Braskem’s tech gives old shoes new life with recycling grant

Braskem, a leading producer of polyolefins in the Americas and a pioneer in biopolymers, has received a significant boost for its innovative EVA recycling technology. The company’s research partnership has been awarded a $504,000 Research, Demonstration, and Development (RD&D) grant from the REMADE Institute; a public-private partnership established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is a common plastic used in footwear soles, and its post-consumer waste poses a significant environmental challenge. Braskem’s technology offers a potential solution for recycling and reusing this material.

This dynamic crosslinking will produce secondary feedstock from recycled EVA as a sustainable solution for footwear.

Braskem Research Partnership Supports the U.S. Transition to a Circular Economy RD&D Partnership includes Braskem America, adidas, Allbirds, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Braskem is the largest polyolefins producer in the Americas and leading producer of biopolymers in the world, today announced Braskem’s polymer recycling technology research partnership has been awarded a $504,000 Research, Demonstration, and Development (RD&D) grant from the Reducing Embodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute, a public-private partnership established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

The winning RD&D project is focused on innovating a new pathway for recycling ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) as a sustainable materials solution for the footwear industry.  The project is a partnership between Braskem America, adidas, Allbirds, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). REMADE is the first institute in the U.S. dedicated to accelerating the nation’s transition to a Circular Economy.

Kimberly McLoughlin, Principal Engineer, Braskem, stated, “Braskem and REMADE share a vision for building a more sustainable future, all built upon the creation of a carbon neutral circular economy.  With a mutual passion for R&D-driven innovation, we are creating the next generation of manufacturing and materials science technologies.”

“We commend REMADE for its leadership in effectively bridging government and industry to accelerate the path forward to a more sustainable economy and society,” McLoughlin added.

The REMADE Institute enables the early-stage applied research and development of key industrial platform technologies that could dramatically reduce the embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with industrial-scale materials production and processing. By focusing its efforts on the technical and economic barriers that prevent greater material recycling, recovery, remanufacturing, and reuse, the REMADE Institute seeks to motivate industry investments to advance technology development and support the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem. 

REMADE-funded research projects seek to innovate industrial-scale materials production and processing, achieving multiple positive impacts among the following Target Technical Performance Metrics (TPMs), including:

  • Reducing primary feedstock consumed
  • Reducing secondary feedstock energy
  • Increasing embodied energy efficiency
  • Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Facilitating cross-industry reuse
  • Balancing cost and energy party

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, manufacturing accounts for 25% of U.S. energy consumption at a cost of approximately $150 billion. Based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, industry is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the nation, at 30%. By embracing the circular economy, REMADE’s investments ensure that America’s manufacturing sector remains globally competitive while moving the nation closer to meeting the clean energy goals set forth by the Biden-Harris Administration including achieving a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

This project aspires to reduce the waste generated by permanently cross-linked EVA, the rubbery material that forms the cushion of shoe midsoles, through the development of a dynamic crosslinking technology that facilitates both the direct reuse of process scrap and the recyclability of post-service parts.

The circular economy is a sustainable model that aims to minimize waste by keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extracting their maximum value while in use, and then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of a resource’s life cycle. Not only does this reduce environmental impact, but it also offers new business opportunities and economic benefits, supporting innovation, job creation, and global competitiveness.

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