Esterases have emerged as important biocatalysts for enzyme-based polyester recycling of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) to terephthalic acid (TPA) and ethylene glycol (EG). Here, we present process modeling, techno-economic, life cycle, and socio-economic impact analyses for an enzymatic PET depolymerization-based recycling process, which we compare to virgin TPA manufacturing. We predict that enzymatically recycled TPA (rTPA) can be cost-competitive and highlight key areas to achieve this. In addition to favorable long-term socio-economic benefits, rTPA can reduce total supply-chain energy use by 69-83% and greenhouse gas emissions by 17-43% per kg of TPA. An economy-wide assessment for the US estimates that the TPA recycling process can reduce environmental impacts by up to 95%, while generating up to 45% more socio-economic benefits, also relative to virgin TPA production. Sensitivity analyses highlight impactful research opportunities to pursue towards realizing biological PET recycling and upcycling.
- techno-economic analysis
- life cycle assessment
- enzymatic PET depolymerization
- plastics recycling