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Title: A critical comparison of ten disposable cup LCAs

Disposable cups can be made from conventional petro-plastics, bioplastics, or paperboard (coated with petro-plastics or bioplastics). This study compared ten life cycle assessment (LCA) studies of disposable cups with the aim to evaluate the robustness of their results. The selected studies have only one impact category in common, namely climate change with global warming potential (GWP) as its category indicator. Quantitative GWP results of the studies were closer examined. GWPs within and across each study show none of the cup materials to be consistently better than the others. Comparison of the absolute GWPs (after correction for the cup volume) also shows no consistent better or worse cup material. An evaluation of the methodological choices and the data sets used in the studies revealed their influence on the GWP. The differences in GWP can be attributed to a multitude of factors, i.e., cup material and weight, production processes, waste processes, allocation options, and data used. These factors basically represent different types of uncertainty. Sensitivity and scenario analyses provided only the influence of one factor at once. A systematic and simultaneous use of sensitivity and scenario analyses could, in a next research, result in more robust outcomes. -- Highlights: • Conflicting resultsmore » from life cycle assessment (LCA) on disposable cups • GWP results of LCAs did not point to a best or worst cup material. • Differences in GWP results are due to methodological choices and data sets used. • Standardized LCA: transparency of LCA studies, but still different in approaches.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, NL-6700 AA Wageningen (Netherlands)
  2. (fms), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SE-110 44 Stockholm (Sweden)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22246912
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Impact Assessment Review; Journal Volume: 43; Other Information: Copyright (c) 2013 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, All rights reserved.; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS; ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION; GREENHOUSE EFFECT; LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT; OPACITY; PETROLEUM PRODUCTS; PLASTICS; SENSITIVITY