Tech

Upcycling plastic waste to more valuable materials can make you pay for recycling

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A team of researchers at the Center for Sustainable Circulation Technology (CSCT) at the University of Bath has developed a new and easy way to upcycl plastic waste at room temperature. Researchers hope that the new process will help make recycling more economically feasible.


Plastic waste, either in landfills or in the natural environment, now surpasses all living biomass (4 gigatons) and is one of the major environmental problems of the 21st century. While recycling rates are rising across Europe, traditional methods remain limited as the quality of the material deteriorates each time it is recycled due to harsh redissolving conditions.

Currently, CSCT researchers have developed a gentle and rapid chemical recycling process for polycarbonate, a robust class of plastic commonly used in construction and engineering.

Using a zinc-based catalyst and methanol, we were able to completely decompose commercially available poly (bisphenol A carbonate) (BPA-PC) beads within 20 minutes. room temperature..

The waste can then be converted to its chemical constituents, bisphenol A (BPA) and dimethyl carbonate (DMC), for storage. Product quality Over an infinite number of cycles.

Importantly, BPA recovery prevents the leakage of potentially harmful environmental pollutants, while DMC is a valuable green solvent and building block for other industrial chemicals.

Those results are published in ChemSusChemNotice that the process efficiency is improved and the conditions are mild compared to the previous method.

Promisingly, this catalyst is also resistant to BPA-PC (such as CDs) and other commercial sources of mixed waste feeds, such as other plastics (poly (lactic acid) (PLA) and poly (ethylene terephthalate)). ), While increasing industrial relevance. (PET)) At high temperature.

The team also demonstrated a completely cyclical approach to producing some renewable poly (ester-amide) (PEA) based on terephthalamide monomers obtained from waste PET bottles. These materials have excellent thermal properties and have the potential to be used in biomedical applications such as drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Professor Matthew Jones, Principal Investigator at the CSCT at the University of Bath, said: Plastic waste..

“When possible, it is important to target such products to facilitate and accelerate the implementation of new sustainable technologies through economic incentives.”

Jack Payne of CSCT, the lead author of the paper, said: “Plastics play an important role in realizing a low-carbon future, but current practices are unsustainable.

“From now on, it is essential to procure plastics from renewable raw materials, incorporate biodegradability / recyclability at the design stage, and diversify existing ones. waste Management strategy.

“Such future innovations should not be limited to new materials, but should include established products.

“Our method creates new opportunities for polycarbonate recycling. Mild conditions, Promotes a circular economy approach and helps keep carbon in a loop indefinitely. “

Currently, this technology has only been demonstrated on a small scale, but the team is currently working with collaborators at the University of Bath to optimize catalysts and scale up the process (300 mL).


A new way to recycle plant-based plastics instead of rotting in landfills


For more information:
Jack M. Payne et al, Versatile Chemical Recycling Strategy: Value-added Chemicals from Polyester and Polycarbonate Waste, ChemSusChem (2022). DOI: 10.1002 / cssc.202200255

Provided by
University of Bath

Quote: Upcycling plastic waste to more valuable materials can incur recycling costs (February 23, 2022).

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Upcycling plastic waste to more valuable materials can make you pay for recycling

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