plastic WAste To CHemicals

01 September 2019 → 29 February 2024
Regional and community funding: IWT/VLAIO
Research disciplines
  • Engineering and technology
    • Heterogeneous catalysis
    • Reacting systems
    • Catalysis and reacting systems engineering not elsewhere classified
    • Chemical kinetics and thermodynamics
    • Modelling, simulation and optimisation
    • Chemical process design
    • Intensification
    • Membrane technologies
    • (Multiphase) flow
    • Heat and mass transfer
plastic waste chemical recycling catalysis reactor process membrane
Project description

In the WATCH project, four complementary groups will pool their scientific infrastructure and expertise together to improve chemical understanding of plastic waste conversion for the production of key chemicals such as short olefins, waxes, aromatics, styrene and diols.


Concrete objectives and criteria

In this project, the aim is to develop, demonstrate and compare three technologies for the conversion of plastic waste to liquid energy carriers and chemicals via (catalytic) pyrolysis. The first and second technology comprise a conventional fluidized or spouted bed reactor, whereas the third technology involves a new, disruptive reactor concept making use of rotating beds.

In the integrated approach of the problem, besides kinetic modeling and reactor engineering, focus will be given on the optimal feedstock selection to optimize individual yields of desired product(s) depending on the feed (thermosetting versus thermo-softening polymer). Plastic waste feeds of choice will be those streams that are currently not (mechanically) recycled but incinerated and/or dumped to landfill:

  • Mixed PE/PP/PS
  • Multilayer packaging
  • Waste PS
  • Polyurethane flexible and rigid foam

Next to the development of the reactor technologies, efforts will be made on the further catalytic upgrade of pyrolysis oil fraction, purification and separation of valuable compounds by advanced membrane separation processes, possibly in combination with liquid-liquid extraction. Ideally process intensification makes it possible to construct a plant on truck. A life cycle analysis (LCA) will be conducted to assess both technologies and downstream processing in terms of sustainability.