Chemical Recycling of Used PET by Glycolysis Using Niobia-Based Catalysts

ACS Eng Au. 2023 Jan 3;3(1):37-44. doi: 10.1021/acsengineeringau.2c00029. eCollection 2023 Feb 15.


Plastic production has steadily increased worldwide at a staggering pace. The polymer industry is, unfortunately, C-intensive, and accumulation of plastics in the environment has become a major issue. Plastic waste valorization into fresh monomers for production of virgin plastics can reduce both the consumption of fossil feedstocks and the environmental pollution, making the plastic economy more sustainable. Recently, the chemical recycling of plastics has been studied as an innovative solution to achieve a fully sustainable cycle. In this way, plastics are depolymerized to their monomers or/and oligomers appropriate for repolymerization, closing the loop. In this work, PET was depolymerized to its bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate (BHET) monomer via glycolysis, using ethylene glycol (EG) in the presence of niobia-based catalysts. Using a sulfated niobia catalyst treated at 573 K, we obtained 100% conversion of PET and 85% yield toward BHET at 195 °C in 220 min. This approach allows recycling of the PET at reasonable conditions using an inexpensive and nontoxic material as a catalyst.

PMID:36820227 | PMC:PMC9936547 | DOI:10.1021/acsengineeringau.2c00029


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