revolBRAS project: Development of a sustainable strategy for the integration of a newly developed back-to-monomer recycling technology in Brazil – an LCA study

Main Presenter:    Mandy Paschetag 

Co-Authors:   Hannes Schneider     Renan Louro Cardoso Franco      Stephan Scholl                                    

In Brazil, over 2.4 million tonnes of plastic are dumped each year, either irregularly or primarily in landfills. As a contribution to a better waste management in Brazil, an end-of-life (EoL) value chain of PET and PET containing waste will be designed in the research project revolBRAS, including collection, sorting, processing, transport, and utilisation. A central step is the implementation of the revolPET®️ technology, an innovative back-to-monomer recycling process, in the target country. This technology enables the recovery of the monomers terephthalic acid (rTA) and ethylene glycol (rEG) in virgin quality from the PET waste and leads to an increase within the circular economy of resources. Its integration into the value chain in Brazil requires the implementation of new structured collection and recovery systems for plastic waste. Furthermore, a continuous supply of waste input is mandatory and economic, political, regulatory, infrastructural, competitive and market related
conditions need to be considered.
Based on investigations using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method, the potential ecological impact resulting from the use of the revolPET®️ technology in Brazil is quantified in a detailed study. The integration of this newly developed recycling process into the existing national structures for the recycling of PET and PET-containing packaging is analysed. In particular, the challenges of the recycling process with the multifunctionality of waste treatment and production of chemicals are addressed. The investigations include, among others:
a) the scalability of the revolPET®️ technology, which is still under development,
b) the consideration of future developments, e.g. energy supply, a change in the raw material base or political framework conditions,
c) the substitution of fossil-based monomer production and thus the “drop-in ability” and the quality of the recycled monomers and
d) the substitution of recycling routes (incineration, landfill, littering) for previous waste streams.
This contribution presents and critically discusses the results of the study. The challenges will be addressed, especially with regard to the ecological aspects which result from the methodological side such as the definition of the scope as well as the availability and quality of primary and generic background data.

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