E3P: Decision sequencing to end end-of-life plastics

Eliminating End-of-life Plastics requires technological advances to maximize recycling and recovery, behavioral understanding to influence consumer attitude, and economic approaches to incentivize extension of product life. Each alternative involves trade-offs in its social acceptability, economic feasibility, environmental sustainability, and circularity. The overall goal of this multidisciplinary project is to develop holistic and systematic methods and tools for assessment, design, and innovation toward Sustainable and Circular E3P (SCE3P). To accomplish this, the project team will conduct synergistic research in polymer chemistry, reaction engineering, and molecular simulation to determine properties of depolymerization and valorization processes under practical conditions of contamination; process design to model the cost and physical flows of current and emerging technologies; supply network modeling to determine the effects on the wider chemical industry; behavioral studies to discern and influence the role of consumers; life cycle and circularity assessment to estimate environmental effects across global value chains. The resulting framework will consider the entire plastics life cycle, including thousands of combinations of alternatives at each step to select the “best” pathway. Our focal context will be the food services industry.

Our lab will focus on consumer behavior and decision-making in this context, in particular advancing knowledge on behavioral spillover by examining the effects of decision sequencing throughout the lifecycle of products and their packaging, and accounting for multiple (vs. pairwise) spillovers.

Methods: Our consumer behavior studies will use a combination of survey and experimental methods, including a field study.

Significance: Our lab’s focus will improve understanding of spillover effects of other decisions on choice of plastic products and their disposal. In the broader project, new data and methods will be developed for assessing and designing circular systems, evaluating their resilience, and identifying hotspots to focus innovation. Application to food services will guide progress toward goals of zero waste and carbon neutrality. The outcome of this project is to be a software prototype of the SCE3P framework, which will be disseminated widely via a university-based website, webinars to industry and other stakeholders, and university courses.

Project Phase: Research protocol development.

Collaborators: Dr. Bhavik Bakshi (Project PI, OSU Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), Dr. Li-Chiang Lin (OSU Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), Dr. David Allen (UT Austin Dept. of Chemical Engineering),Dr. Philip Savage (Penn State Dept. of Chemical Engineering),  Dr. Christian Pester Penn State Dept. of Chemical Engineering)

Funding acknowledgement: National Science Foundation Grant Number 2029397.

*This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 2029397. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.