Plastic Parallel Pathways Platform- 4P Model

Research output: NRELPresentation


The U.S. generates 42 million metric tons of plastic waste each year - the most of any country - of which less than 9% is recycled. This represents an estimated loss of $2.3 billion and 3.4 EJ embodied energy per year. Plastic use reduction, reuse and recycling are thus increasingly important, but making informed policy and research decisions within this space can be challenging given the diverse range of available solutions. Various recycling and waste management options are available for plastics, such as conversion into energy (incineration, pyrolysis, gasification), conversion to lower- or higher-grade plastics (mechanical recycling, chemical or enzymatic depolymerization processes, dissolution) or up-cycling to feedstock chemicals (photo/electro/catalytic methods, pyrolysis, gasification). While many previous publications have investigated a subset of these options, there is currently no modelling platform that can quantitatively assess and compare the economic and environmental impacts of all these different plastic management pathways and their respective products simultaneously. To directly compare the benefits and disadvantages of plastic-to-x technologies, we propose a novel analysis framework: the Plastic Parallel Pathways Platform (4P). 4P will model a systems analysis framework for capturing plastic material flows processed via different waste management scenarios. The total economic cost and greenhouse gas emissions (as well as additional economic, energetic, and environmental metrics indicators) of a given scenario will be calculated enabling comparison to other scenarios, thereby informing decisions on plastic recycling pathways.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the ACLCA 2023 Conference, 26-29 September 2023, Burlington, Vermont

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-84480


  • circular economy
  • life cycle assessment
  • recycling


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