Beyond Mechanical Recycling: Giving New Life to Plastic Waste

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2020 Sep 1;59(36):15402-15423. doi: 10.1002/anie.201915651. Epub 2020 Jun 25.


Increasing the stream of recycled plastic necessitates an approach beyond the traditional recycling via melting and re-extrusion. Various chemical recycling processes have great potential to enhance recycling rates. In this Review, a summary of the various chemical recycling routes and assessment via life-cycle analysis is complemented by an extensive list of processes developed by companies active in chemical recycling. We show that each of the currently available processes is applicable for specific plastic waste streams. Thus, only a combination of different technologies can address the plastic waste problem. Research should focus on more realistic, more contaminated and mixed waste streams, while collection and sorting infrastructure will need to be improved, that is, by stricter regulation. This Review aims to inspire both science and innovation for the production of higher value and quality products from plastic recycling suitable for reuse or valorization to create the necessary economic and environmental push for a circular economy.

Keywords: catalysis; chemical recycling; circularity; plastic waste; solvolysis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't