Research Highlight

Microwave to dispose plastic waste

Biplab Das

doi:10.1038/nindia.2008.336 Published online 15 December 2008

Here's a novel yet simple way to recycle plastic bottle waste1. Researchers have used microwave energy and several catalysts to recycle poly ethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle waste. Besides being eco-friendly, this method saves in energy and time.

The researchers resorted to glycolysis, a chemical recycling process in the presence of microwave and several other chemicals. PET was broken down using energy from a 800 watt domestic microwave oven. Ethylene glycol and catalysts and chemicals like zinc acetate, sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate and barium hydroxide were also used in the process.

The recycling process yielded bis-(2-hydroxyethylene) terephthalate (BHET) from PET. The yield of BHET was nearly the same as that obtained earlier by conventional electric heating. The time taken for completion of the reaction was drastically reduced from 8 hours to 35 minutes.

The research is significant as recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to light a 60W light bulb for over 6 hours. Moreover, BHET can be returned back to the PET production process.


  1. Pingale, D. N. et al. Microwave assisted ecofriendly recycling of poly (ethylene terephthalate) bottle waste. Eur. Polymer. J. 44, 4151-4156 (2008) | Article |