University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Multi-layer plastic films are fascinating materials that are widely used for food packaging; these films are strategically designed to harness specific protection properties of different polymers (e.g., oxygen, moisture, and temperature barriers). These properties are essential to facilitate food storage and distribution in supply chains, as they enable long shelf lives, reduce refrigeration use, reduce food waste, and facilitate food accessibility. Unfortunately, multi-layer plastic films cannot be mechanically recycled using traditional approaches. As a result, large amounts of multi-layer films typically end up in landfills or are combusted. Solvent-based approaches have emerged as a promising alternative to separate and recycle the constituent polymers of multi-layer films. This process uses a series of solvent washes to dissolve and precipitate polymers in a targeted manner. Quantifying the economic and environmental benefits of solvent-based recycling processes is essential for their deployment and for enabling more circular economies.
In this talk, she will present a computational framework to conduct a detailed economic and environmental analysis of solvent-based recycling processes. The proposed framework integrates process simulation models, life cycle assessment methods, molecular simulations, and experimental data. Their analysis highlights critical components of the processes (specific unit operations and solvents) and of the multi-layer films (specific polymer layers) that have the highest economic and environmental impacts. She will also discuss how their findings are currently guiding advances in process, product, and supply chain designs that are more sustainable.
Dr. Aurora del Carmen Munguía-López is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the Technical Institute of Celaya and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michoacan in Mexico. Her research interests include mathematical optimization, sustainability, social justice, and process modeling. Aurora currently participates in the Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics (CUWP) center, which is a multi-disciplinary center funded by the Department of Energy that aims to develop scalable technologies and solutions to mitigate plastic waste. Aurora is also passionate about fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.