Recycling Potential for Non-Valorized Plastic Fractions from Electrical and Electronic Waste
This paper describes a study for waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to characterise the plastic composition of different mixed plastic fractions. Most of the samples studied are currently excluded from material recycling and arise as side streams in state-of-the-art plastics recycling plants. These samples contain brominated flame retardants (BFR) or other substances of concern listed as persistent organic pollutants or in the RoHS directive. Seventeen samples, including cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, CRT televisions, flat screens such as liquid crystal displays, small domestic appliances, and information and communication technology, were investigated using density- and dissolution-based separation processes. The total bromine and chlorine contents of the samples were determined by X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, indicating a substantial concentration of both elements in density fractions above 1.1 g/cm3, most significantly in specific solubility classes referring to ABS and PS. This was further supported by specific flame retardant analysis. It was shown that BFR levels of both polymers can be reduced to levels below 1000 ppm by dissolution and precipitation processes enabling material recycling in compliance with current legislation. As additional target polymers PC and PC-ABS were also recycled by dissolution but did not require an elimination of BFR. Finally, physicochemical investigations of recycled materials as gel permeation chromatography, melt flow rate, and differential scanning calorimetry suggest a high purity and indicate no degradation of the technical properties of the recycled polymers.