LCA gives recycled LDPE a clear edge

Producing carrier bags from recycled polyethylene gives massive reductions in energy and water consumption and releases to the environment when compared to production from virgin material, according to a life-cycle analysis (LCA) carried out for the leading recycling business Alida.

The results were obtained in a study carried out by a University of Nottingham team.

The study was based on a comparison of measured resource consumption and releases to atmosphere from Alida's collection, transport and recycling operation with literature data for virgin low density polyethylene (LDPE) production.

The results are summarised in the table . They show that, on all five parameters, recycled LDPE carrier bags offer handsome advantages over virgin products.

The savings remain substantial when the thicker gauge of recycled bags is taken into account. For example, a 30-micron carrier bag made from recycled LDPE offers a 49% energy saving over a 20-micron bag made from virgin LDPE. In addition, every 10,000 tonnes of post-consumer LDPE recycled by Alida reduces the amount of waste consigned to landfill by 9,510 tonnes.

The company currently collects used LDPE packaging from more than 1,000 retail outlets. It is hoping that the findings of the LCA will persuade more companies to specify recycled LDPE packaging, thereby closing the recycling loop.

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