Technological watch

Toward Economically Efficient Carbon Reduction: Contrasting Greening Plastic Supply Chains with Alternative Energy Policy Approaches

As nations around the world strive to achieve carbon neutrality, many policies have been implemented at varying costs and levels of efficacy. Although carbon emissions are dominated by the power, industry, transport, and building sectors, the plastics sector is responsible for a significant 4.5% of global emissions and is the fastest-growing material production sector. This study seeks to identify the economic and carbon-reduction potential of the greening of plastic supply chains compared to existing carbon-reduction regimes. Utilizing literature review, lifecycle analysis and multicriteria analysis cognizant of cost, carbon-reduction potential, quality, and recyclability, this paper identifies the performance of virgin, recycled, and bioplastics under a number of scenarios. We find that recycled plastics offer a low-cost carbon-reduction potential; however, concerns about perceived quality remain. While no single plastic type or source can satisfy all criteria, the satisfaction of manufacturer and end user concerns is critical to reducing CO2 via plastic supply-chain greening and the move away from crude-oil-based plastics. The reallocation of subsidies from less effective carbon-reduction policies toward supply-chain greening may offer benefits and stimulate the emergence of a quality control system to overcome manufacturer and user concerns.

Publication date: 04/09/2023

Author: Yuuki Yoshimoto

Reference: doi: 10.3390/su151713229

MDPI (sustainability)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.