With a negative carbon footprint from cradle to gate, the study substantiates the biopolymer's potential to mitigate the impacts of global warming
Reinforcing its commitment to sustainable development, Braskem, the largest resin producer in the Americas and the world's leading producer of biopolymers, contracted an exclusive study in partnership with its suppliers to assess the environmental impact of its I'm greenTM Polyethylene, also known as Green Plastic, and to better understand its contributions to the chain. The results indicate that Braskem's biopolymer made from sugarcane ethanol removes 2.15 kg of CO2 for each kilogram of Green Plastic produced. Furthermore, 80% of the energy consumed in the entire process comes from renewable sources.
What differentiates this product made from sugarcane from fossil-based products is the use of renewable feedstock, which is derived from the biogenic carbon found in the green polyethylene that is captured during the sugarcane development phase.
The negative footprint also reflects the reality of Brazil's sugarcane and ethanol industry. Commonly planted on degraded pasture land, sugarcane helps recover the soil and consequently increase its carbon content. Moreover, sugarcane bagasse, a waste product from the crushing process, is often used to generate electric power to supply the entire ethanol production process, which makes it energy self-sufficient, while any surplus power is sent to the grid, adding clean energy to Brazil's energy matrix.
It's important to note also that 90% of sugarcane cultivation and harvesting in Brazil is concentrated in the country's Center-South region, which is located more than 1,200 miles from the Amazon Region. The expansion of planted areas is regulated by the Sugarcane Agro-ecological Zoning Policy, a regulatory framework implemented in 2009 by the federal government that prohibits planting in areas with high levels of biodiversity.
"The study shows the particularities of Brazil's sugar-ethanol industry and how they contribute to the biopolymer's sustainability. The sugarcane industry has been working towards sustainable practices and it has already been shown that the efficient use of waste, the generation of renewable energy and prioritizing biodiversity can be positively transformed into environmental benefits for Green Plastic," explained Alexandre Elias, Director of Renewable Chemicals at Braskem. "This study also marks the conclusion of an important phase in the assessment of the bio-based polyethylene's performance. So we hope we're now better prepared to provide our clients with relevant information to support their decision-making process and the development of products that bring new attributes related to sustainability."
Braskem hired the British consulting firms E4tech and LCAworks, which specialize in conducting life cycle assessments for the sustainable energy and materials industries, to conduct the assessment, which also featured the participation of Brazilian experts with experience in conducting LCAs for the local ethanol industry. The study was undertaken in accordance with the guidelines of the standard ABNT ISO14040 and included an external review of results in which three international experts participated.
LCA - Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product that considers the stages from extraction of raw materials from nature input into the production system to the manufacturing of the final product. The analysis enables Braskem and its clients to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact over all lifecycle phases of its products.
With continental dimensions, Brazil enjoys a favorable scenario for developing biopolymers. The country not only is a pioneer in the research and development of biofuels, but also has the world's largest river basin, intense solar irradiation and a diversified climate.
To conduct the LCA, Braskem worked closely with its suppliers and process engineers to collect primary data for the study that made it possible to conduct a study using real data to represent the time-bound, geographic and technological reality in Brazil of the green plastic production process.
The study was presented at the 8th European Bioplastics Conference, an association representing the bioplastics industry in Europe and with member companies around the world. Over the course of 2014, the study will also be presented in specific forums in Brazil and abroad.