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Frontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering >> 2020, Volume 14, Issue 2 doi: 10.1007/s11705-019-1875-3

Thermal and catalytic pyrolysis of a synthetic mixture representative of packaging plastics residue

. Department for Sustainability, ENEA—Casaccia Research Center, Rome 00123, Italy.. Department of Chemical, Materials and Environmental Engineering, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome 00184, Italy.. Department of SBAI, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome 00161, Italy

Accepted: 2019-12-09 Available online:2019-12-09

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A synthetic mixture of real waste packaging plastics representative of the residue from a material recovery facility (plasmix) was submitted to thermal and catalytic pyrolysis. Preliminary thermogravimetry experiments coupled with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy were performed to evaluate the effects of the catalysts on the polymers’ degradation temperatures and to determine the main compounds produced during pyrolysis. The thermal and catalytic experiments were conducted at 370°C, 450°C and 650°C using a bench scale reactor. The oil, gas, and char yields were analyzed and the compositions of the reaction products were compared. The primary aim of this study was to understand the effects of zeolitic hydrogen ultra stable zeolite Y (HUSY) and hydrogen zeolite socony mobil-5 (HZSM5) catalysts with high silica content on the pyrolysis process and the products’ quality. Thermogravimetry showed that HUSY significantly reduces the degradation temperature of all the polymers—particularly the polyolefines. HZSM5 had a significant effect on the degradation of polyethylene due to its smaller pore size. Mass balance showed that oil is always the main product of pyrolysis, regardless of the process conditions. However, all pyrolysis runs performed at 370°C were incomplete. The use of either zeolites resulted in a decrease in the heavy oil fraction and the prevention of wax formation. HUSY has the best performance in terms of the total monoaromatic yield (29 wt-% at 450°C), while HZSM5 promoted the production of gases (41 wt-% at 650°C). Plasmix is a potential input material for pyrolysis that is positively affected by the presence of the two tested zeolites. A more effective separation of polyethylene terephthalate during the selection process could lead to higher quality pyrolysis products.

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