Session Info

Mixed Plastic Recycling by a Tailored Organocatalyst


Plastics have numerous benefits in our lives, but plastic waste management has become a global environmental crisis. Approximately 80% of the more than 400 metric tons of plastics produced annually is improperly disposed, which equates to $100 billion worth of materials being lost. Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled, most of which is downcycled into lower value products. Plastic waste-to-product solutions that are efficient and cost-effective will convert plastic trash to clean value-added commodities.

Bales of plastic bottle waste

ORNL’s mixed plastic recycling technology can simultaneously break down any condensation polymers—PET, polycarbonate, polyurethanes, and polyamides—into monomers in a low-energy green process. The developed novel catalyst can deconstruct condensation polymers at 100% conversion within two hours and be reused indefinitely, which is far superior to state-of-the-art organocatalysts. This technology can be used to deconstruct various types of plastic waste such as bottles, packaging, foams, mattresses, protective gears, automotive components, textiles, and more into chemicals, which can be made into virgin polymers. Other plastics that are not deconstructed in this process can be filtered, collected and reused.


The developed technology enables a single-batch, mixed waste plastic deconstruction and production of valuable chemicals from various unrecyclable plastics with exceptional efficiency. This technology offers new opportunities to solve the problems surrounding waste management and chemical manufacturing. Since the current inability to deconstruct mixed plastics has prevented wide industrial adoption in converting plastics to chemicals, this technology could lead to transforming plastic recycling. This process will not only reduce plastic waste entering landfills but will also add significant commercial value to current plastic wastes, opening a new paradigm of plastic recycling toward a net-zero carbon society.


Md. Arifuzzaman, Bobby G. Sumpter, Zoriana Demchuk, Changwoo Do, Mark A. Arnould, Md Anisur Rahman, Peng-Fei Cao, Ilja Popovs, Robert Davis, Sheng Dai, Tomonori Saito “Selective deconstruction of mixed plastics by a tailored organocatalyst” under review Materials Horizons.

Intellectual Property

Tomonori Saito, Md. Arifuzzaman, Methods of Mixed Plastic Recycling enabled by a Highly Efficient Organocatalyst, U.S. Non-Provisional Patent (USPTO No. 18/096,849, filed on January 13, 2023).


For more information, please contact Alex DeTrana (865-341-0423,


Tomonori Saito

Tomonori Saito