Study shows new polymer PEF has lower carbon impact than fossil-based PET

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A lifecycle assessment of a new polymer called PEF has found that is had a lower carbon impact than fossil-based PET.

The peer reviewed study was conducted by Germany’s nova-Institute and looked at the polyethylene furanoate (PEF) product developed by Dutch company Avantium.

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It found that the 100% renewable carbon used in PEF instead of fossil fuels used to make PET would result in significant greenhouse gas reductions – by as much as 33%.

Avantium has developed a technology to convert plant-based sugars into this fully recyclable polymer that can be recycled in existing PET streams. It can also be separately recycled using mechanical or chemical technologies.

The building blocks of PEF is a chemical called 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) that can be produced from fructose extracted from wheat, corn, sugar beet and potentially agricultural and forestry waste streams.

PEF has a 12 degrees higher heat resistance than PET and greater strength than PET.

It can be used for bottles and also multilayer packaging. For multilayer bottles, the study found that replacing the typical 7% polyamide layer with 10% PEF in PET bottles resulted in 37% greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to increased recyclability.

Avantium has begun construction of a 5,000 tonnes per year facility to produce FDCA in Delfzijl in The Netherlands.