Recognizing the long-term impacts of plastic particles for preventing distortion in decision-making

Nature Sustainability (2022)Cite this article


There is a considerable knowledge gap regarding the long-term fate of plastics in the environment. Acknowledging this gap, in the context of life cycle assessment methods, is critical to account for the long-term fate of plastics in the decision-making process. Ignoring the long-term potential for environmental and health damage from plastic particles makes it difficult to defend a quantitative environmental assessment comparing fossil-based conventional plastics with other alternative materials. This Review highlights that the addition of a plastic particulate footprint as a midpoint impact indicator in life cycle assessments should be considered to quantify these overlooked long-term impacts.

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N.G., G.D. and J.S. acknowledge financial support from Project NoAW: No Agro-Waste—Innovative approaches to turn agricultural waste into ecological and economic assets ( This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 688338.

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N.G. led the manuscript conception, design, writing and revisions. G.D., A.G. and J.S. contributed to the design of the work, content development, writing and revisions.

Correspondence to Nathalie Gontard, Grégoire David, Alice Guilbert or Joshua Sohn.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Viktor Kouloumpis, Timothy M. Kousemaker and Stig Irving Olsen for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Gontard, N., David, G., Guilbert, A. et al. Recognizing the long-term impacts of plastic particles for preventing distortion in decision-making.Nat Sustain(2022).

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