The synthesis and characterisation of copolymers containing tertiary nitrogen to which Cu(I) or Cu(II) species are anchored is described. The anchored species function as catalysts for the oxidation of 2,6-xylenol by O2 under basic conditions. The kinetics of these oxidations have been followed by monitoring oxygen uptake as a function of pH, temperature, reactant concentrations, oxygen partial pressure and catalyst loading. A suitable mechanism is proposed to account for the kinetics as well as the formation of the product, diphenoquinone. Recycling efficiencies of the catalysts are found to be good. © 1997 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.