Polymer Recycling

Plastics are inexpensive, easy to mold, and lightweight. These and many other advantages make them very promising candidates for commercial applications. In many areas, they have substantially suppressed traditional materials. However, the problem of recycling still is a major challenge. There are both technological and economic issues that restrain the progress in this field. Herein, a state-of-art overview of recycling is provided together with an outlook for the future by using popular polymers such as polyolefins, poly(vinyl chloride), polyurethane, and poly(ethylene terephthalate) as examples. Different types of recycling, primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, and biological recycling, are discussed together with related issues, such as compatibilization and cross-linking. There are various projects in the European Union on research and application of these recycling approaches; selected examples are provided in this article. Their progress is mirrored by granted patents, most of which have a very limited scope and narrowly cover certain technologies. Global introduction of waste utilization techniques to the polymer market is currently not fully developed, but has an enormous potential.

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering different types of plastic material in order to reprocess them into varied other products, unlike their original form. An item made out of plastic is recycled into a different product, which usually cannot be recycled again.

Stages in Plastic Recycling

Before any plastic waste is recycled, it needs to go through five different stages so that it can be further used for making various types of products.

  1. Sorting: It is necessary that every plastic item is separated according to its make and type so that it can be processed accordingly in the shredding machine.
  2. Washing: Once the sorting has been done, the plastic waste needs to be washed properly to remove impurities such as labels and adhesives. This enhances the quality of the finished product.
  3. Shredding: After washing, the plastic waste is loaded into different conveyer belts that run the waste through the different shredders. These shredders tear up the plastic into small pellets, preparing them for recycling into other products.
  4. Identification and Classification of Plastic: After shredding, a proper testing of the plastic pellets is conducted in order to ascertain their quality and class.
  5. Extruding: This involves melting the shredded plastic so that it can be extruded into pellets, which are then used for making different types of plastic products.

 

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