Characterization of odorous contaminants in post-consumer plastic packaging waste using multidimensional gas chromatographic separation coupled with olfactometric resolution
The increasing world population with their growing consumption of goods escalates the issue of sustainability concepts with increasing demands in recycling technologies. Recovery of post-consumer packaging waste is a major topic in this respect. However, contamination with odorous constituents currently curtails the production of recycling products that meet the high expectations of both consumers and industry. To guarantee odor-free recyclates, the main prerequisite is to characterize the molecular composition of the causative odorants in post-consumer plastic packaging waste. However, targeted characterization of odorous trace contaminants among an abundance of volatiles is a major challenge and requires specialized and high-resolution analytical approaches. For this aim, post-consumer packaging waste was characterized by sensory analysis and two-dimensional high resolution gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and olfactometry. The 33 identified odorants represent various structural classes as well as a great diversity of smell impressions with some of the compounds being identified in plastics for the first time. Substances unraveled within this study provide insights into sources of odorous contamination that will require specific attention in the future in terms of screening and prevention in recycling products.