A plastics hierarchy of fates: sustainable choices for a circular future

Kristoffer Kortsen, Siobhan Kilbride, Stephen Lowe, Adam Peirce, Michael Shaver

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Plastics are ubiquitous in modern society, but the linear model of produce, use, and dispose results in massive amounts of resource consumption and pollution. Landfill and incineration of plastic waste is endemic, with no consensus on a clear path towards a more sustainable model. Progress is often hampered by a lack of clarity on what choices will enable a more sustainable circular plastics economy. Our Plastics Hierarchy of Fates tool addresses this by bringing together scattered information on the end-of-life fates of plastics in a more accessible format. This tool will support manufacturing, processing, and policy decisions in the push for a more sustainable future. Potential sorting and recycling decisions for plastics waste are discussed in the hierarchy and the consequences of different decisions are highlighted. The hierarchy is meant to inform potential outcomes but can also be used to help shape future interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationArXiv
PublisherCornell University
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2023

Publication series

PublisherCornell University
ISSN (Print)2331-8422


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