A PLA based Circular Economy (PLACE)
Project Objective: The goal of the project is to develop knowledge and expertise so that a fully circular chain of PLA end products can be realized. Within the knowledge development project, all steps in the chain from production of circular PLA products to recycling into reusable raw materials will be examined.
Project Partners: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, CuRe Technology, Donkersloot Tapijt, Kiduara Global Impact, Empower
Project Timeline: 16 November 2021 – 30 September 2023
Due to the current climate problem, various solutions need to be explored to facilitate and realize the shift to a circular economy. To achieve the Dutch climate ambitions, it is essential to reduce CO2 emissions from abiotic sources. An energy transition, combined with a bio-based/circular carbon economy for materials, seems necessary to achieve the ambitions. It is important that raw materials are used efficiently, fossil raw materials are reduced and emissions of CO2 and greenhouse gases are minimized, materials must be synthesized from renewable raw materials and that waste is made into raw materials or products again. This will result in the reduction and prevention of emissions, which reduces negative consequences for humans and animals.
Within this project, the entire circular chain, including the recycling of post-consumer PLA, will therefore be investigated. Current recycling routes are mainly focused on polyolefins and polyesters, however PLA as a bio-based polyester has great potential to meet the growing demand for bio-based polymers. It will be important that the entire production chain is examined and that a fully circular flow is created, in which the entire ‘loop’ is circular and the flows can be tracked and monitored digitally. Research will take place into both a chemical and thermochemical route of PLA recycling, following the entire cycle of real products with contaminants. The relevant properties of the polymers from recycled monomers will be investigated. Moreover, the synthesis of unique copolymers of PLA, of importance for e.g., medical applications, will be pursued by simultaneous ring-opening polymerization of the lactide (from PLA), whereby discarded PLA is upcycled into new copolymers. The described re/upcycling routes will be screened on an experimental scale (TRL 3), followed by a techno-economic evaluation and an LCA analysis of the most promising routes to determine the economic prospects.