Environmental and Social Justice Implications of a Circular Plastics Economy

Research output: NRELPresentation


A consideration of environmental justice (EJ) and social justice (SJ) is critical to minimize the impacts of technology deployment on local communities. SJ and EJ impacts occur in specific geographic locations but can cover a wide range of effects (e.g., air pollution, access to clean water, jobs, wages, and education), making it challenging to determine which metrics are appropriate to evaluate and which data are required. Thus, there is currently a gap in the analysis community's ability to provide useful and universal EJ and SJ metrics for emerging technologies. Here, we present a draft framework for evaluating the human health, local environment, and job implications of processes that are at an early or middle technology readiness level (TRL). Using a case study on enzymatic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling (middle TRL), we demonstrate how to qualitatively and quantitatively assess these EJ and SJ metrics for a circular economy context and how to communicate the results in a manner beneficial to both researchers and local communities.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA) Conference, 25-28 September 2023, Burlington, Vermont

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-87332


  • circular economy
  • environmental justice
  • plastic
  • recycling
  • social justice


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