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Extramural Research

Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Chemical Recycling of Plastics to New End-Products

EPA Grant Number: U915951
Title: Chemical Recycling of Plastics to New End-Products
Investigators: Remias, Joseph E.
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2004
Project Amount: $74,410
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2001)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Fellowship - Chemistry and Materials Science



Plastics recycling becomes a consistently more pressing issue as landfill space becomes a premium and petroleum feedstocks are depleted. The direct recycling of plastics is difficult, however, because impurities from other plastics, contamination from other waste, and degradation of the collected plastics diminish the physical properties of the recycled materials. Instead, plastics typically are recycled into lower value materials lacking the structural and physical properties of the original material. Furthermore, current sorting techniques are too inefficient for economically feasible recycling. The objective of this research project is to develop a new method for recycling plastic waste into functionalized organic molecules.


The proposed process will expose plastic substrates to high temperatures and pressures of hydrogen and carbon monoxide in the presence of supported metal catalysts. The catalyst should serve to both hydrocrack and insert carbon monoxide into the substrate's bonds, thus converting plastic waste such as polyethylene to short-chain linear and branched aldehydes. Reaction products will be identified and quantified using both nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and gas chromatography. The functionalized organic molecules that are produced generally are more valuable than their alkane counterparts, making the process more useful than partial pyrolysis or simple hydrocracking. Furthermore, the increased value of the product will make it more competitive than recycling to new plastics because the price of virgin material generally is cheaper than the recycled counterpart.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, recycling, plastics recycling, plastics, chemical recycling, new-end products, landfill space, waste, organic molecules., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Waste, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Municipal, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, recycling, Hazardous Waste, Chemistry and Materials Science, Hazardous, Environmental Engineering, hazardous waste disposal, municipal waste plastics, polymeric waste, waste recycling, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, new end products, complex waste plastics particle mixtures, municipal waste, hazardous chemicals, plastics

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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