Waste Plastics

Attention has been paid to the management of waste plastics. MFAs have been carried out for different types of plastics in many countries, e.g. plastics streams in general in Austria and Poland (Bogucka et al. 2008), in Germany (Patel et al. 1998), in India (Mutha et al. 2006), in the Netherlands (Joosten et al. 2000) and in Serbia (Vujic et al. 2010); for polyethylene terephthalate flows in Colombia (Rochat et al. 2013) and in the US (Kuczenski and Geyer 2010); flows of polyvinyl chloride in China (Zhou et al. 2013), in Japan (Nakamura et al. 2009), and in Sweden (Tukker et al. 1997; Kleijn et al. 2000); and flows of waste tires in China (Yang et al. 2010), Thailand (Jacob et al. 2014) and in small island developing states (Sarkar et al. 2011).

Implementing MFA of plastics is not easy because many plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, are used in a variety of products, from construction to consumer products, whose lifetimes are different. Therefore, input-output analysis has been applied to estimate flows of plastics (Joosten et al. 2000; Nakamura et al. 2009; Yang et al. 2010).

Spatial System Boundaries

Amongst the body of studies targeting countries and cities are a number with interesting system boundaries.

For example, many islands face waste issues because of their limited availability of land for waste disposal as well as constrained availability of physical material resources. Therefore, research on waste flows has been performed for some small island states (Eckelman and Chertow 2009; Sarkar et al. 2011; Eckelman et al. 2014). An island is also a useful system for industrial ecology studies as it is a valuable unit of study for biological sciences (Deschenes and Chertow 2004).

Industrial ecosystems are another example, where one company's waste becomes another company's feedstock. Many studies have been undertaken in the field of industrial symbiosis research (see Chap. 5). For example, Lyons (2007) examined the issue of geographic scale and loop closing for heterogeneous wastes through an analysis of the location and materials flows of a set of recycling, remanufacturing, and waste treatment firms in Texas and showed that there was no preferable scale at which loop closing should be organized.

A process of waste treatment can also be the subject of MFA. For example, Chancerel et al. (2009) assessed precious metal flows during preprocessing of waste electrical and electronic equipment and showed that only 11.5 % of the silver and 25.6 % of the gold and of the palladium reach output fractions from which they can potentially be recovered.

International transfer of e-waste has been a major concern. Therefore, MFA has also been applied to international trade of secondhand products (Kahhat and Williams 2009, 2012; Yoshida and Terazono 2010; Breivik et al. 2014). Such trade can be seen as the trade of metals contained in the products. Fuse et al. (2009) estimated global flows of metal resources in the used automobile trade.

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