Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 301–307 | Cite as

Preliminary assessment of plastic waste valorization via sequential pyrolysis and catalytic reforming

  • Diego Iribarren
  • Javier Dufour
  • David P. Serrano
SPECIAL FEATURE: ORIGINAL ARTICLE Chemical Feedstock Recycling 9


In this article, a life cycle assessment approach is used to carry out a preliminary assessment of the environmental and energy performance of a specific chemical recycling and recovery system that supplies a variety of petrochemical blendstocks through the sequential pyrolysis and catalytic reforming of plastic wastes. Characterization results are presented for a selection of seven impact categories: abiotic depletion, global warming, acidification, eutrophication, ozone layer depletion, photochemical oxidant formation and cumulative non-renewable energy demand. From a combined environmental and energy perspective, the results suggest the suitability of this system for plastic waste valorization. However, improvement actions aimed at reducing the thermal energy demand and mitigating direct emissions to the air should be undertaken. Furthermore, the environmental profiles of the proposed petrochemical blendstocks are compared with those of conventional energy products. A comparison among this chemical recycling and recovery system and two conventional management practices (municipal incineration and landfilling) is also addressed. The results show that the considered system could entail relevant environmental and energy benefits when compared to conventional energy systems and waste management strategies.


Chemical recycling and recovery Cumulative energy demand Environmental impact Life cycle assessment Plastic waste 



This research has been supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (TRA2009-0111).


  1. 1.
    Clift R (1997) Clean technology—the idea and the practice. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 68:347–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Perugini F, Mastellone ML, Arena U (2005) A life cycle assessment of mechanical and feedstock recycling options for management of plastic packaging wastes. Environ Prog 24:137–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    San Miguel G, Serrano DP, Aguado J (2009) Valorization of waste agricultural polyethylene film by sequential pyrolysis and catalytic reforming. Ind Eng Chem Res 48:8697–8703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Aguado J, Serrano DP, Escola JM (2008) Fuels from waste plastics by thermal and catalytic processes: a review. Ind Eng Chem Res 47:7982–7992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Panda AK, Singh RK, Mishra DK (2010) Thermolysis of waste plastics to liquid fuel—a suitable method for plastic waste management and manufacture of value added products—a world prospective. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 14:233–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    International Organization for Standardization (2006) ISO 14040:2006 Environmental management—life cycle assessment—principles and frameworkGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    International Organization for Standardization (2006) ISO 14044:2006 Environmental management—life cycle assessment—requirements and guidelinesGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Aguado J, Serrano DP, San Miguel G, Castro MC, Madrid S (2007) Feedstock recycling of polyethylene in a two-step thermo-catalytic reaction system. J Anal Appl Pyrolysis 79:415–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Aguado J, Serrano DP, Sotelo JL, van Grieken R, Escola JM (2001) Influence of the operating variables on the catalytic conversion of a polyolefin mixture over HMCM-41 and nanosized HZSM-5. Ind Eng Chem Res 40:5696–5704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Scheirs J, Kaminsky W (2006) Feedstock recycling and pyrolysis of waste plastics: converting waste plastics into diesel and other fuels. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Frischknecht R, Jungbluth N, Althaus HJ, Doka G, Heck T, Hellweg S, Hischier R, Nemecek T, Rebitzer G, Spielmann M, Wernet G (2007) Overview and methodology, ecoinvent report No. 1, v2.0. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Althaus HJ, Chudacoff M, Hischier R, Jungbluth N, Osses M, Primas A (2007) Life cycle inventories of chemicals, ecoinvent report No. 8, v2.0. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dones R, Bauer C, Bolliger R, Burger B, Faist Emmenegger M, Frischknecht R, Heck T, Jungbluth N, Röder A, Tuchschmid M (2007) Life cycle inventories of energy systems: results for current systems in Switzerland and other UCTE countries, ecoinvent report No. 5, v2.0. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Doka G (2007) Life cycle inventories of waste treatment services, ecoinvent report No. 13, v2.0. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ekvall T, Finnveden G (2001) Allocation in ISO 14041—a critical review. J Clean Prod 9:197–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Dufour J, Iribarren D (2012) Life cycle assessment of biodiesel production from free fatty acid-rich wastes. Renew Energy 38:155–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Iribarren D, Peters JF, Dufour J (2012) Life cycle assessment of transportation fuels from biomass pyrolysis. Fuel 97:812–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hischier R, Weidema B, Althaus HJ, Bauer C, Doka G, Dones R, Frischknecht R, Hellweg S, Humbert S, Jungbluth N, Köllner T, Loerincik Y, Margni M, Nemecek T (2009) Implementation of life cycle impact assessment methods, ecoinvent report No. 3, v2.1. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Guinée JB, Gorrée M, Heijungs R, Huppes G, Kleijn R, de Koning A, van Oers L, Wegener A, Suh S, Udo de Haes HA (2001) Life cycle assessment—an operational guide to the ISO standards. Centre of Environmental Science, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Goedkoop M, de Schryver A, Oele M, Durksz S, de Roest D (2010) Introduction to LCA with SimaPro 7. PRé Consultants, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Jungbluth N (2007) Erdöl, ecoinvent report No. 6-IV, v2.0. Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, DübendorfGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diego Iribarren
    • 1
  • Javier Dufour
    • 1
    • 2
  • David P. Serrano
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.IMDEA Energía InstituteMóstolesSpain
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Energy Technology, ESCETRey Juan Carlos UniversityMóstolesSpain

Personalised recommendations