Sink–float density separation of post-consumer plastics for feedstock recycling
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The paper focuses on current mechanical waste processing technologies and out-of-the-box processes linked to the processing of coal and mineral resources, to ensure high-quality feedstock recycling of polyolefin-rich post-consumer plastic fractions. Moreover, the study aims to provide the basis for the technical and economic feasibility of the chemical recycling route of this plastic fraction. When evaluating common mechanical processes, either dry or wet ones, sink–float separation in a cylindrical centrifugal force separator achieves the best results. It combines the advantages of a simple, robust apparatus of low complexity and high capacity with selective separation through the accelerated settling of particles in the centrifugal field. Furthermore, the disconnection of the separation medium feed from the solid input increases residence times. Based on the above findings, a pilot-scale plant was constructed which consists of a centrifugal force separator and a hydro jig for the pre-separation of heavy waste components. Several test campaigns were conducted to separate polyolefins from various waste fractions. Two-stage processing in the centrifugal force separator rendered almost 90 wt% of polyolefin content in the produced lightweight fraction and of polyolefin recovery. One-stage processing, on the other hand, resulted in reduced polyolefin content in the lightweight fraction.