Plastic debris: Recycling options for closing the loop
Paper i proceeding, 2017

Plastic debris (marine litter) is one of the biggest pollution problems in the marine environment. Nets, ropes, packaging, and pellets are the most common items that are spread around the world’s oceans causing an impact on wildlife and human health, and economic loss. Although mitigation is tantamount, the question remains for what can be done with the plastics that are already in the oceans. Studies as shown that much of the collected marine debris goes to landfilling because it is little-known, diverse, salty, and too dirty for both incineration and recycling. We conducted a literature review of research on debris and plastics waste management. It showed that there is a strong focus on describing the environmental problems of marine and plastic debris, and that plastic debris is described in natural science terms that the waste management industry cannot use for determining suitable treatments. In order to better translate beach debris data into waste management data, we have collected beach debris from the Swedish West coast and conducted physical and chemical analyses in order to characterise the debris in waste management terms. Based on this data and the literature review, we have identified several recycling options for the plastic debris. In order to identify environmental pros and cons with the different treatment, we will conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) comparing mechanical treatment, incineration, gasification, pyrolysis, and others processes to establish an appropriate and practical approach towards closing the loop for plastic debris. Preliminary analyses suggest that mechanical treatments are not suitable for most the plastics (due to they are fragmented, degraded and with a wide range of additives) whereas chemical treatments are suggested as a suitable solution. Feedstock recycling allows the production of raw material, as well as it may have fewer emissions in contrast with combustion which has operational problems and the gas cleaning might be insufficient since litter has pollutants such as chloride. The research is in progress and will be complete for the conference.

recycling options

waste management

circular economy

life cycle assessment

Plastic debris


Isabel Cañete Vela

Chalmers, Energi och miljö, Environmental Systems Analysis

Henrikke Baumann

Chalmers, Energi och miljö, Environmental Systems Analysis

Lives and Afterlives of Plastics


Hållbar utveckling



Annan naturresursteknik

Marin teknik

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