Chemically recyclable polymers: a circular economy approach to sustainability
The current practices in the generation and disposal of synthetic polymers are largely unsustainable. As part of the solution, the development of biodegradable polymers, which constitute a class of “green polymers” according to green chemistry principles, has been intensively pursued in the past two decades. However, the degradation of such polymers in Earth's landfills typically leads to no recovery of the materials’ value, and their degradation in the Oceans could create new or unintended environmental consequences. Industrial mechanical recycling always suffers from a significant quality loss. The proposed more sustainable solution is to develop chemically recyclable polymers that not only solve the end-of-life issue of polymers, but also provide a direct approach to establish a circular materials economy. Accordingly, this critical review article captures some selected highlights of the emerging area of recyclable “green polymers” by focusing on the major progress made and the technical and environmental benefits obtained in the development of repurposing and depolymerization processes for chemical recycling of polymers at the end of their useful life.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2017 Green Chemistry Hot Articles