iScience. 2023 Aug 24;26(9):107701. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.107701. eCollection 2023 Sep 15.
Characterizing material flows and environmental impacts of plastic value chain is crucial for sustainable plastic management. Here, we combine material flow analysis and life cycle assessment methods to map the flows of eight major plastics and investigate the multiple environmental impacts of China’s plastic value chain. We find that packaging and textile sectors dominate plastic consumption and are responsible for the value chain environmental burdens, but with low recycling rates. Major environmental impacts are generated in plastic production and product manufacturing stages because of the consumption of coal-based feedstocks and electricity. We therefore set up six scenarios by considering carbon neutrality energy pathway, plastic recycling improvement, and technology updating, finding that the value chain environmental impact can be reduced by 14%-57% in 2060 under combined scenario. Particularly, carbon neutrality renewable energy pathway plays an important role. These findings provide valuable insights to identify key mitigation pathways for plastic value chain.