Separation of packaging plastics by froth flotation in a continuous pilot plant

Teresa Carvalho, Fernando Durão, Célia Ferreira
Waste Management 2010, 30 (11): 2209-15
The objective of the research was to apply froth flotation to separate post-consumer PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) from other packaging plastics with similar density, in a continuously operated pilot plant. A representative sample composed of 85% PET, 2.5% PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and 11.9% PS (Polystyrene) was subjected to a combination of alkaline treatment and surfactant adsorption followed by froth flotation. A mineral processing pilot plant, owned by a Portuguese mining company, was adapted for this purpose. The experimentation showed that it is possible to produce an almost pure concentrate of PET, containing 83% of the PET in feed, in a single bank of mechanical flotation cells. The concentrate grade attained was 97.2% PET, 1.1% PVC and 1.1% PS. By simulation it was shown that the Portuguese recycling industry specifications can be attained if one cleaning and one scavenger stages are added to the circuit.

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