Advancing Towards a Circular Economy through Catalytic Upcycling of Plastic Waste

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Pavel Kots Headshot


Pavel Kots

Process Development Engineering
Evonik Corporation


Advancing Towards a Circular Economy through Catalytic Upcycling of Plastic Waste

Plastic became a widely used and indispensable material due to its low cost and versatility. Unfortunately, growth in plastic production, especially single-use packaging, leads to a huge amount of plastic waste ending up in landfills and leaking into the environment. Plastic pollution threatens wildlife, causes methane emissions from landfills, and exacerbates the climate crisis. The problem is so enormous that the United Nations is expected to adopt a first-of-its-kind plastic pollution treaty next year.

Chemical upcycling of plastic waste using catalysis offers new energy and material-efficient pathways in dealing with hard-to-recycle waste streams, specifically polyolefins, like polyethylene and polypropylene. However, this approach faces obstacles due to the global scale of plastic pollution and the complex nature of the feedstock, which contains multiple additives and components coming from multilayered materials and imperfect sorting. 

This talk covers state-of-the-art in the application of heterogeneous catalysis in hydroconversion and cracking of polyolefins. We will outline how active site engineering and complex catalyst architectures can be leveraged to boost productivity and selectivity. We will show how reactor and process design can aid in tackling real-world waste feedstock.


Pavel Kots earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at Moscow State University in 2018, where he studied heterogeneous catalysis, zeolite synthesis, and catalysts characterization with various spectroscopic tools. His work on Zr-doped zeolites was recognized with Haldor Topsøe and LG Chem doctoral scholarships. Following this, he was a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Dionisios Vlachos at the University of Delaware from 2019 to 2023, where he explored the fundamental and applied aspects of catalysis for plastic waste conversion to valuable products. Pavel now works at Evonik Global Process Research as a Process Development Engineer, focusing primarily on the scale-up of new specialty chemicals products.