Plastic from sugarcane and captured CO2Date: 07 June 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous
A study has demonstrated a new method for making plastics from sugarcane scraps and CO2, which is more durable than artificial plastics.
Packaging is a real problem in society, causing pollution, and taking up a lot of raw materials. There is still hope for this sugarcane-based process, especially as technologies continue to evolve and innovate.
The process has many steps, all that have been demonstrated before, and the end result is a plastic polymer called polyethylene furandicarboxylate, also known as PEF. This plastic is very similar to the PET used for water and soda bottles.
Since every step in the process has been done before, the study focuses on a life cycle analysis of the manufacturing process to compare exactly how this PEF method stacks up against the competition.
The process could start with something like the leftover plant material from sugarcane pressing. After a few reaction steps, which include the addition of some captured CO2 and some ethylene glycol produced from corn plants, you end up with a plastic polymer called polyethylene furandicarboxylate, otherwise known as PEF.
One area where the new process really shines is in the production of greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to the manufacturing of PET, PEF emits about one-third fewer greenhouse gases, and that is with the electricity required coming from natural gas.
And if you opt for processes that use food sugars rather than leftover plant material, you can even decrease the emissions further.
One drawback is that this PEF process costs more to produce than PET. The study estimates PEF production amounts to about $2,400 per ton, while conventional PET is produced for a mere $1,800 per ton.