Single-use plastic products are ubiquitous in our modern society but there is growing recognition of the need to consider alternative options. Based on the results of the UNEP Life Cycle Assessment metastudies series, this booklet shows what alternatives have the least environmental impacts for nine types of commonly used single-use plastic products, based on a systematic review of published Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and case studies.
The UNEP series of LCA meta-studies on single-use plastic products, developed in response to Resolution 9 of the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA4), on “Addressing Single-use plastic products pollution” UNEA4/Res.9, “encourages member states to actions, as appropriate, to promote the identification and development of environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic products, taking into account the full life cycle implications of those alternatives”. The LCA meta studies provide such guidance and additionally give recommendations on how to interpret existing LCA results to inform science-based policies that aims to reduce plastics impacts.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The recommended alternatives to single-use plastic products depend on the context. The matrixes presented in this booklet help to identify the better options considering geographical, technological and policy contexts as well as behavioural considerations. The content of the matrixes are simplified. Please refer to the full narrative of the meta-studies (all linked from within this pdf) for details.