Alkyl lactates are green solvents that are successfully employed in several industries such as pharmaceutical, food and agricultural. They are considered prospective renewable substitutes for petroleum-derived solvents and the opportunity exists to obtain these valuable chemicals from the chemical recycling of waste poly(lactic acid). Alkyl lactates (ethyl lactate, propyl lactate and butyl lactate) were obtained from the catalysed alcoholysis reaction of poly(lactic acid) with the corresponding linear alcohol. Reactions were catalysed by a Zn complex synthesised from an ethylenediamine Schiff base. The reactions were studied in the 50–130 °C range depending on the alcohol, at autogenous pressure. Arrhenius temperature-dependent parameters (activation energies and pre-exponential factors) were estimated for the formation of the lactates. The activation energies (Ea1
) for alcoholysis in ethanol were 62.58, 55.61 and 54.11 kJ/mol, respectively. Alcoholysis proceeded fastest in ethanol in comparison to propanol and butanol and reasonable rates can be achieved in temperatures as low as 50 °C. This is a promising reaction that could be used to recycle end-of-life poly(lactic acid) and could help create a circular production economy.
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