Life cycle assessment of carrier bags and development of a littering indicator

Didem Civancik-Uslu*, Rita Puig, Michael Hauschild, Pere Fullana-i-Palmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Increased plastic consumption has resulted in high amounts of plastic waste ending up in the environment. Recently, the European Commission (EC) has identified a list of single-use plastics, including plastic bags, most commonly found in the European beaches. As a response, alternatives for plastic carrier bags have been more of a concern. Many life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have been performed to evaluate the environmental profile of different carrier bags; however, without considering the possibility of contribution to the littering problem. Therefore, in this study, an indicator has been introduced, based on an LCA study of carrier bags which was performed in Spain. The indicator is influenced by parameters such as: number of bags to fulfill the functional unit, weight, surface, fee, and biodegradability. In this paper, a comparative LCA of HDPE, LDPE, PP, paper and biodegradable plastic bags is presented. Following that, a littering indicator is introduced to allow a comparison of the risk of littering of the different carrier bags in marine environment. The results given by the Littering Potential indicator rank the bags oppositely to the results given by the LCA as usual. Further research is needed to refine the model and include additional contributing variables.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)621-630
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • LCA
  • Littering impact
  • Marine littering
  • Paper bag
  • Plastic bag
  • Single-use plastics


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