This program develops transformative research methods to understand and control polymer reactivity in catalytic chemical upcycling and recycling processes, both to expand the range of existing polymers that may be recycled and to create future generations of polymers that are more efficiently recycled by design. It investigates how to enable circularity in existing polymers through selective functionalization of polyolefin chains with molecular catalysts with the aim of enhancing their properties, while also providing a means to recycle them from mixed plastic waste by using selective solvents. It also elucidates foundations for perfecting circularity in novel condensation polymers based on polydiketoenamines through the design of programmably labile polymer bonds and architectures that return the original monomers upon deconstruction by acidolysis, with the aim of elucidating how specific monomer choices dictate polymer properties as well as recycling efficiency. 

The collaborative efforts in this program provide clarity for how to close the loop in the chemical recycling of existing and future plastic waste. Scientific knowledge disseminated from this work may promote greater sustainability in U.S. manufacturing as well as social justice for those disproportionately impacted by the mismanagement of plastic waste.