PEF plastic synthesized from industrial carbon dioxide and biowaste

Abstract

Polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF) is considered as a renewable-based solution to its fossil-based counterpart polyethylene terephthalate (PET). However, due to its lengthy and energy-intensive production process, PEF has not been established at a commercial scale. Here we present a new study on PEF produced from industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and non-food-derived biomass to provide an alternative for PET. We assess PEF production from an energy consumption, environmental impacts and production cost point of view at an industrial scale using mass and energy balance, life-cycle assessment and payback period. The results show that emissions and energy consumption can be reduced up to 40.5% compared with PET. Abiotic depletion (fossil) (6.90 × 104 MJ), global-warming potential (3.75 × 103 kg CO2-equivalent) and human toxicity potential (2.18 × 103 kg 1,4-dichlorobenzene equivalent) are the three most substantial impacts in producing one tonne of PEF. By applying optimal design and mature technology, PEF produced from industrial CO2 and biowastes could be a feasible and competitive substitute for PET and other materials.

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Fig. 1: PEF production pathways.
Fig. 2: The PEF production pathway from wastes and industrially captured CO2.
Fig. 3: Comparison of performance of various bioplastics, including PEF.
Fig. 4: Environmental impact of the new PEF pathway.
Fig. 5: Investment cost and payback period based on various plant scales.
Fig. 6: Production cost of the new PEF pathway.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by CCS from Industrial clusters and their Supply chains (CCSInSupply) funded by Engineering and Physical Science Research Council of UK (EP/N024567/1).

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Authors

Contributions

L.J., A.G.-D., J.L.-C., A.M., A.P.R. and A.J.S. designed the study. L.J., A.G.-D. and J.L.-C. provided the analysis. L.J., A.G.-D. and J.L.-C. interpreted the data and wrote the paper. L.J. finalized the writing of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to L. Jiang.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–4, Tables 1–13, Notes 1–3, and refs. 1–24.

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Jiang, L., Gonzalez-Diaz, A., Ling-Chin, J. et al. PEF plastic synthesized from industrial carbon dioxide and biowaste. Nat Sustain 3, 761–767 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0549-y

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