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Recycling and recovery routes of plastic solid waste (PSW): A review

TitleRecycling and recovery routes of plastic solid waste (PSW): A review
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsAl-Salem SM, Lettieri P, Baeyens J
Journal TitleWaste Management
ISBN Number0956-053X
AbstractPlastic solid waste (PSW) presents challenges and opportunities to societies regardless of their sustainability awareness and technological advances. In this paper, recent progress in the recycling and recovery of PSW is reviewed. A special emphasis is paid on waste generated from polyolefinic sources, which makes up a great percentage of our daily single-life cycle plastic products. The four routes of PSW treatment are detailed and discussed covering primary (re-extrusion), secondary (mechanical), tertiary (chemical) and quaternary (energy recovery) schemes and technologies. Primary recycling, which involves the re-introduction of clean scrap of single polymer to the extrusion cycle in order to produce products of the similar material, is commonly applied in the processing line itself but rarely applied among recyclers, as recycling materials rarely possess the required quality. The various waste products, consisting of either end-of-life or production (scrap) waste, are the feedstock of secondary techniques, thereby generally reduced in size to a more desirable shape and form, such as pellets, flakes or powders, depending on the source, shape and usability. Tertiary treatment schemes have contributed greatly to the recycling status of PSW in recent years. Advanced thermo-chemical treatment methods cover a wide range of technologies and produce either fuels or petrochemical feedstock. Nowadays, non-catalytic thermal cracking (thermolysis) is receiving renewed attention, due to the fact of added value on a crude oil barrel and its very valuable yielded products. But a fact remains that advanced thermo-chemical recycling of PSW (namely polyolefins) still lacks the proper design and kinetic background to target certain desired products and/or chemicals. Energy recovery was found to be an attainable solution to PSW in general and municipal solid waste (MSW) in particular. The amount of energy produced in kilns and reactors applied in this route is sufficiently investigated up to the point of operation, but not in terms of integration with either petrochemical or converting plants. Although primary and secondary recycling schemes are well established and widely applied, it is concluded that many of the PSW tertiary and quaternary treatment schemes appear to be robust and worthy of additional investigation.
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