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J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2009 Mar;59(3):273-8.

Compositions of volatile organic compounds emitted from melted virgin and waste plastic pellets.

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Department of Environmental Systems, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Chiba, Japan.


To characterize potential air pollution issues related to recycling facilities of waste plastics, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from melted virgin and waste plastics pellets were analyzed. In this study, laboratory experiments were performed to melt virgin and waste plastic pellets under various temperatures (150, 200, and 250 degrees C) and atmospheres (air and nitrogen [N2]). In the study presented here, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) and the recycled waste plastic pellets were used. The VOCs generated from each plastic pellets were collected by Tenax/Carboxen adsorbent tubes and analyzed by thermal desorption-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (TD-GC/MS). The result showed the higher temperatures generated larger amounts of total VOCs (TVOCs). The VOCs emitted from the virgin plastic pellets likely originated from polymer degradation. Smaller TVOC emissions were observed in N2 atmosphere than in air atmosphere. In particular, larger amounts of the oxygenated compounds, which are generally hazardous and malodorous, were detected in air than in N2. In addition to the compounds originating from polymer degradation, the compounds originating from the plastic additives were also detected from LDPE and PS. Furthermore, various species of VOCs likely originating from contaminant inseparate polyvinyl chloride (PVC), food residues, cleaning agents, degreasers, and so on were detected from the waste plastic. Thus, melting waste plastics, as is conducted in recycling facilities, might generate larger amounts of potentially toxic compounds than producing virgin plastics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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