The life Cycle Assessment of the mixed plastic waste railway sleeper
An international cooperation between Brazil and Germany called "The Life Cycle Assessment of the Mixed Plastic Waste from Railway Sleepers" (the "Railwaste Project) of the Fraunhofer ICT represented an opportunity for a foreign doctoral student from the Energy Planning Program (PPE) of the Graduate School of Research in Engineering (COPPE) at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) to join publicly funded projects through temporary work with and at the ICT. 6 months' funding was provided jointly by Fraunhofer, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) and the Brazilian National Oil Agency (ANP – scholarship given to some PPE students), during the second semester of 2008. From this cooperation two joint papers were published, at the Life Cycle Management 2009 – 4th International Conference in South Africa and at the EnviroPlas 2010 in Brussels.
The aim of this cooperation was to evaluate the environmental impact of the whole life cycle of the plastic sleepers in comparison to wood sleepers used in Germany and in Brazil. To compare the environmental performance of both sleepers, especially the greenhouse gas emissions, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) investigated the balance of the resources consumed from the sleepers’ production process until their final destination. From the LCA study it was possible to identify positive and negative environmental aspects of each railway sleeper.