Closing the loop for PET, PE and PP waste from households: Influence of material properties and product design for plastic recycling

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Recycling of plastic is an important step towards circular economy. However, plastic from household waste (HHW) is a heterogeneous and contaminated resource, leading to recycled plastic with reduced quality, limiting the potential for closed-loop recycling. In addition to regulatory requirements for the chemical composition of recycled plastic, reduced physical and mechanical properties may limit the potential for closed-loop recycling. Consequently, this study analyses the degradation, processability and mechanical properties of a range of reprocessed PET, PE and PP samples from source-separated plastic in HHW. On this basis, the potential for closed-loop recycling is evaluated. The study demonstrated that PET, PE and PP recycling represent different challenges. Potential degradation of the PET polymer can be reversed in a decontamination process, making PET waste well-suited for closed-loop, multiple times recycling, even when the degree of heterogeneity in the waste is high. The processability of different kinds of PE and PP packaging types varied considerably, especially for PP. Consequently, current recycling of mixed PP waste and even separate recycling of individual PP waste packaging types, will not technically facilitate recycling into new packaging products. This highlights the importance of PE and PP waste homogeneity when sent to reprocessing. Such homogeneity may be achieved through additional plastic sorting and regulatory harmonisation of product design, accounting for polymer properties and recyclability. Degradation of PP during recycling was shown to be substantial, representing another important limitation for PP recycling, necessary to address in the future.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Volume96
Pages (from-to)75-85
ISSN0956-053X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: No match on DOI

    Research areas

  • Circular economy, Plastic recycling, Material quality, Mechanical properties, Recyclability, Melt flow index (MFI)

ID: 186061802