Canadian Plastics: ‘Breakthrough’ process boosts plastics recycling by transforming PE into PP
by Canadian Plastics
Developed by scientists at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Dow, the new process can reduce carbon emissions.
Working with chemical maker Dow, scientists from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Santa Barbara have developed what’s being described as a breakthrough process to transform the most widely produced plastic – polyethylene (PE) – into the second-most widely produced plastic, polypropylene (PP), which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
The new study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society announces a series of coupled catalytic reactions that transform PE, which is #2 and #4 plastic that make up 29 per cent of the world’s plastic consumption, into the building block propylene that’s the key ingredient to produce PP, also known as #5 plastic that accounts for close to 25 per cent of the world’s plastic consumption.
This study establishes a proof-of-concept for upcycling PE plastic with more than 95 per cent selectivity into propylene. The researchers have built a reactor that creates a continuous flow of propylene that can be converted into PP easily using current technology, which makes this discovery scalable and rapidly implementable.