Chemical upcycling of waste polyolefinic plastics to low-carbon synthetic naphtha for closing the plastic use loop

Leilei Dai, Nan Zhou, Yuancai Lv, Yanling Cheng, Yunpu Wang, Yuhuan Liu, Kirk Cobb, Paul Chen, Hanwu Lei, Roger Ruan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Designing an effective pathway to remove waste plastics from landfill and incineration plants and create a circular economy requires a more appropriate technology beyond the conventional mechanical recycling by melting and re-molding. This study aims to convert waste plastic into low-carbon synthetic naphtha which can be used as a feedstock for new plastic production, via a new and simple technical approach. To be specific, waste plastics are decomposed and reformed into naphtha fractions via a one-step catalytic pyrolysis over Al2O3 pillared montmorillonite clay catalyst. Experimental results show that Al2O3 pillared montmorillonite clay produces up to 60.3% C5-C12 alkanes, while ZSM-5 gives high contents of aromatics (46%) and olefins (35%). The promising results of Al2O3 pillared M-clay may be due to the special features of this material, including the large pore size and Al2O3-induced active sites (more Brønsted acid sites). The further batch experiments confirm the feasibility of scaling up and processing the polyolefinic plastic mixture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number146897
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Aug 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the financial support from National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 21766019 , 21878137 ), The Centrally Guided Local Science Technology Special Project ( 20202ZDB01012 ), the Major Discipline Academic and Technical Leaders Training Program of Jiangxi Province ( 20204BCJ23011 ), China Scholarship Council (CSC), Xcel Energy , Resynergi , University of Minnesota MnDrive Environment Program MNE12 , and University of Minnesota Center for Biorefining. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Catalytic pyrolysis
  • Circular economy
  • Naphtha
  • Waste plastics


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