Combination of three-stage sink-float method and selective flotation technique for separation of mixed post-consumer plastic waste

Sangobtip Pongstabodee, Napatr Kunachitpimol, Somsak Damronglerd
Waste Management 2008, 28 (3): 475-83
The aim of this research was to separate the different plastics of a mixed post-consumer plastic waste by the combination of a three-stage sink-float method and selective flotation. By using the three-stage sink-float method, six mixed-plastic wastes, belonging to the 0.3-0.5 cm size class and including high density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinylchloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymers (ABS) were separated into two groups, i.e., a low density plastic group (HDPE and PP) and a high density plastic group (PET, PVC, PS and ABS) by tap water. Plastic whose density is less than that of the medium solution floats to the surface, while the one whose density is greater than that of the medium solution sinks to the bottom. The experimental results elucidated that complete separation of HDPE from PP was achieved by the three-stage sink-float method with 50% v/v ethyl alcohol. To succeed in the separation of a PS/ABS mixture from a PET/PVC mixture by the three-stage sink-float method, a 30% w/v calcium chloride solution was employed. To further separate post-consumer PET/PVC and PS/ABS based on plastic type, selective flotation was carried out. In order to succeed in selective flotation separation, it is necessary to render hydrophilic the surface of one or more species while the others are kept in a hydrophobic state. In flotation studies, the effects of wetting agent, frother, pH of solution and electrolyte on separation were determined. The selective flotation results showed that when using 500 mg l(-1) calcium lignosulfonate, 0.01 ppm MIBC, and 0.1 mg l(-1) CaCl2 at pH 11, PET could be separated from PVC. To separate ABS from PS, 200 mg l(-1) calcium lignosulfonate and 0.1 mg l(-1) CaCl2 at pH 7 were used as a flotation solution. Wettability of plastic increases when adding CaCl2 and corresponds to a decrease in its contact angles and to a reduction in the recovery of plastic in the floated product.

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