LCA of food-quality polystyrene recycling options confirms significant CO2 savings

Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), the value chain initiative to increase the circularity of styrenic polymers, has unveiled the results of a comprehensive life cycle analysis (LCA) for polystyrene.
Thorben Wengert,

It shows excellent results for the three innovative recycling processes high purity mechanical recycling, dissolution and depolymerisation compared to the end-of-life option incineration and the production of virgin polystyrene. The LCA focused on closed loop recycling routes back to food contact quality:

  • High purity mechanical recycling of polystyrene feedstock from separate collection saves approx. 80% of CO2 emissions compared to incineration and conventional production of virgin polystyrene.
  • Dissolution technology exhibits 75% CO2 emission savings.
  • Depolymerisation also saves approx. 75% of CO2-emissions.

This LCA study of polystyrene was performed by the leading research institute Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH (NMB). The methodology used by NMB followed the pertinent international standards ISO 14040 / ISO 14044. The LCA results will be peer-reviewed.

Dr. Thomas Neumeyer, Head of Division Polymers, NMB, and Regino Weber, Research Associate Division Polymers, NMB, conducting the study, say: “We used a conservative approach to calculate the CO2 emissions from polystyrene recycling yielding food-quality products. Best practices from recently published key LCA studies were considered, same as the know-how of industry experts globally. The full results will be peer reviewed shortly and published later-on.”

Dr. Norbert Niessner, Global Head of R&D/IP at INEOS Styrolution and Chair of Technologies at SCS comments: “The ability to produce circular food grade PS recyclate with all three major recycling technologies already makes PS stand out. And now, this also comes at a significantly reduced CO2 footprint. More upside potential is in close reach, once the innovative recycling methods are scaled-up further and the announced commercial scale plants are employed.”



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