Determination of the Influence of Multiple Closed Recycling Loops on the Property Profile of Different Polyolefins
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In a circular economy, polymeric materials are used in multiple loops to manufacture products. Therefore, closed-loops are also envisaged for the mechanical recycling of plastics, in which plastic is used for products that are in turn collected and reprocessed again and again to make further products. However, this reprocessing involves degradation processes within the plastics, which become apparent through changes in the property profile of the material. In the present paper, the influence of multiple recycling loops on the material properties of four different polyolefins was analyzed. Two different closed-loop cycles with industrially sized processing machines were defined, and each polyolefin was processed and reprocessed within the predefined cycles. For the investigation of the effect of the respective loops, samples were taken after each loop. The samples were characterized by high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled to a quadru-pole time-of-flight MS, high-temperature gel permeation chromatography, melt flow rate measurements, infrared spectroscopy, differential thermal analysis, and tensile tests. With increasing number of processing loops, the tested polyolefins showed continuous material degradation, which resulted in significant changes in the property profiles.
Keywords: mechanical recycling; closed-loop; polyolefins; circular testing; polymer degradation