CE.20.019 – Value-added Recycling of Plastic: An Integrated Solution Towards Carbon Circularity

Route: Circular economy

Cluster question: 052 How can we create a truly circular economy so that industrial goods manufacturing depends less on primary raw materials?

It is hard to imagine a modern society that would not make use of plastics. Food packaging, vehicle parts, building materials and consumer goods all rely on the versatile and outstanding performance of plastic materials. Its use comes at a significant societal cost in the form of dependency on fossil feedstocks, a throwaway economy due to the absence of circular carbon materials, and a serious threat to the environment and health, e.g. as a result of microplastics dispersion. Current plastics recycling processes inherently yield products of downgraded quality. A circular economy for plastics could become reality if they can be chemically recycled: this requires chemical recovery of high-value compounds that, in turn, can be used to synthesize new materials and other products. The challenge is to develop a new thought framework for lossless plastics recycling that will inspire advancement in a manifold of fields, including but not limited to catalysis, dissolution chemistry, complex fluids, polymer science, separation technology, pyrolysis, materials development, carbon recoverability, energy consumption, life cycle analysis and process scalability, as well as business economics and (inter)national legislation. This consortium will take up the challenge of exploring and developing routes to chemically recycle plastics products to yield separate streams of reusable organic compounds (monomers and polymer chains) and additives (minerals and functional additives). Following routes (see figure) are considered (1) dissolution of polymers; (2) conversion of polymers yielding virgin monomers or oligomers and (3) (partial) cracking of polymers. Routes that only yield low-value building blocks (e.g. pyrolysis or syngas production) are not targeted. The consortium will include the recovery of (legacy) additives (minerals, metals and halogens), business model development and the study of socio-economic barriers, i.e. with targeted collection infrastructure and acceptance of recycled products to enable a circular economy for plastics.


chemical recycling, materials & circularity, Plastics

Other organisations

Hogeschool Utrecht, TNO


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. ir. B.M. (Bert) Weckhuysen
E-mail b.m.weckhuysen@uu.nl
Website https://www.uu.nl/medewerkers/BMWeckhuysen