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Sustainable Process Development for Polymer Precursor Based on Economic Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment Studies

Bapat, Susmit Sunil
Polymer Plastics have been an integral part of our existence for more than a quarter of a century now. The amount of plastic produced every day is becoming a matter of grave concern since most of it is non-biodegradable and originates from non-renewable fuel sources. It not only pollutes the environment over a longer period of time because of the difficulty to dispose it but also increases the carbon footprint. Biodegradable plastics originating from renewable sources, on the other hand, provide distinct advantage in terms of green design. Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) is a potential substitute for presently used plastics. This work presents the development of a sustainable process for the manufacture of highly pure lactic acid (99 wt. % on dry basis) which is used as PLA precursor. The process is based on a process patented by NCL, Pune and is simulated using Aspen Plus� version 8.2. Green Design principles have been used during process development. The process has been optimized using sensitivity analysis and optimization block in Aspen Plus. Detailed process economic analysis and optimization has been carried out using Aspen Integrated Economic Analysis along with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study in SimaPro. SUSTAINABILITY EVALUATOR has been used to assess overall sustainability of the process and to determine economic, environmental and social impacts.