J Polym Sci Part A

Organocatalytic depolymerization of poly(ethylene terephthalate)

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We describe the organocatalytic depolymerization of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), using a commercially available guanidine catalyst, 1,5,7-triazabicyclo[4.4.0]dec-5-ene (TBD). Postconsumer PET beverage bottles were used and processed with 1.0 mol % (0.7 wt %) of TBD and excess amount of ethylene glycol (EG) at 190 °C for 3.5 hours under atmospheric pressure to give bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate (BHET) in 78% isolated yield. The catalyst efficiency was comparable to other metal acetate/alkoxide catalysts that are commonly used for depolymerization of PET. The BHET content in the glycolysis product was subject to the reagent loading. This catalyst influenced the rate of the depolymerization as well as the effective process temperature. We also demonstrated the recycling of the catalyst and the excess EG for more than 5 cycles. Computational and experimental studies showed that both TBD and EG activate PET through hydrogen bond formation/activation to facilitate this reaction. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.