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Research guides the future of chemical recycling of plastic waste

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A new study at Cornell College of Engineering aims to facilitate the process of chemical recycling. This is an emerging industry that can return waste to natural resources by physically breaking down plastic into smaller molecules that were originally produced.


A new paper, “Consequential Life Cycle Assessment and Optimization of Chemical Recycling of High Density Polyethylene Plastic Waste,” published in the September 13 issue of the Journal. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, Fengqi You, Roxanne E. And Michael J. Zak, a professor of energy systems engineering and a doctoral student, Xiang Zhao, discusses a framework that incorporates several mathematical models and methodologies that take into account everything from chemical recycling equipment, processes, energy sources to environmental impacts. Explains in detail. Final product market.

This framework is the first comprehensive analysis of its kind to quantify the life-cycle environmental impact of recycling plastic waste chemicals, such as climate change and toxicity to the human body.

Since the 1950s, billions of tonnes of plastic have been produced, most of which (91%, according to well-cited studies) are not recycled. While landfill expansion and polluted natural areas are one of the concerns, the failure to reduce and reuse plastics appears to have missed economic opportunities for some.

As a result, emerging industries in chemical recycling are attracting the attention of researchers like You, who are helping the waste industry and identify the best technologies for chemical recycling and provide future roadmaps for the industry.

Chemical recycling not only creates a “circular economy” that allows waste to be returned to natural resources, but also opens the door to plastics such as high-density polyethylene used in products such as hard bottles and toys. , Underground pipes, and mail package envelopes-more commonly recycled.

Your framework can quantify the environmental impact of market dynamics that typical lifecycle sustainability assessments may overlook. It is also the first product to combine ultrastructural optimization, a computational method for searching large combined spaces of technology pathways to minimize costs, with lifecycle analysis, market information, and economic equilibrium. I have.

This white paper focuses on the resulting lifecycle optimization benefits when compared to traditional analytical tools. In one scenario, life cycle optimization results in lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to the usual imputed life cycle assessment approach in order to maximize economic outcomes while minimizing environmental impact. It has been reduced by more than 14% and photochemical air pollution has been reduced by more than 60%. Used in environmental assessment studies.

Analysis provides industry experts and policy makers with a general path to promoting chemical recycling and the circular economy of plastics, but with a myriad of options along the technical path. You need to consider the variables. For example, if the market demand for basic chemicals such as ethylene and propylene is strong enough, the framework recommends one type of chemical separation technique, but if butane or isobutene is required, another type. Technology is the best.

“This is a chemical process and there are so many possibilities,” you said. “Which technology do you use if you want to invest in the recycling of chemicals? It really depends on the composition of the waste, the variant of polyethylene. plastic, And it depends on the current market price of final products such as fuels and hydrocarbons. “

The environmental impact of chemical recycling depends on variables such as the raw material of the chemical and the supplier process of the product. For example, the framework can reduce photochemical air pollution from recycling plants by about 20% by producing it onsite rather than supplying it, while using natural gas onsite is potentially harmful. It was found that more than 37% of the ionizing radiation increased.

“Some technologies and processes can always be twisted and adjusted, which is a difficult part,” says new chemical recycling technologies, and even as the market changes, the resulting lifecycle optimization is for guides. He added that it will continue to be a powerful tool for. Emerging industry.


Recycling enzyme-based plastics is energy efficient and environmentally friendly


For more information:
Xiang Zhao et al, Optimizing the resulting life cycle assessment and chemical recycling of high density polyethylene plastic waste, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2021). DOI: 10.1021 / acssuschemeng.1c03587

Provided by
Cornell University

Quote: Https: //phys.org/news/2021-09-future-plastic-chemical-recycling.html The future of chemical recycling of plastic waste acquired on September 20, 2021 (September 20, 2021) ) Research guide

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Research guides the future of chemical recycling of plastic waste

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