Plastics are polymeric materials made from mineral oil. The annual production of virgin plastics requires 4% of the world's oil production and additional 3 % to fuel the production. Mechanical recycling is one method of plastic recovery. However, compared to virgin plastic, recycled plastic showed deterioration in its physical and mechanical qualities. Also, plastic contamination with pigments, inks, adhesives, and food residuals result in decreasing the quality of post-consumer plastic, which is intended to be recycled.
The Polymer Recycling Lab (PRE-Lab) at TUHH aims to build an understanding of the change in the physico-chemical qualities of thermally and environmentally aged polymer materials as well as recycled plastics. The main focus of our research is to determine the quality of plastic samples, which were exposed to different conditions to evaluate the degree of mechanical degradation and the extent of the chemical contamination. The impacts of quality deterioration are going to be assessed in regard to the recycling process and the quality of the recycled product. This research effort will help in analyzing the best practices to treat plastic waste in general.
Additionally, we aim to tackle the problem of contaminants leaching and contaminants absorption of plastics in the environment.
The output of our research will help in creating an understanding to the limitations of plastic recycling in order to develop technologies and methods to overcome those limitations, aiming at the application of circular economy concept on the plastic waste and to increase the recycling volumes of plastic waste to meet the quota of packaging waste recycling assigned by the German Government and the European Union.