Modelling incineration for more accurate comparisons to recycling in PEF and LCA
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2021

When recycling is beneficial for the environment, results from a life cycle assessment (LCA) should give incentives to collection for recycling and also to the use of recycled material in new products. Many approaches for modeling recycling in LCA assign part of the environmental benefits of recycling to the product where the recycled material is used. For example, the Circular Footprint Formula in the framework for Product Environmental Footprints (PEF) assigns less than 45% of the benefits of recycling to a polymer product sent to recycling. Our calculations indicate that this creates an incorrect climate incentive for incineration of renewable LDPE, when the recovered energy substitutes energy sources with 100–300% more climate impact than the Swedish average district heat and electricity. The risk of incorrect incentives can be reduced through allocating part of the net benefits of energy recovery to the life cycle where the energy is used; we propose this part can be 60% for Sweden, but probably less in countries without a district-heating network. Alternatively, the LCA can include the alternative treatment of waste that is displaced at the incinerator by waste from the investigated product. These solutions both make the LCA more balanced and consistent. The allocation factor 0.6 at incineration almost eliminates the risk of incorrect incentives in a PEF of renewable polymers. However, the focus of LCA on one product at a time might still make it insufficient to guide recycling, which requires concerted actions between actors in different life cycles.


Factor B

Life cycle assessment

Product Environmental Footprint

Energy recovery

Waste management


Tomas Ekvall

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Environmental Systems Analysis

Tomas Ekvall Research, Review & Assessment AB

Marie Gottfridsson

IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet

Maja Nellström

IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet

Johan Nilsson

IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet

Maria Rydberg

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, TME verksamhetsstöd

Tomas Rydberg

IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet

Waste Management

0956-053X (ISSN) 1879-2456 (eISSN)

Vol. 136 153-161

Incitament för energiutvinning i livscykelanalys av plast

Naturvårdsverket (NV-08073-20), 2020-11-01 -- 2021-01-31.


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