Deodorization of post-consumer plastic waste fractions: A comparison of different washing media
An important impediment to the acceptance of recyclates into a broader market is their unwanted odor after reprocessing. Different types of washing procedures are already in place, but fundamental insights into the deodorization efficiencies of different washing media are still relatively scarce. Therefore, in this study, the deodorization efficiencies of different types of plastics after washing with different media were determined via gas chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis. A total of 169 compounds subdivided into various chemical classes, such as alkanes, terpenes, and oxygenated compounds, were detected across all packaging types. Around 60 compounds were detected on plastic bottles, and around 40 were detected on trays and films. Owing to the differences in physicochemical properties of odor compounds, different deodorization efficiencies were obtained with different washing media. Water and caustic soda were significantly more efficient for poly(ethylene terephthalate) bottles with deodorization efficiencies up to 80%, whereas for polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene bottles, the washing media were relatively inefficient (around 30-40%). Adding a detergent or an organic solvent could increase deodorization efficiencies by up to 70-90% for these packaging types. A similar trend was observed for PE films having deodorization efficiencies in the range of 40-50% when washing with water or caustic soda and around 70-80% when a detergent was added. Polystyrene trays were most effectively deodorized with a detergent, achieving efficiencies up to 67%. Hence, this study shows that optimal washing processes should be tailored to specific packaging types to further improve deodorization and to eventually be able to meet ambitious European recycling targets.