ACS Omega. 2022 Oct 14;7(42):37757-37763. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.2c04734. eCollection 2022 Oct 25.
Enzymatic digestion is a promising alternative in the upconversion of plastic waste compared to traditional chemical recycling methods, because it warrants the use of milder conditions. However, enzymes are hardly able to penetrate the bulk of the plastic material; thus, a pretreatment is necessary to promote the reaction. In this study we investigate hydrothermal liquefaction as a thermal pretreatment of a commercial polyurethane before performing an enzymatic digestion. The feedstock is a rigid polyurethane foam. The structure and chemical composition of the feedstock were analyzed through FTIR analysis and solid-state 13C NMR. The polyurethane was then subjected to hydrothermal liquefaction using either ultrapure water or KOH as a basic catalyst. Enzymatic digestion was then performed on the organic fraction obtained from both experiments using a lipase extracted from Candida rugosa. The LC-MS analysis of the digests shows an increase in some signal intensities due to the degradation of oligomeric fragments. This new way of recycling allows the recovery of important chemicals such as quinolines and 4,4′-methylenedianiline. With this study we demonstrate that hydrothermal liquefaction coupled with enzymatic digestion is a suitable alternative for handling polyurethane waste.