Assessing PET-containing waste recycling in Brazil: Value Retention via LCA and Reverse Engineering

Main Presenter:    Flávia Bittencourt Moré 

Co-Authors:   Sebastian Zürn     Aldo Ometto      Frank Henning      Ana Claudia Nioac De Salles                              

This study aims to evaluate the value retention associated with the innovative revolPET®️ technology for the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) applied to the life cycle of PET that are currently not recycled in Brazil (e.g. PET coloured, opaque, and multilayer films). The German-Brazilian revolBRAS project is studying the implementation of this innovative technology to the reality in São Paulo state. In this region, a gravimetry study performed in 2023 within the project consortium together with local cooperatives verified that the total amount of non-recycled PET that are disposed in landfills represents around 8% of the total waste sent to landfills by the cooperatives (Circulagem, RITTEC & Source One, 2023). This study demonstrates a reverse engineering approach to identify an economic and environmental beneficial End-of-Life path, by assessing characteristics derived from all life cycle stages starting from raw-material acquisition, production efforts and the related
environmental impact. The methodology is based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and a reverse engineering method, as presented in a previous paper by Zürn and Dieterle (2024, in Press). This approach emphasizes reversing the life cycle path to identify changes in product characteristics and the procedural challenges for recycling, with the aim of retaining the product’s highest value. First, the approach analyses the technical feasibility of reversing the life cycle, then assesses the efforts for recycling against saved primary energy and raw material demand. The analysis considered the production and life cycle value chain of the revolPET®️ products (terephthalic acid (PTA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG), which have a virgin-like quality). This innovative technology not only minimizes plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but also tackles challenges in waste management systems, especially in developing countries such as Brazil. The analysis study concludes that the revolPET®️
technology stands out as a feasible end-of-life route for hard-to-recycle PET-containing waste, contributing at the same time to enhance circularity and diminish life cycle gaps, aligning with global sustainability goals of the plastics industry.

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