The Chemical Recycling of Polyesters for a Circular Plastics Economy: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities

Matthew Jones, Jack Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

170 Citations (SciVal)
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Whilst plastics have played an instrumental role in human development, growing environmental concerns have led to increasing public scrutiny and demands for outright bans. This has stimulated considerable research into renewable alternatives, and more recently, the development of alternative waste management strategies. Herein, the aim was to highlight recent developments in the catalytic chemical recycling of two commercial polyesters, namely poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). The concept of chemical recycling is first introduced, and associated opportunities/challenges are discussed within the context of the governing depolymerisation thermodynamics. Chemical recycling methods for PLA and PET are then discussed, with a particular focus on upcycling and the use of metal-based catalysts. Finally, the attention shifts to the emergence of new materials with the potential to modernise the plastics economy. Emerging opportunities and challenges are discussed within the context of industrial feasibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4041-4070
Number of pages30
Issue number19
Early online date7 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the EPSRC for funding (EP/L016354/1) for a PhD studentship to JP.


  • catalysis
  • chemical recycling
  • circular economy
  • polyesters
  • upcycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Energy(all)


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