Evaluating Nationwide Supply Chain for Circularity of PET and Olefin Plastics

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PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate, #1) and olefin plastics including HDPE (High Density Polyethylene, #2), LDPE/LLDPE (Low Density/Linear Low-Density Polyethylene, #4) and PP (Polypropylene, #5) together comprise nearly 80% of the U.S. plastic market. Due to their high market share and extensive application in packaging these polymers have better potential for circularity than other polymer types. To understand the potential of future scenarios with higher recycling rates, supply chain scenarios for PET and olefin plastic packaging need to be analyzed with increased availability and collection of plastics. Currently there exists a knowledge gap to understand the circular supply chain on a national level. Performing a nationwide analysis introduces certain challenges such as variability in the plastic mix of the recycling stream in different municipalities, lack of collection of some types of plastics, regional differences in cost and estimating a national supply curve based on statelevel access rate and participation rate. Currently, a limited number of Plastic Reclaimers recycle the nation’s collected plastic involving transportation over long distances surpassing state boundaries. Modeling a nationwide scenario instead of regional/state based scenario will facilitate transportation beyond state boundaries for the development of a circular economy. A Mixed-integer Linear Programming model was developed, to identify the optimal location and capacity of the Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) nationwide subject to maximizing the profit margin of the industrial entities within the model. We considered three different scenarios including the base case scenario (S1) collecting 2.27 million metric tons/year as well as two additional scenarios with available plastic supply of 1.8 times (S2) and 2.2 times (S3) of the base case scenario. The model identified 166, 275 and 319 counties as potential MRF locations for scenarios S1, S2 and S3 respectively. Compared to the existing number of counties having MRFs in the US, the model results indicated a reduction of 38% of MRFs for S1. For S2 and S3, the number of counties with MRFs increased 3% and 20% respectively compared to counties currently with MRFs. The average profit remains constant between $180-$181/ton regardless of the increased plastic collection.

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Technology Innovation for the Circular Economy: Recycling, Remanufacturing, Design, System Analysis and Logistics


[9781394214297, 9781394214266]

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