Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Shakira R. Hobbs

Second Advisor

Dr. Diana M. Byrne


In January 2020, the Government of Belize enacted an Implementation Strategy and Action Plan to phase-out single-use plastics and to transition to products like bioplastics. This work investigated the environmental effects of using alternative waste management techniques to manage polylactic acid biopolymer (PLA) waste by using life cycle assessment (LCA). The following treatment options were compared: landfill, landfill expansion, cogeneration, and anaerobic digestion. The landfill and landfill expansion processes both had a global warming potential of 0.01 kg of CO2 eq. per kg of PLA waste managed compared to the cogeneration and anaerobic digestion processes -0.03 and -0.06 kg of CO2 eq. per kg of PLA respectively. This difference was due to offsets produced by the cogeneration and anaerobic digestion systems. Additionally, it was shown that construction material requirements of the waste management systems often attribute less than 15% of total burdens to environmental impacts. Through uncertainty and sensitivity analysis it was shown that higher gas capture efficiencies in landfills and higher electrical efficiencies in cogeneration and anaerobic digestion, should be targeted to minimize GWP. Effective use of developed LCA models can assist Belize with strategies for eliminating petroleum single-use plastic and provide waste management strategies to help inform decision makers.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Lyman T. Johnson Diversity Fellowship

Fall 2019 until Spring 2021

Available for download on Saturday, May 20, 2023