot of the life cycle was identified to be the production phase. The main contributor within the scenarios was the plastic production, specifically the granulates and the fiber fillings. The bio-based plastic reduced the impacts compared to the non-bio-based in five out of six cases. However, the photochemical ozone creation potential for both plastics were the same. The bio-based plastic reduced the GWP 16%, AP by 1%, EP by less than 1%, and PED by 19%. If the surface cover in aluminum was removed, the GWP was reduced by 46%, AP by 35%, EP by29%, POCP by 36%, PED by 42%and PM by 40%. The transportation contributed most to impacts in the acidification potential, eutrophication potential, and particulate matter. The transportation’s impacts were greater in the bio-based plastic than the non-bio-based. The granulates of the plastic along with the injection molding are the main contributors due to usage of coal-based electricity for the injection molding and oil for the plastic production. The values used in the study are based on country averages which may differ depending on geographic location and its development as China is a country with a large area. The GWP is the highest value of the impacts analyzed, but even though the other are small fractions these may cause great damages. These damages can irritate eyes, damage lungs and destroy photosynthesis. By using recycled material for products instead of new materials, as done in the study, the impacts could be lower. As some previous studies agrees, the usage of bio-plastics lowers the environmental impact by a few percentages. The bioplastic is an environmentally sustainable option to the current plastic as the location of the panel is not sensitive to excessive heat.
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