Polymer comparison based on CO2

Based on massbalance approach, VAE “ECO” polymers can already be available with a Co2 footprint of roughly 1.7Kg CO2 per KG VAE polymer (source: https://www.octima.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/12_Cui-Wacker.pdf)

Based on some basic internet research, the following table can be made with the CO2 footprint of various polymers:

PolymerAbbreviationCO2 footprint (kg CO2e/kg polymer)
Polyethylene terephthalatePET2.3
Acrylonitrile butadiene styreneABS3.1
Vinyl acetate-ethyleneVAE1.7
Polyvinyl acetatePVAC1.9

How sustainable are these polymers?

To choose a sustainable polymer, several properties might be considered

  • The source of the raw materials: whether they are renewable (such as biomass) or non-renewable (such as fossil fuels).
  • The energy and emissions involved in the polymerization process: whether they are low or high, and whether they can be reduced by using catalysts, recycling, or renewable energy sources.
  • The recyclability and biodegradability of the polymer: whether it can be easily reused, recovered, or degraded by natural processes, without leaving harmful residues or microplastics.
  • The functionality and durability of the polymer: whether it meets the performance requirements of the application, and whether it can extend the lifespan of the product or reduce the need for replacement.


Based on these criteria, some examples of polymers that are considered more sustainable than others are:

  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs): a family of biodegradable and biocompatible polymers produced by bacterial fermentation of organic waste or renewable feedstocks. PHAs can be used for packaging, medical devices, and bioplastics.
  • Polylactic acid (PLA): a biodegradable and compostable polymer derived from corn starch or sugarcane. PLA can be used for food packaging, textiles, and 3D printing.
  • Polyethylene furanoate (PEF): a bio-based and recyclable polymer made from furan dicarboxylic acid and ethylene glycol. PEF has similar properties to PET, but with better barrier and thermal properties. PEF can be used for beverage bottles, films, and fibers.

There are more sustainable polymers available, and there may be trade-offs and challenges involved in their production and disposal. Therefore, it is important to consider the whole life cycle of the polymer and the product, and to compare it with alternative materials and solutions.