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Greenhouse gas emissions halved, predicts life cycle assessment of recycled polystyrene from INEOS Styrolution

INEOS Styrolution, a sponsor of this year’s Plastic Free World Conference & Expo in Cologne on 9-10 November, has revealed the first results of a life-cycle assessment (LCA) analysis for depolymerized styrene according to the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards

The results confirm the developing story revealing polystyrene to be a valuable polymer contributing to the circular economy.

Two independent research projects resulted in a consistent picture for the carbon footprint of recycled polystyrene.

The first, a laboratory scale project, shows GHG savings of 37%

The making of styrene from post-consumer polystyrene waste shows a 37% lower CO2 footprint compared to fossil-based styrene. Further CO2 reduction is possible by adapting the energy mix.

The LCA analysis was done in the framework of the ResolVe project, a research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education, in collaboration with InVerTec, a non-profit organization associated with the University of Bayreuth. InVerTec is specialized in providing pilot plants for conceptual and lab-scale research. Upscaling and optimization of by-products allow for GHG savings up to 50%

Upscaling and optimization of by-products allow for GHG savings up to 50%

A detailed study completed by INEOS Styrolution, a commercial recycling partner and experts from the University of Manchester evaluated the GHG on commercial scale within a scope including polystyrene postconsumer waste collection/sorting, pre-treatment and extrusion/depolymerization/distillation.

The results of the analysis show a 50% lower carbon footprint than that of traditional virgin (fossil-based) styrene monomer production.

“After having received the ICIS Award 2019 for polystyrene from recycled styrene via depolymerization of recycled polystyrene, now we could for the first time prove that this technology is favorable regarding energy efficiency and CO2 footprint,” explained Norbert Niessner, global R&D/ Intellectual Property Director at INEOS Styrolution. “Polystyrene and depolymerization are made for the circular economy!”

The news is, feels Niessner, a significant confirmation of the valuable qualities of polystyrene. Combined the following features will lead to a significant reduction of post-consumer polystyrene waste ending up in landfills:

  • Proof of concept for depolymerization on lab scale;
  • Effective depolymerization of polystyrene is tolerant to contamination by other polymers (an earlier result of the ResolVe project);
  • Polystyrene proven to be one of the best sortable plastics in the waste stream;
  • Plans for first depolymerization plants in Europe and in the Americas.

The rescheduled Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2020 will take place at Cologne Messe, Germany, on Monday 9 November and Tuesday 10 November. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click . For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email

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