Single?stage chemical recycling of plastic waste to yield durable composites via a tandem transesterification?thiocracking process

Environmental contamination by plastic waste is a growing threat to the environment and human health. Unfortunately, most post?consumer plastics are still disposed of in landfills, even plastics that could be easily recycled via simple chemical processes. This disconnect between technology and implementation is partly due to the economic barrier posed by multi?step processes that convert plastic waste into commodity goods. There is an urgent need for green methods to convert plastic waste directly into marketable commodities via simple processes. Herein we report a simple, single?stage process to chemically recycle poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) to yield composites having thermal and mechanical properties that are competitive with commercial structural materials like Portland cement. In this protocol, a mixture of PET and geraniol are heated with elemental sulfur. In this process, transesterification between geraniol and PET with concomitant thiocracking of the PET backbone leads to the formation of a highly?crosslinked sulfur?PET?geraniol (SPG) network composite. The composite exhibited compressive strength (23.1?MPa) greater than that required for Portland cement to be used in building foundations. This new, single?stage chemical recycling strategy thus employs a bio?olefin and waste sulfur to convert PET waste into a durable composite that could serve as a sustainable alternative to traditional cements.

» Publication Date: 10/02/2023

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