Plastic is a material that today predominates in the manufacture of a very wide variety of objects. Apart from the great problem that has caused the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment, the use of raw materials such as oil and the emission of polluting gases during its production process, are other aspects that the industry has as a challenge to improve.
Betting on the efficient combination of different technologies, a scientific team developed a new type of plastic that is climate neutral throughout its life cycle, whose production requires less energy consumption in its process and represents equal or lower costs.
A plastic that does not pollute? Scientists claim that it is possible
An international research team, comprised of professionals from ETH Zurich, RWTH Aachen University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, developed a new computational model of global plastic production and disposal.
Under this model, the scientists after the study were able to demonstrate that it is possible to produce plastics that have a net balance of zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout their life cycle and are also economical.
To give rise to this system, the researchers designed a combined system of three methodologies: plastic recycling, the production of this material from biomass and from CO2, through the capture and use of carbon.
According to the figures they share in their research report, recently published by the magazine Science, the key lies in using as much recycled plastic as possible as raw material, complementing the other two manufacturing methods.
By properly combining the three technologies used as the basis in this system, the amount of energy required to produce plastic can be reduced between 34% and 53% compared to current fossil-based manufacturing methods, whose production chain includes a significant share of carbon capture and storage, especially in those industries where plastic products tend to burn at the end of their life cycle.
Plastic has multiplied its consumption 20 times between 1964 and 2014, rising from 15 to 311 million tons per year in that period, according to the ETH Zürich in the Article that presents this recent development. In that space, André Bardow, a member of the teaching staff of that university and main author of the research, points out that given the emergence of these advances, the next steps to achieve progress depend directly on those who have the political responsibility to take decisions about it. “We should not think about the different technologies for the manufacture of plastic individually, because there is great potential in combining them in an intelligent way”said the researcher at his site.
The researchers say that in the future, the manufacture of plastic could be reduced if initiatives like this are adopted. As a plus point, in this case it stands out its lower production cost, attributed to the recycling processes involved in manufacturing. «The lower energy demand may seem contradictory, but it is the result of the amount of energy that recycling saves throughout the life cycle »Bardow pointed out.