Enabling a circular economy for plastics: Life Cycle Assessment of Chemically Recycled Polyamide Multi-layer Packaging

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Poster Number:  20 

Main Presenter:    Maike Horlacher 

Co-Authors:   Dr. Iris Matzke     Raphaela Kießer      Alejandra Martinez      Dr. Paul Neumann      Dr. Christian Krüger      Dr. Bodo Müller                  

Recycling technologies should aim to retain as much value in the material as possible, in line with the principles of the circular economy. Chemical recycling represents a technology with high potential to contribute to solving problems related to resource management, especially in highly regulated application areas such as food packaging. A comparative LCA study, commissioned by BASF and panel reviewed investigates the environmental performance of a mozzarella packaging manufactured from chemically recycled feedstock in contrast to mozzarella packaging solutions from fossil- or bio-based feedstock. Four flexible multi-layer packaging systems and one rigid mono-material packaging (tray) have been analysed. Chemically recycled materials as well as biomethane-based materials are all calculated via a (bio-) mass balance approach in this study.
In the life cycle models containing materials from chemically recycled feedstock an upstream system expansion via subtraction is applied which follows the guideline on Product Carbon Footprinting for the Chemical Industry recently published by Together for Sustainability (TfS, 2022). Overall, the study shows benefits of the flexible packaging formats over the rigid tray as well as the chemically recycled flexible over the conventional flexible multi-layer film mozzarella packaging solution from fossil feedstock with regard to climate change and fossil resource use, the upstream system expansion being a driving factor. For other impact categories such as acidification, particulate matter, and photochemical ozone formation, the chemically recycled multi-layer packaging shows disadvantages compared to a conventional multi-layer packaging due to the (negative) energy credits in the upstream system expansion functioning as an additional burden. Scenario analyses have been carried out to
further investigate the influence of selected parameters of this study. They cover assumptions on the different technologies applied (pyrolysis, purification, mechanical and chemical recycling), the grid mix, methodological choices with regard to the End-of-Life methodology.

In summary, none of the mozzarella packaging alternatives assessed in this study can clearly be considered environmentally preferable. Depending on the impact category that is being assessed, different alternatives show different advantages and disadvantages. However, looking at current and future global environmental challenges, climate change and the depletion of non-renewable resources are crucial for sustainable business and production practices. On these key measures, pyrolysis is shown to deliver significant potential benefits.

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