Strategic selection tool for thermoplastic materials in a renewable circular economy: Identifying future circular polymers

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Abstract

To progress towards a renewable circular economy for thermoplastic materials it is imperative to decouple from fossil feedstocks, to maximise looping strategies and to manufacture occasionally littered articles from readily biodegradable materials. This transition is complex due to the combination of stringent technical specifications that are required for ordinary plastic products and the demands that all end-of-life scenarios foist on these products. The presented strategic material selection tool for fast moving consumer goods in a renewable circular economy prioritises their suitability for the expected end-of-life fates and the contrived technical performance. This framework is tested for 17 common consumer articles and 21 biobased plastics. The strategic selection tool shows that consumer articles that are made from foamed and fibrous plastics, such as matrasses and textiles, can potentially be produced from biobased alternatives, such as biobased poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), poly(trimethylene terephthalate) (PTT), poly(butylene succinate) (PBS), poly(butylene succinate-co-adipate) (PBSA) and poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT). On the other hand, the tool also reveals that there are currently no adequate alternatives in barrier (food) packages and in elastomeric products such as tyres, soles of footwear and gloves. Biobased PET is a good polymer for beverage bottles provided that the leakage to the natural environment is minimised with an effective collection, reuse and recycling system. Although there are no viable single-biobased-polymeric alternatives for flexible packages to pack for instance dried foods, solutions could be developed in the form of multi-layered films of various biobased and biodegradable materials. But it would also imply that a dedicated new recycling technology needs to be developed for such multilayer films. The presented tool demonstrates that the technology is ready to start the transition towards a renewable circular economy for consumer articles such as matrasses, cushions, beverage bottles. Simultaneously, new biobased polymeric solutions need to be developed for multiple other applications such as tyres, footwear, gloves and flexible barrier packaging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-185
Number of pages24
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Volume38
Early online date18 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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