A review of the plastic value chain from a circular economy perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Although plastic is one of the most commonly used materials in our everyday life, the current linear economy (‘produce, use and dispose’) engenders high risks to human health in relation to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental pollution. As a response to these challenges, the circular plastic economy is gaining momentum, where the goal is to reduce, reuse and recycle all plastic. The transition to the circular economy should be made across the entire plastics value chain in order to ensure circular design, production, use and waste management. This study examines the current scientific literature in relation to the entire value chain of plastics. This aim of the article is to provide an overview of the existing research (and highlight research gaps) associated with the transition of plastic use to a circular model. The literature was divided into the following categories: 1) design; 2) production; 3) use; 4) end-of-life; and 5) value chain. A high proportion of the literature was found to address the end-of-life phase, suggesting that the other phases are currently neglected. The results have implications that are applicable to multiple phases; in particular, contamination of waste streams and composite materials places significant limitations on the opportunity to recycle and reuse plastic in new products. This calls for changes in the whole value chain, and for trans-sectorial collaboration to ensure systemic transparency. Therefore, future research should take a holistic approach to the transition to circular through careful mapping of implications, stakeholder involvement and collaboration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113975
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume302
ISSN0301-4797
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Circular economy
  • Plastic
  • Recycling
  • Reuse
  • Waste

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