The combination of non-thermal plasma (NTP) with catalyst systems as an alternative technology to remove NOx emissions in the exhaust of lean-burn stationary and mobile sources is reviewed. Several factors, such as low exhaust gas temperatures (below 300°C), low selectivity to N2 and the presence of impurities, make current thermally activated technologies inefficient. Various hybrid plasma-catalyst systems have been examined and shown to have a synergistic effect on de-NOx efficiency when compared with NTP or catalyst-alone systems. The NTP is believed to form oxygenated species, such as aldehydes and nitrogen-containing organic species, and to convert NO to NO2, which improves the reduction efficiency of N2 during hydrocarbon-selective catalytic reduction reactions. The NTP has been used as a pretreatment to convert NO to its higher oxidation states such as NO2 to improve NOx reduction efficiency in the subsequent processes, e.g. NH3-selective catalytic reduction. It has been applied to the lean phase of the NOx storage to improve the adsorption capacity of the catalyst by conversion of NO to NO2 Alternatively, a catalyst with high adsorption capacity is chosen and the NTP is applied to the rich phase to improve the reduction activity of the catalyst at low temperature.This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Providing sustainable catalytic solutions for a rapidly changing world'.