Making Plastic from Sugarcane Scrap and captured CO2

Plastic plays a major role in everything we need to do. Where ever you see you will see products using plastic. We are indirectly depending on the plastic for everything. But after usage? dumping which leading to a lot of pollution.

Durham University stated that they have discovered a process of making plastic using sugarcane and CO2 released. Making plastic bottles from waste organic material and CO2 captured from power plants. The economic analysis shows this process could even be cost-effective for making plastic bottles.

The process starts with 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’d end up with a plastic polymer called polyethylene furandicarboxylate also known as PEF. Functionally, it’s similar to the PET plastic used for water and soda bottles, denoted by the number 1 recycling symbol.

A detailed step by step process of manufacturing PEF bellow

Nature Sustainability, doi:10.1038/s41893-020-0549-y

In this process it include a lot steps, at the last the product will be polyethylene furandicarboxylate it is also called as PEF. It is similiar product as PET which is usally used in making bottles used in soda and cool drinks.

As we go into deep there are a lot of benefits using PEF the PET, PEF has very good barrier properties (hard to achieve with most bio-based polymers)

  • O2 barrier-6 times the PET barrier
  • Barrier to CO2-3 times better than PET
  • Barrier to H2O – 2 times better than PET
  • PEF also has mechanical properties
  • Higher Tg (temperature of transition from glass)
  • Lower melting point)
  • Modulus is higher
  • Better tensile strength
  • PEF requires fewer additives than PET
  • PEF can be recycled and incorporated into the PET recycling streams at up to 5% PEF with no effect on the recycled PET performance
  • Permits greater light weighting and superior thermal stability without heat-setting (can be hot filled at about 200° F)
  • PEF holds the potential to demonstrate cost efficiency as compared to PET

If you are interested in knowing the properties of PEF click here

Even though it has such great benefits it cost a little higher than that of PET. It costs 2400 USD per ton, it cost 1800 USD per ton for PET. Durham University claims it will try to make the process cost-effective. Hope the same to make the world cleaner, maybe a small step to greater achievement

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