Characterization of Polyolefin Recyclates obtained from Waste Picking ? Insights on Quality Improvement Potential
Sprache des Vortragstitels:
Virtual 10th EPF Summer School 2021 - Polymers and Circular Economy
Sprache des Tagungstitel:
Europe has embraced the concept of a circular plastics economy. Plastics recycling by means of mechanical reprocessing is a central element of this concept. While the challenges of increasing the use of recycled plastics in Europe are diverse and significant, this is even more the case in less developed regions of the world. There, waste management and recycling are typically performed by waste pickers and the so-called informal recycling sector. Typically, harsh working conditions and social marginalization of the workers go hand in hand with inadequate material handling and low quality material output. From a global sustainability perspective, the question arises how increased plastics recycling may be achieved even under such informal conditions. Ideally, quality-oriented recycling should co-develop with social inclusion and improvements of the working conditions. The present piece of work is part of an ongoing research partnership with a company located in Kenya that claims to have put in place a business model that sustainably integrates local waste pickers into a quality-oriented plastics recycling value chain. The quality characteristics in terms of composition and the technical properties of the recycled plastics (recyclates, regranulates) are of utmost importance for a truly functioning circular economy, because they determine whether real substitution of virgin plastics may occur. Hence, we report on the potential for quality and property improvement of waste picker recyclates by employing sophisticated processing operations during recycling. Compositional analysis by means of thermo-analytical and microscopic techniques was complemented by mechanical characterization via impact testing. We could show that the quality of recycled plastics does not depend on whether it originates from a formal or an informal context. Integrating existing informal elements of waste management into a quality-oriented plastics recycling value chain seems a feasible.