LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT
FOR depolymerisation of polystyrene
Evaluation of carbon footprint shows advantages producing styrene from waste vs producing native styrene
Circular economy for polystyrene in commercial use – based on enhanced sustainable technologies – has proven to be a reality. And with an impressive reduction in its carbon footprint.
Labscale depolymerisation project
ResolVe – a research project that explores the commercial use of post-consumer polystyrene waste as a raw material to produce high-quality plastics – is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education, BMBF. This project is jointly executed by INEOS Styrolution together with Neue Materialien GmbH Bayreuth as well as with two institutes of the University of Aachen (RWTH) – the Institute for Processing and Recycling (Institut für Aufbereitung und Recycling, I.A.R.) and the Institute of Plastics Processing (Institut für Kunststoffverarbeitung, IKV). It also receives contributions from INEOS Manufacturing Deutschland GmbH in Köln.
A first Life Cycle Assessment of the polystyrene depolymerisation process was achieved in collaboration with InVerTec, a non-profit organization associated with the University of Bayreuth. InVerTec, subcontracted by the ResolVe project, is specialising in providing pilot plants for conceptual and lab-scale research.
The making of styrene from post-consumer polystyrene waste shows a 30% lower CO2 footprint compared to fossil-based styrene.
Further CO2 reduction is possible by adapting the energy mix.
Innovation & Project Manager at INEOS Styrolution, who coordinates the ResolVe project:
“This is an encouraging result and successfully concludes our R&D project. All our ResolVe peers are excited about the fact that the depolymerisation technology is indeed a very sustainable technology.”
Upscaling of polystyrene depolymerisation for industrial use
INEOS Styrolution collaborates with a commercial recycling partner and experts from the University of Manchester to execute a first GHG evaluation within a scope including polystyrene postconsumer waste collection/ sorting, pre-treatment and extrusion/ depolymerisation/ distillation. This task has been established based on the engineering design of an upscaled polystyrene depolymerisation plant and a three-step distillation process.
50% lower carbon footprint than that of traditional virgin (fossil-based) styrene monomer production.
o Uncertainties due to the fact that a complete recycling plant is still at the design stage. Additional analysis will be done with a completed depolymerisation plant.
o Polystyrene waste collection and sorting of post-consumer waste has been assessed based on existing data and will also be subject to further analysis as there are regional variations.
o Avoiding the end-of-life treatment is not considered in the current study. This will be assessed in a future more detailed analysis.
Vice President, Business Management, Standard Products, EMEA at INEOS Styrolution:
“One driver for this high reduction of carbon dioxide is the fact that depolymerisation allows the recovery of styrene in a single process step avoiding several production steps needed to produce virgin styrene – resulting in a better performance in energy and resource efficiency compared to the production of virgin styrene. Another driver is the recycling of by-products and upscaling that enhances the resource efficiency compared with labscale assessments. I consider this first result to be very encouraging. At the same time, I am looking forward to results from a completed recycling plant.”
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