Environmental assessment of the food packaging waste management system in Spain: understanding the present to improve the future
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AuthorBala Gala, Alba; Laso Cortabitarte, Jara; Abejón Elías, Ricardo; Margallo Blanco, María; Fullana i Palmer, Pere; Aldaco García, Rubén
Selection of high flux membrane for the effective removal of short-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids One-way packaging can represent up to half the environmental impacts of the food value chain and thus optimising its management is essential. Collective selective waste collection managed by authorised organisations (Extended Producer Responsibility, EPR), with or without Deposit-Refund Systems (DRS) are alternatives implemented at European level to handle this problem. Since there is no single simple formula that can be applied to every waste management system, this case study is focused on the entire Spanish model of one-way food packaging waste management, from collection of each fraction in specific containers to final treatment, considering eight different materials. For the analysis, six different impact categories were considered: abiotic depletion potential, global warming potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, ozone depletion potential and photochemical ozone formation. Results reveal that the recycling stage is the main stage contributing to the environmental impacts, but the environmental savings related to the recovery of materials in this stage compensates these loads and the system must be considered advantageous for the environment. By contrast, sorting plants present the lowest contributions and is the least significant stage. Significant environmental improvements (close to 10%) would be achieved by addressing the total bulk collection flow to mechanical-biological treatment and increasing the selective collection of light and glass packaging waste. This study can serve to identify common drivers that contribute significantly to the development of an integrated approach to waste packaging management and as baseline for comparison studies with alternative waste recovery technologies and systems.