Generating environmental sampling and testing data for micro- and nanoplastics for use in life cycle impact assessment
Published in Science of The Total Environment, Volume 859, Part 2, 10 February 2023, 160038
Ongoing efforts focus on quantifying plastic pollution and describing and estimating the related magnitude of exposure and impacts on human and environmental health. Data gathered during such work usually follows a receptor perspective. However, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) represents an emitter perspective. This study examines existing data gathering and reporting approaches for field and laboratory studies on micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) exposure and effects relevant to LCA data inputs. The outcomes indicate that receptor perspective approaches do not typically provide suitable or sufficiently harmonised data. Improved design is needed in the sampling, testing and recording of results using harmonised, validated and comparable methods, with more comprehensive reporting of relevant data. We propose a three-level set of requirements for data recording and reporting to increase the potential for LCA studies and models to utilise data gathered in receptor-oriented studies. We show for which purpose such data can be used as inputs to LCA, particularly in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods. Implementing these requirements will facilitate proper integration of the potential environmental impacts of plastic losses from human activity (e.g. litter) into LCA. Then, the impacts of plastic emissions can eventually be connected and compared with other environmental issues related to anthropogenic activities.