After many years dedicated to research and development, Braskem conducted a life cycle assessment using primary data to consolidate and understand the environmental impact of the company's 'I'm green' polyethylene. Its negative footprint brings attention to the renewable energy sources used.
Biobased polyethylene is a thermoplastic resin produced from ethylene, which is made from sugarcane ethanol, and is a 100% renewable raw material that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The resin, the properties of which are identical to those of conventional polyethylene, is extremely versatile in terms of applications, and it is also recyclable. This has positioned Braskem as the only Brazilian company to appear on the 2014 Most Innovative Companies list from US magazine Fast Company, one of the most respected publication in the innovation arena. Applying biobased polyethylene as an alternative raw material is an opportunity to enhance product and brand value by delivering an innovative and sustainable packaging solution to the market.
Starting this year, green LDPE grades will expand the possibilities for new applications beyond the existing green HDPE and green LLDPE offerings. Currently, Braskem has commercial and technical teams based in Brazil, Europe and the US, and it is distributed through a global supply chain.
Reinforcing its commitment to sustainable development, Braskem, the largest resin producer in the Americas and a world leader in the production of biopolymers, conducted a unique study, in partnership with its suppliers, to assess the environmental impact of its biobased polyethylene - I'm green. The results of the life cycle assessment (LCA) study indicate that Braskem's biopolymer made from ethanol captures 2.15kg of CO2 equivalent to every 1kg of green plastic produced. Moreover, 80% of the energy consumed in the process comes from a renewable source.
The negative footprint is also a reflection of the reality of the sugarcane and ethanol industry in Brazil. Commonly planted in areas of degraded pasture, sugarcane contributes to the recovery and consequently increases oil carbon content. Moreover, sugarcane bagasse, the residue from the milling process, is commonly used to generate electricity that not only powers the entire ethanol producing process but, also, the remaining energy is sent to the national grid, contributing to the increased levels of renewable energy available within the Brazilian energy matrix. It is also important to note that 90% of the cultivation and planting of sugarcane in Brazil is concentrated in the south-central region of the country, located over 2,500km away from the Amazon region.
With continental dimensions, Brazil has a favourable environment for the development of biopolymers. Besides being a pioneer in the research and development of biofuels, the country has the largest watershed in the world, intense solar radiation and a diverse climate. To guarantee good quality data to perform the LCA, Braskem has worked in cooperation with its suppliers and process engineers for primary data collection. This allows specific temporal, geographical and technological conditions of the production process of green plastic.
The LCA is a technique for assessing the potential environmental impacts associated with a product throughout its life cycle, which means from the extraction of raw materials, through transportation, the production process, and recycling and/or disposal. Braskem's study applied a cradle-to-gate boundary demonstrating the impact from the production of the raw material until the factory gate - the biobased polyethylene production process.
Braskem commissioned the UK consultancies LCA Works and E4tech, specialists in LCA studies for bioenergy and biomaterials, to carry out the study, and also involved Brazilian ethanol and LCA specialists to guarantee a Brazilian perspective on the study. The study applied ABNT ISO 14040 guidelines and included a third-party review with the participation of three international experts.
This analysis allows Braskem and its customers to understand the potential environmental impact throughout all stages of the product's life cycle.