Plastic waste upcycling toward a circular economy

Xianhui Zhao, Matthew Korey, Kai Li, Katie Copenhaver, Halil Tekinalp, Serdar Celik, Kyriaki Kalaitzidou, Roger Ruan, Arthur J. Ragauskas, Soydan Ozcan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


Large amounts of plastics are discarded worldwide each year, leading to a significant mass of waste in landfills and pollution to soil, air, and waterways. Upcycling is an efficient way to transform plastic waste into high-value products and can significantly lessen the environmental impact of plastic production/consumption. In this article, current advances and future directions in plastic waste upcycling technologies are discussed. In particular, this review focuses on the production of high-value materials from plastic waste conversion methods, including pyrolysis, gasification, photoreforming, and mechanical reprocessing. Plastic waste compositions, conversion products, reaction mechanisms, catalyst selection, conversion efficiencies, polymer design, and polymer modification are also explored. The main challenges facing the adoption and scale-up of these technologies are highlighted. Suggestions are given for focusing future research and development to increase the efficiency of upcycling practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131928
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Catalysis
  • Compatibilizer
  • Energy
  • Plastic waste
  • Recycle
  • Upcycle


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