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Effects of reprocessing of oxobiodegradable and non-degradable polyethylene on the durability of recycled materials

Jakubowicz, Ignacy, Enebro, Jonas
Polymer degradation and stability 2012 v.97 no.3 pp. 316-321
additives, durability, free radicals, microorganisms, mixing, molecular weight, monitoring, oxidation, plastics, polyethylene, recycled materials, recycling, streams
The use of plastics is steadily increasing in our daily lives, and plastics are the fastest-growing component of the waste stream. Although the efficiency of plastic recycling is increasing, plastics are often seen as a permanent environmental problem because of littering. The introduction of oxobiodegradable polyolefins (OBDs), containing prodegradant additives, is considered to be a way to reduce this problem by enabling the fast degradation of plastics in the environment. The prodegradant additives form radicals that attack the polymer chains, causing chain scissions and generation of low molecular mass oxidation products that can be consumed by microorganisms. There is, however, a concern that the prodegradant additives will present a problem if OBD materials end up in the conventional plastic recycling streams. The present study therefore highlights the impact of mixing OBD materials with conventional polyolefins to evaluate the impact on the remaining service life of the recyclates. The study included the use of two different OBDs, mixed in different proportions (10% and 20%) in a conventional polyethylene. The remaining service life of the mixtures was evaluated by monitoring the reduction in tensile strain after exposure to thermo-oxidative degradation at 70 °C, compared with a pure polyethylene. The impact of stabilizer content in the mixtures was also evaluated together with the effect of mixing partially degraded OBDs into the recyclate. The results show that the incorporation of minor fractions of OBD materials in the existing recycling streams will not create a severe effect on the service life of the recyclates as long as the polymer mixture possesses a reasonable degree of stabilization.