Catalytic Transformation of Waste Polymers to Fuel Oil



Waste not, want not: The increase in waste polymer generation, which continues to exceed recycle, represents a critical environmental burden. However, plastic waste may be viewed as a potential resource and, with the correct treatment, can serve as hydrocarbon raw material or as fuel oil, as described in this Minireview.

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Effective waste management must address waste reduction, reuse, recovery, and recycle. The consumption of plastics continues to grow, and, while plastic recycle has seen a significant increase since the early 1990s, consumption still far exceeds recycle. However, waste plastic can be viewed as a potential resource and can serve, with the correct treatment, as hydrocarbon raw material or as fuel oil. This Minireview considers the role of catalysis in waste polymer reprocessing and provides a critical overview of the existing waste plastic treatment technologies. Thermal pyrolysis results in a random scissioning of the polymer chains, generating products with varying molecular weights. Catalytic degradation provides control over the product composition/distribution and serves to lower significantly the degradation temperature. Incineration of waste PVC is very energy demanding and can result in the formation of toxic chloro emissions. The efficacy of a catalytic transformation of PVC is also discussed.