Leveling the cost and carbon footprint of circular polymers that are chemically recycled to monomer

Leveling the cost and carbon footprint of circular polymers that are chemically recycled to monomer

TitleLeveling the cost and carbon footprint of circular polymers that are chemically recycled to monomer
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsNemi Vora, Peter R Christensen, Jérémy Demarteau, Nawa Raj Baral, Jay D Keasling, Brett A Helms, Corinne D Scown
JournalScience Advances
Volume7
Issue15
Paginationeabf0187
Date Published09/2021
Abstract

Mechanical recycling of polymers downgrades them such that they are unusable after a few cycles. Alternatively, chemical recycling to monomer offers a means to recover the embodied chemical feedstocks for remanufacturing. However, only a limited number of commodity polymers may be chemically recycled, and the processes remain resource intensive. We use systems analysis to quantify the costs and life-cycle carbon footprints of virgin and chemically recycled polydiketoenamines (PDKs), next-generation polymers that depolymerize under ambient conditions in strong acid. The cost of producing virgin PDK resin using unoptimized processes is ~30-fold higher than recycling them, and the cost of recycled PDK resin ($1.5 kg−1) is on par with PET and HDPE, and below that of polyurethanes. Virgin resin production is carbon intensive (86 kg CO2e kg−1), while chemical recycling emits only 2 kg CO2e kg−1. This cost and emissions disparity provides a strong incentive to recover and recycle future polymer waste.

URLhttps://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abf0187
DOI10.1126/sciadv.abf0187
Short TitleSci. Adv.