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Life cycle assessment of biofibres replacing glass fibres as reinforcement in plastics

Resources Conservation and Recycling
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0921-3449(01)00089-1
  • Renewable Raw Materials
  • Biofibres
  • Biomaterials
  • Environmental Life Cycle Assessment
  • Fibre Reinforced
  • Composites
  • Low-Density Materials
  • Transport Pallets
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract This article aims to determine the environmental performance of China reed fibre used as a substitute for glass fibre as reinforcement in plastics and to identify key environmental parameters. A life cycle assessment (LCA) is performed on these two materials for an application to plastic transport pallets. Transport pallets reinforced with China reed fibre prove to be ecologically advantageous if they have a minimal lifetime of 3 years compared with the 5-year lifetime of the conventional pallet. The energy consumption and other environmental impacts are strongly reduced by the use of raw renewable fibres, due to three important factors: (a) the substitution of glass fibre production by the natural fibre production; (b) the indirect reduction in the use of polypropylene linked to the higher proportion of China reed fibre used and (c) the reduced pallet weight, which reduces fuel consumption during transport. Considering the whole life cycle, the polypropylene production process and the transport cause the strongest environmental impacts during the use phase of the life cycle. Since thermoplastic composites are hardly biodegradable, incineration has to be preferred to discharge on landfills at the end of its useful life cycle. The potential advantages of the renewable fibres will be effective only if a purer fibre extraction is obtained to ensure an optimal material stiffness, a topic for further research. China reed biofibres are finally compared with other usages of biomass, biomaterials, in general, can enable a three to ten times more efficient valorisation of biomass than mere heat production or biofuels for transport.

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