Analytical techniques for quality assessment of separated and commingled recycled polymer fractions

University dissertation from Institutionen för polymerteknologi

Abstract: Different methods for quality assessment of separated andcommingled plastics from household and electronic waste havebeen developed. Especial attention has been given tospectroscopic methods since they are non-destructive andrequire little or no sample preparation at all.A wide variety of low molecular weight compounds have beenidentified in recycled polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylenefrom hard packaging waste by gas chromatography- massspectroscopy (GC-MS) after microwave assisted extraction (MAE).Low molecular weight substances such as alcohols, esters,ketones and fragrance and flavour compounds were detected inthe recycled resins. The major category of compounds identifiedin the virgin resins is conformed by aliphatic hydrocarbonssuch as alkanes and alkenes. It was found that theconcentration of aromatic hydrocarbons without functionalgroups, e.g. ethylbenzene and xylenes in recycled HDPE wasapprox. 5 times higher and equal to 120 and 35 ppb,respectively.The potential of near infrared (NIR) and Fourier transformRaman (FT-Raman) spectroscopy in combination with multivariateanalysis as a rapid, non-destructive and accurate analyticalmethod has been studied and the feasibility of these methodsfor at/in line characterisation of several properties ofrecyclates has also been explored.NIR in diffuse reflectance mode has been successfully usedfor quantification of antioxidants in polyethylene, thestandard error of prediction is almost comparable to the errorof wet methods, i.e., extraction plus liquid chromatography.The error of prediction of this method is 35 ppm for Irganox1010 and 68 ppm for Irgafos 168. The inaccuracy in thequantification of Irgafos 168 is due to the fact that thisantioxidant degrades during polymer processing.NIR and Mid-infrared (Mid-IR) worked well for fastdetermination of molecular weight and crystallinity of therecycled HDPE and acceptable errors of prediction, comparableto that of the reference methods, i.e. size exclusionchromatography (SEC) and differential scanning calorimetry(DSC) have been obtained.The present thesis also shows that NIR and Raman are goodcandidates for in/on line compositional analysis of mixedpolymer fractions from recycled plastic waste. Diffusereflectance NIR allows a rapid and reliable measurement ofpellets and requires no previous sample preparation. Thecomposition of binary blends can be determined with highaccuracy. The PP content in the PP/HDPE blends was predictedwith a RMSEP equal to 0.46 %w in the 0-15 %wt region and theRMSEP for PP in the PP/ABS blends was 0.3 %wt.The thermal and thermoxidative stability of recycled PP,HDPE and a 20/80 PP/HDPE blend subjected to multiple extrusionhave been studied by DSC, thermal analysis (TGA) andchemiluminiscence (CL). A decrease in Toxand OIT was observed after each extrusion step.The drop in OIT was sharper after the first two extrusions. TheOIT values produced by DSC and CL were in good agreement.However, CL provided more information about the oxidationprocess taking place in the blends.The moisture content in recycled polyamide 6,6 was readilydetermined by NIR in transmission mode and it could bepredicted with a RMSEP = 0.05 %wt. The accuracy of the methodappeared to be as good as that of the more time consumingthermal methods such as TGA, DSC and loss on dry (LOD), whichwere used as reference methods. The influence of differentamounts of water on the viscoelastic properties of nylon hasbeen investigated.Keywords:Recycling, HDPE, PP, blends, nylon 6,6, ABS,water content, MAE, GC-MS, NIR, FT-Raman, chemiluminiscence,low molecular weight compounds, antioxidant content,crystallinity, molecular weight, thermal stability,characterisation methods, analysis of polymers, blends.