Although use of polymers is steadily increasing globally, the rate of recycling these plastics is still less than 10%, resulting in approximately 50% of the plastic waste getting dumped in landfills. This occurs primarily because existing chemical and mechanical recycling processes have low recycling rates, high energy consumption, and are often expensive to scale, which hinders their adoption. In response, stakeholders in plastic recycling are developing new upcycling approaches that will increase the recycling rate of polymeric waste, are energy efficient, and scale easily.

This research focuses on existing and emerging polymer upcycling technologies and how they improve and add value to plastics’ circular economy. The study includes an in-depth analysis of various technological developments in upcycling and the efforts to increase their commercial potential.

The research categorizes upcycling technologies into three distinct categories: polymers to polymers, polymers to molecules, and polymers to materials. These categories are determined by the nature of the final product generated through the process of upcycling polymeric waste.

The studies encompass a range of polymeric waste materials, including but not limited to polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS), mixed polymeric waste (MPW), and polyurethane (PUR), each of which undergoes distinct upcycling approaches.

Key Discussion Points

Advancing the Circular Economy through Polymer Upcycling: Challenges of existing recycling technologies and benefits of polymer upcycling over recycling

Growth Drivers and Restraints: Factors driving the demand for upcycled polymers and challenges associated with their adoption

Technology Ecosystem: A look into research and development (R&D) activities of existing and emerging polymer upcycling technologies and their current technology readiness levels (TRLs)

IP Analysis: Overview of the global patent filing activities of stakeholders in upcycled polymers

Stakeholder Activities: A glance at business strategies such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A), partnerships, joint ventures, and funding various stakeholders adopt to strengthen the development of polymer upcycling technologies