Quantifying the impact of plastic additives on marine biota in life cycle assessment

Main Presenter: Yibo Tang 

Co-Authors: Mankaa Nangah Rose Marzia Traverso

Plastic pervades now almost every aspect of our daily lives, but this prosperity has led to an increasing amount of plastic debris, which is now widespread in the oceans and represents a serious threat to biota. However, there is a general lack of consideration regarding marine plastic impacts in life cycle assessment (LCA). In recent years, efforts have been made to develop LCA-compliant indicators and models that address the impact of marine littering, entanglement, and ingestion. This paper presents a preliminary approach to facilitate the characterization of chemical impacts related to marine plastic within the LCA framework. Relevant ecotoxicity data were collected from scientific literature for a subsequent additive-specific effect factor (EF) development, which was conducted adopting the USEtox approach. EFs were calculated for six commonly used additives to quantify their ecotoxicity effects. A generic EF was also generated along with the species sensitivity distribution (SSD) illustrating the gathered data used to calculate this EF. Although the toxicity of different additives to biota may vary significantly, it is recommended to consider additives within the impact assessment of marine plastic. The generic EF can be used, together with a future EF for adsorbed environmental pollutants, to fill a gap in the characterization of plastic-related impacts in LCA. Further ecotoxicity data are expected to expand the coverage of additives and species, and a better understanding of the interactive effect between polymers and additives needs to be developed.

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