A Circular Economy for O'ahu's Management of Single-Use Plastics
Keywords:Sustainability, Sustainable Development, Circular Economy, Single-Use Plastics, Plastic Waste, Life Cycle Assessment, Material Circularity, Material Flow, Plastics
Ever since Single-Use Plastics (SUPs) became a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, societal emphasis has generally been on downstream management – such as recycling efforts and cleanups – of SUP waste. Less attention has been given to upstream management, such as extended producer responsibility (EPR), assigning producers the stewardship responsibility at the end-of-life of their products. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is helpful in initiating upstream management by assessing the ecological impact at every stage of a product, from the extraction of raw materials to packaging and use to the end-of-life management. Understanding the life cycle of SUPs is critical to mitigating the unsustainability issues that SUPs create. The complexity of SUP pathways across human settlements makes it difficult to conduct LCAs as precursor to designing and realizing a more circular economy. Thus, island settlements may provide insightful implications due to fewer points of SUP entry and removal than vast, interconnected continental communities. Therefore, islands may serve as useful models to investigate, critique, and address negative externalities revealed by LCAs. This study focuses on the island of O‘ahu in the state of Hawai‘i and a simplified life cycle assessment is conducted for the most prevalent SUPs. After quantitative and qualitative data are analyzed, circular economy approaches for SUP management on the island are identified, described, and assessed for applicability to O‘ahu’s context.
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