A techno-economic study of the recycling of mixed plastics to useful products
The techno-economic implications of recycling the components of mixed plastics waste have been studied in a two-part investigation: (a) An economic survey of the prospects for plastics recycling, the plastics waste arisings from retailing, building, automotive, light engineering and chemical industries have been surveyed by mans of questionnaires and interviews. This was partially successful and indicated that very considerable quantities of relatively clean plastics packaging was available in major department chains and household stores. The possibility of devising collection systems for such sources, which do not lead to any extra cost, have been suggested. However, the household collection of plastics waste has been found to be uneconomic due to high cost of collection, transportation and lack of markets for the end products. (b) In a technical study of blends of PE/PP and PE/PS which are found in admixture in waste plastics, it has been shown that they exhibit poor mechanical properties due to incompatibility. Consequently reprocessing of such unsegregated blends results in products of little technological value. The inclusion of some commercial block and graft copolymers which behave as solid phase dispersants (SPES) increase the toughness of the blends (e.g. EPDM in PE/PP blend and SBS in PE/PS blend). Also, EPDM is found to be very effective for improving the toughness of single component polypropylene. However, the improved Technical properties of such blends have been accompanied by a fast rate of photo-oxidation and loss of toughness due to the presence of unsaturation in SPD's. The change in mechanical properties occurring during oven ageing and ultra-violet light accelerated weathering of these binary and ternary blends was followed by a viscoelastonetric technique (Rheovibron) over 9,, wide range of temperatures, impact resistance at room temperature (20-41'G) and changes in functional groups (i.e. carbonyl and trans-1,4-polybutadiene). Also the heat and light stability of single and mixed plastics to which thiol antioxidants were bound to SPE1 segment have been studied and compared with conventional antioxidants. The long-term performance of the mixed plastics containing SPE1 have been improved significantly by the use of conventional and bound antioxidants. It is concluded that an estimated amount of 30000 tonnes/year of plastics waste is available from department chains and household stores which can be converted to useful end products. This justifies pilot-experiments in collaboration with supermarkets, recyclers and converters by use of low cost SPD's and additives designed to make the materials more compatible.