Chapter 10: Modelling material recycling in life cycle assessment: how sensitive are results to the available methods?
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In open-loop recycling, material is recycled from one product into another. Life cycle assessment quantifies the environmental impacts of a single product. This requires understanding to what extent the primary production, the recycling, and the waste management activities belong to or affect the two product systems involved: the product that provides the material for recycling or the product produced from recycled material. The challenge is to identify how much each of the products contribute to the environmental benefit of recycling, i.e., to the avoided primary production and waste management. We describe and review many of the available methods for modelling material recycling and conclude that results can be very sensitive to the method adopted. More research is required to decide what method is the most accurate. There is also a trade-off between feasibility and accurate representation of the consequences of recycling. This implies that different methods can be applicable depending on the importance of the material recycling.

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