Purpose: The objective of the present study was to better understand the potential environmental benefit of using vine shoots (ViShs), an agricultural residue, as filler in composite materials. For that purpose, a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of a rigid tray made of virgin poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) PHBV, polylactic acid (PLA) or polypropylene (PP), and increasing content of ViSh particles was performed. The contribution of each processing step in the life cycle on the different environmental impacts was identified and discussed. Furthermore, the balance between the environmental and the economic benefits of composite trays was discussed. Methods: This work presents a cradle-to-grave LCA of composite rigid trays. Once collected in vineyards, ViShs were dried and ground using dry fractionation processes, then mixed with a polymer matrix by melt extrusion to produce compounds that were finally injected to obtain rigid trays for food packaging. The density of each component was taken into account in order to compare trays with the same volume. The maximum filler content was set to 30 vol% according to recommendations from literature and industrial data. The ReCiPe 2016 Midpoint Hierarchist (H) methodology was used for the assessment using the cutoff system model. Results and discussion: This study showed that bioplastics are currently less eco-friendly than PP. This is in part due to the fact that LCA does not account for, in existing tools, effects of microplastic accumulation and that bioplastic technologies are still under development with low tonnage. This study also demonstrated the environmental interest of the development of biocomposites by the incorporation of ViSh particles. The minimal filler content of interest depended on the matrices and the impact categories. Concerning global warming, composite trays had less impact than virgin plastic trays from 5 vol% for PHBV or PLA and from 20 vol% for PP. Concerning PHBV, the only biodegradable polymer in natural conditions in this study, the price and the impact on global warming are reduced by 25% and 20% respectively when 30 vol% of ViSh are added. Conclusion: The benefit of using vine shoots in composite materials from an environmental and economical point of view was demonstrated. As a recommendation, the polymer production step, which constitutes the most important impact, should be optimized and the maximum filler content in composite materials should be increased.
- Life cycle assessment
- Vine shoots