Polyoleomics: Degradation products as quality markers for polyolefin recycling
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Polyoleomics proposes the use of degradation products as quality markers throughout the lifecycle of polyolefins. This could allow a proper estimation of the degree of degradation of the recyclate, the amount of virgin material added as well as the addition of stabilizers during the different processing steps. Therefor, different types of commercially available recyclates were extracted (via dissolution followed by precipitation) and analyzed by HPLC qTOF MS. Degradation of both the polymer and two of the most common antioxidants (Irgafos168 and Irganox1010) were investigated by reprocessing polyolefins via extrusion and injection molding under laboratory conditions. Degradation products were searched via analysis of variance (ANOVA) and tentative identification was done with MS/MS to build up a database for targeted analysis. This approach was successfully tested on various recyclates mixed with increasing amounts of virgin material under lab conditions. The final step were virgin recyclate mixtures (with differing ratios) directly obtained from local manufacturers. Several quality markers were repeatedly found within the different samples and allowed proper differentiation via principal component analysis (PCA) of mixtures with a different content of virgin material added.