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Recyclability assessment of nano-reinforced plastic packaging

C. Sánchez, M. Hortal, C. Aliaga, A. Devis, V.A. Cloquell-Ballester
Waste management 2014 v.34 pp. 2647-2655
calcium carbonate, color, construction materials, extrusion, furniture, markets, nanoclays, nanocomposites, packaging, packaging materials, plastic film, polyethylene, polypropylenes, recycled plastic, recycling, streams, tensile strength, zinc oxide
Packaging is expected to become the leading application for nano-composites by 2020 due to the great advantages on mechanical and active properties achieved with these substances. As novel materials, and although there are some current applications in the market, there is still unknown areas under development. One key issue to be addressed is to know more about the implications of the nano-composite packaging materials once they become waste.The present study evaluates the extrusion process of four nanomaterials (Layered silicate modified nanoclay (Nanoclay1), Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3), Silver (Ag) and Zinc Oxide (ZnO) as part of different virgin polymer matrices of polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethyleneterephtalate (PET). Thus, the following film plastic materials: (PE–Nanoclay1, PE–CaCO3, PP–Ag, PET–ZnO, PET–Ag, PET–Nanoclay1) have been processed considering different recycling scenarios.Results on recyclability show that for PE and PP, in general terms and except for some minor variations in yellowness index, tensile modulus, tensile strength and tear strength (PE with Nanoclay1, PP with Ag), the introduction of nanomaterial in the recycling streams for plastic films does not affect the final recycled plastic material in terms of mechanical properties and material quality compared to conventional recycled plastic. Regarding PET, results show that the increasing addition of nanomaterial into the recycled PET matrix (especially PET–Ag) could influence important properties of the recycled material, due to a slight degradation of the polymer, such as increasing pinholes, degradation fumes and elongation at break. Moreover, it should be noted that colour deviations were visible in most of the samples (PE, PP and PET) in levels higher than 0.3 units (limit perceivable by the human eye). The acceptance of these changes in the properties of recycled PE, PP and PET will depend on the specific applications considered (e.g. packaging applications are more strict in material quality that urban furniture or construction products).