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How It Works: Molecular Recycling

While molecular recycling has not been widely adopted, it is still important to cover. Here we’ll look at the various forms of molecular recycling.

Molecular recycling, also labeled transformational technology, breaks plastic down using chemicals, extreme heat, and pressure, into low-quality fuel or smaller chains of monomers.


Below are the various types of molecular recycling.

  • Pyrolysis – A process in which heat is applied but oxygen is restricted so that the plastic thermally decomposes but does not combust.
  • Gasification — A process based on pyrolysis where oxygen is restricted so that the plastic thermally decomposes but does not combust.
  • Hydrolysis – Solvent-based depolymerization process using water at high temperature and pressure, often with chemical additives to make the solvent acidic or alkaline.
  • Methanolysis – Solvent-based depolymerization process using methanol.
  • Glycolysis – Solvent-based depolymerization process using glycols.
  • Glycols - Any of various diols, usually containing vicinal hydroxyl groups.(Ethylene glycol.)
  • Aminolysis – A depolymerization process using amines as the solvent.
  • Ammonolysis – A depolymerization process using ammonia as the solvent.


How often is molecular recycling used?

Molecular recycling is a fairly new concept and is still being developed in pilot plants around the world.

Is molecular recycling commercially available?

While there is potential, molecular recycling has not yet been widely adopted on a commercial scale. Experiments typically take place in lab settings rather than in real-life situations, and the cost to build and operate molecular recycling facilities exceeds the same expenses for mechanical recycling facilities. The industry also currently struggles with securing feedstock and lacks the integral infrastructure to succeed.





We don't just talk the talk, at Smart Plastic we prove everything we say with credible third-party testing. Below you will find the corresponding tests that apply to all our claims.

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