The results of a comprehensive life cycle analysis (LCA) for polystyrene, unveiled today by Styrenics Circular Solutions, unambiguously showed the benefits provided by recycling polystyrene at the end of life versus incineration and compared to virgin PS production.
A marked improvement in CO2 footprint was found for each of the processes investigated.
The LCA was performed for three different recycling processes and focused on closed loop recycling routes back to food contact quality by the German research institute Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH (NMB).
According to the LCA results, using a high purity mechanical process to recycle polystyrene feedstock from separate collection saves approximately 80% in CO2 emissions compared to incineration and conventional virgin polystyrene production. Dissolution technology yielded a reduction of some 75% in CO2 emissions, while the depolymerisation route provided savings of around 75% in CO2 emissions.
“We now have unambiguous, clear data that polystyrene is not only uniquely circular, but it also comes with a significantly reduced carbon footprint,” said Jens Kathmann, Secretary-General of SCS,
The methodology used by NMB followed the relevant international standards ISO 14040 / ISO 14044, and, said the institute, the results will be peer-reviewed and published soon. The researchers conducting the study used a conservative approach to calculate the CO2 emissions produced by recycling polystyrene to food-grade level.
“The ability to produce circular food-grade PS recyclate with all three major recycling technologies already makes PS stand out,” said Dr. Norbert Niessner, Global Head of R&D/IP at INEOS Styrolution and Chair of Technologies at SCS. He noted that not only did the LCA demonstrate the added benefits in terms of a significantly reduced CO2 footprint, but also that ‘more upside potential is in close reach, once the innovative recycling methods are scaled-up further and the announced commercial-scale plants are employed’.
SCS will be hosting a virtual event on Wednesday 30 June at 10:00 am CEST to put the positive LCA results in perspective and discuss their implications. The event will address how the favourable environmental footprint of recycled polystyrene via depolymerisation, dissolution and food contact mechanical recycling creates a further market pull for circular polystyrene. Advance registration is required.