Recycling of multilayer plastic packaging materials by solvent-targeted recovery and precipitation

Theodore W. Walker, Nathan Frelka, Zhizhang Shen, Alex K. Chew, Jesse Banick, Steven Grey, Min Soo Kim, James A. Dumesic, Reid C. Van Lehn, George W. Huber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many plastic packaging materials manufactured today are composites made of distinct polymer layers (i.e., multilayer films). Billions of pounds of these multilayer films are produced annually, but manufacturing inefficiencies result in large, corresponding postindustrial waste streams. Although relatively clean (as opposed to municipal wastes) and of near-constant composition, no commercially practiced technologies exist to fully deconstruct postindustrial multilayer film wastes into pure, recyclable polymers. Here, we demonstrate a unique strategy we call solvent-targeted recovery and precipitation (STRAP) to deconstruct multilayer films into their constituent resins using a series of solvent washes that are guided by thermodynamic calculations of polymer solubility. We show that the STRAP process is able to separate three representative polymers (polyethylene, ethylene vinyl alcohol, and polyethylene terephthalate) from a commercially available multilayer film with nearly 100% material efficiency, affording recyclable resins that are cost-competitive with the corresponding virgin materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaba7599
JournalScience Advances
Volume6
Issue number47
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 20 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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