Uncertainty and sensitivity in the carbon footprint of shopping bags

Tuomas Mattila (Corresponding Author), Marjukka Kujanpää, Helena Dahlbo, Risto Soukka, Tuuli Myllymaa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    Carbon footprints for several shopping bag alternatives (polyethylene, paper, cotton, biodegradable modified starch, and recycled polyethylene) were compared with life cycle assessment. Stochastic uncertainty analysis was used to study the sensitivity of the comparison to scenario and parameter uncertainty. On the basis of the results, we could give only a few robust conclusions without choosing a waste treatment scenario or limiting the parameter space. Given the scenario of current waste infrastructure in Finland, recycled polyethylene bags seem to be the most preferable (−7 to 24 g CO2 eq./bag) and biodegradable bags the least preferable (38 to 60 g CO2 eq./bag) option. In each analyzed waste treatment scenario, a few parameters dominated the uncertainty of results. Most of these parameters were downstream of the shopping bag manufacturing (consumer behavior, landfill conditions, method of waste combustion, etc.). The choice of waste treatment scenario had a greater effect on the ranking of bags than parameter uncertainty within scenarios. This result highlights the importance of including several scenarios in comparative life cycle assessments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-227
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • climate change
    • industrial ecology
    • life cycle assessment (LCA)
    • Monte Carlo simulation
    • plastic
    • waste treatment


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