A Facile, Mild, Fast, Catalyst Free Polylactic Acid (PLA) Degradation Method that Generates a Variety of Valuable Products

­Unmet Need: Current Polylactic Acid Recycling Processes are not Optimal, Requiring High Pressures/Temperatures, Long Degradation Times and/or Catalysts

Currently, PLA degradation routes are divided into three categories: high temperature hydrolysis, low temperature hydrolysis and alcoholysis. Alcoholysis usually requires transesterification catalysts in a high-pressure environment, which can be difficult to separate from the final product. Like alcoholysis, high temperature hydrolysis is usually performed in a high-pressure environment and under harsh degradation conditions. Although low temperature hydrolysis can be carried out at 50 °C or 60 °C, the degradation time is extremely long. A facile, mild, fast, catalyst free PLA recycling method is needed to promote efficient and sustainable upcycling of PLA.

The Technology: A Method to Upcycle Polylactic Acid into a Variety of Valuable Products under Mild Conditions without a Catalyst

The inventors have developed a technique to degrade PLA in 60 minutes at 100 °C without a catalyst. This method is scalable and would minimize process complexities inherent to current PLA degradation schemes, requiring less specialized processes/equipment and/or catalysts. As well, a selection of valuable degradation products can be obtained from this route of PLA degradation dependent on precursors used. These products can be upcycled directly into a variety of industry applications as valuable starting materials.


  • Scalable degradation of PLA waste into a selection of upcycled products


  • Does not require high temperatures or pressures
  • Does not require catalysts and is timely
  • Degradation produces valuable products

Patent Information:

Provisional patent filed

Learn More

Punam Dalai
Technology Licensing Associate
Washington State University
Reference No: TECH-22/3474


Jinwen Zhang
Yu-Chung Chang
Lin Shao

Key Words

3D printing
chemcial recycling
polylactic acid
recycling of composites