Environmental assessment of emerging technologies: the case of biopolymers
Current efforts to mitigate climate change, using renewable resources and reducing waste, drives the development of new industrial processes. In this study we examine the technologies for conversion of biomass to plastics. There are basically two types of processes: the biotechnology based ones, some of which are commercially available and the thermochemical process ones we looked into in more detail. Indeed, the latest process routes, based on gasification and synthesis gas technologies, are potentially technically feasible, since all process units are currently either commercially available or in the pilot plant phase. In the study their economic and environmental feasibility are evaluated.
We evaluate the environmental attractiveness of this emerging technology using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. Both final environmental and economic evaluation are based on process modeling of the biomass to plastics route. The outcomes of the study are the environmental and economic assessments as such, but also a contribution to the on-going efforts to integrate LCA with process modeling and economic tools. We also expect to contribute to methodology development through the collection and documentation of feedbacks from environmental assessments of new, emerging technologies.
life cycle assessment