Beyond Mechanical Recycling: Giving New Life to Plastic Waste

Ina Vollmer, Michael J.F. Jenks, Mark C.P. Roelands, Robin J. White, Toon van Harmelen, Paul de Wild, Gerard P. van der Laan, Florian Meirer, Jos T.F. Keurentjes, Bert M. Weckhuysen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

    829 Citations (Scopus)
    651 Downloads (Pure)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15402-15423
    Number of pages22
    JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
    Issue number36
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


    • catalysis
    • chemical recycling
    • circularity
    • plastic waste
    • solvolysis


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