Plastic Circular Economy via the Sustainable Management of Chemical Additives
Plastic growing demand and the increment in global plastics production have raised the number of spent plastics, out of which over 90% are either landfilled or incinerated. The U.S. generated over 35.7 million tons of plastic waste in 2018. These plastics contain 18,000 – 25 million tons of around 840 chemical additives, and 200,000 – 1 million tons of these additives exit the plastic end-of-life (EoL) stage into the environment. In addition, EoL activities like recycling, incineration, energy recovery, and landfilling release chemical additives that negatively affect the environment and human health.
This webinar will describe a novel generic analysis of the current U.S. EoL stage of plastic additives. The study consists of performing a qualitative and quantitative tracking of plastic chemical additives to estimate their potential environmental releases, life cycle inventories, occupational exposure, greenhouse gas emissions, energy footprint, and environmental impacts within the plastic EoL stage and activities. Also, this webinar will introduce a sensitivity analysis of future scenarios involving chemical recycling, increasing recycling rates, and chemical additive extraction. Although maximizing plastic recycling rates is an intuitive goal for enhancing material circularity, current recycling methods will require improvements through expanding chemical recycling, additive extraction, and minimizing additive releases to achieve high-quality plastics for future reuse. Finally, the potential hazards and risks identified in this research create an opportunity to design a safer closed-loop plastic recycling infrastructure to handle additives strategically and support sustainable materials management efforts to transform the U.S. plastic economy from linear to circular.
Dr. Gerardo J. Ruiz-Mercado is a Senior Research Chemical Engineer in the Office of Research and Development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Also, Gerardo is an Adjunct Professor in the Chemical Engineering Graduate program at Universidad del Atlántico – Colombia, an executive member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Environmental Division and the Sustainable Engineering Forum. A highly analytical leader with experience guiding research on corporate and government sustainability, pollution prevention and control, circular economy, and life cycle analysis initiatives. Also, Gerardo serves as a project manager responsible for overseeing environmental initiatives and enhancing business efficiency. Success managing diversity and inclusion programs for Hispanic professionals and collaborating with national and international stakeholders.
His publications and presentations include over 60 peer-reviewed articles, a book, and more than 150 talks at technical conferences and meetings. Moreover, he is a peer reviewer for 40 indexed journals, a dissertation committee member, and a mentor for Ph.D., MSc, and B.S. students. Gerardo is a recipient of the EPA Scientific and Technological Achievement Award 2021, 2015, 2014, and the 2022 Federal Service Excellence Diversity Award. Gerardo holds a Ph.D. from the University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez and a B.S. from Universidad del Atlántico, all in chemical engineering.