A Review on the Potential and Limitations of Recyclable Thermosets for Structural Applications

Wouter Post*, Arijana Susa, Rolf Blaauw, Karin Molenveld, Rutger J.I. Knoop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

220 Citations (Scopus)


The outstanding performance of conventional thermosets arising from their covalently cross-linked networks directly results in a limited recyclability. The available commercial or close-to-commercial techniques facing this challenge can be divided into mechanical, thermal, and chemical processing. However, these methods typically require a high energy input and do not take the recycling of the thermoset matrix itself into account. Rather, they focus on retrieving the more valuable fibers, fillers, or substrates. To increase the circularity of thermoset products, many academic studies report potential solutions which require a reduced energy input by using degradable linkages or dynamic covalent bonds. However, the majority of these studies have limited potential for industrial implementation. This review aims to bridge the gap between the industrial and academic developments by focusing on those which are most relevant from a technological, sustainable and economic point of view. An overview is given of currently used approaches for the recycling of thermoset materials, the development of novel inherently recyclable thermosets and examples of possible applications that could reach the market in the near future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-388
JournalPolymer Reviews
Issue number2
Early online date8 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • circular economy
  • dynamic covalent cross-links
  • polymer matrix
  • recycling
  • Thermoset


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