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TotalEnergies Corbion report identifies Luminy recycled PLA environmentally superior to virgin feedstock

#TotalEnergies Corbion report identifies Luminy recycled PLA environmentally superior to virgin feedstock

White PLA resins in hands.
(Image credit: TotalEnergies Corbion).

19 Jan 2024 — TotalEnergies Corbion has found that the advanced recycling of polylactic acid (PLA) as a production process has a lower environmental impact than its production from virgin feedstock. The company conducted a life-cycle assessment (LCA) for recycled Luminy PLA, utilizing waste streams as feedstock for a bio-based polyester.

Specifically, the company reports the global warming potential (GWP) of Luminy 30% rPLA, considering its biogenic carbon content, is 0.19 kgCO2/kg of PLA, whereas virgin Luminy PLA emits 0.51 kgCO2/kg of PLA.

Maelenn Ravard, regulatory and sustainability manager at TotalEnergies Corbion, stresses the significance of advanced recycling, stating, “depolymerizing PLA via hydrolysis is an energy-efficient process allowing us to close the loop and increase circularity for a bio-based material. The LCA results only confirm this statement.”

The report titled “Life cycle assessment of PLA through advanced recycling,” considered seven impact categories, including GWP, water consumption and land use. It finds that Luminy recycled PLA, integrating 20% and 30% recycled content, significantly mitigates impacts across these categories compared to virgin PLA, illustrating the environmental method’s benefits over traditional virgin production.

Recycling bio-based materials
The company’s assessment highlights the importance of considering the temporary carbon storage in products which is key for bio-based materials. The report emphasizes the role of biogenic carbon content in PLA by analyzing the carbon cycle for bio-based and fossil-based products.

Recycling PLA allows for a longer storage of this biogenic carbon, which is originally from the atmosphere. Notably, when factoring in biogenic carbon content, the GWP of 30% recycled PLA is reduced by 300 kg CO2/tPLA compared to virgin PLA.

The company’s new comprehensive analysis showcases results for the production stage of the material which can further be completed by the other stages of the material life cycle. Recycling bio-based materials has many advantages, including a reduced carbon footprint, the avoidance of agricultural impact and a sustainable end-of-life, asserts TotalEnergies Corbion.

Concurrent with the LCA results, the company’s recent announcement of its alignment with the UN Global Compact initiative reportedly reaffirms its commitment to sustainability. It says the collaboration further reinforces its adherence to universal sustainability principles, supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through responsible production practices and collaborative initiatives across its value chain.

Edited by Natalie Schwertheim

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