Bier, J.M., Verbeek, C.J.R. & Lay, M.C. (2012). An ecoprofile of thermoplastic protein derived from blood meal Part 2: thermoplastic processing. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 17(3), 314-324.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/6232
Purpose The purpose of this research was to develop a nonrenewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions ecoprofile of thermoplastic protein derived from blood meal (Novatein thermoplastic protein; NTP). This was intended for comparison with other bioplastics as well as identification of hot spots in its cradle-to-gate production. In Part 1 of this study, the effect of allocation on the blood meal used as a raw material was discussed. The objective of Part 2 was to assess the ecoprofile of the thermoplastic conversion process and to compare the cradle-to-gate portion of the polymer's life cycle to other bioplastics. Methods Inventory was collected to aggregate nonrenewable primary energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Data were collected from a variety of sources including published papers, reports to government agencies, engineering models and information from a single blood meal production facility. Several assumptions regarding the thermoplastic conversion process were evaluated by way of a sensitivity analysis. Results The allocation procedure chosen for the impacts of farming and meat processing had the greatest effect on results. Excluding farming and meat processing, blood drying had the greatest contribution to nonrenewable energy use and GHGs, followed by the petrochemical plasticizer used. Other assumptions, such as scarcity of water or inclusion of pigments, although significant when considered for blood meal conversion to NTP alone, were found not to be significant when production of blood meal was included in the analysis. Qualitative differences were observed between NTP and other bioplastics. For example, the profiles of some other bio-based polymers were dominated by fermentation and polymer recovery processes. In the case of NTP, it is the production of the raw material used that is most significant, and thermoplastic modification has a relatively low contribution to GHGs and nonrenewable energy use. Conclusions For a truly attributional scenario, production of any ruminant animal products does have an associated GHG. Deriving this for blood meal on a mass-based allocation seems to indicate that NTP is less favorable than other cradle-to-gate bioplastic production systems from a global warming perspective. On the other hand, the motivation for developing the material in the first place was to make use of an existing waste product. If it is assumed that the magnitude of blood meal production is independent of fertilizer or plastics demand and, instead, reflects demand for major products such as meat, further development of NTP is justified.