Depolymerisation within a Circular Plastics System

Robbie A. Clark, Michael P. Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The societal importance of plastics contrasts with the carelessness with which they are disposed. Their superlative properties lead to economic and environmental efficiency, but the linearity of plastics puts the climate, human health, and global ecosystems at risk. Recycling is fundamental to transitioning this linear model into a more sustainable, circular economy. Amongst recycling technologies, chemical depolymerisation offers a route to virgin quality recycled plastics, especially when valorising complex waste streams poorly served by mechanical methods. However, chemical depolymerisation exist in a complex and interlinked system of end-of-life fates, with the complementarity of each approach key to environmental, economic, and societal sustainability. This review explores the recent progress made into the depolymerisation of five commercial polymers: poly(ethylene terephthalate), polycarbonates, polyamides, aliphatic polyesters and polyurethanes. Attention is paid not only to the catalytic technologies used to enhance depolymerisation efficiencies but also to the interrelationship with other recycling technologies and to the systemic constraints imposed by a global economy. Novel polymers, designed for chemical depolymerisation, are also concisely reviewed in terms of their underlying chemistry and potential for integration with current plastic systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Reviews
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • Depolymerisation
  • Chemical recycling
  • Circular Economy
  • Sustainability
  • plastic Waste

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