As a follow-up to its 2018 Plastic Strategy, the European Commission is currently working on improving the assessment of the environmental impacts of plastic products from alternative feedstocks and comparing it to conventional plastic products. Taking as a basis the work carried out under the Product Environmental Footprint, the Joint Research Centre proposed to look into environmental aspects considered of particular importance for plastic products, such as littering or indirect land use change.
Welcoming the JRC’s efforts towards clarifying parts of the debate related to alternative feedstocks for plastic production, ECOS and the Rethink Plastic Alliance regret the rather narrow scope of the proposed method as it merely attempts to provide an environmental assessment regarding the substitution of one plastic product with a plastic product made from another raw material.
Such narrow scope weakens the environmental relevance of this project. LCA is a comprehensive enough tool to compare the environmental performance for true alternatives such as reusable products, provided the functional units chosen for the assessment allows for such comparison to be made.
ECOS suggests that the methodology be further refined to account for more realistic scenarios and additional impact categories. The paper details the improvements required to build a solid methodology that adequately addresses environmental aspects of plastics throughout their entire lifecycle.