Study on the Thermal Decomposition of Plastic Residues
Casazza, Alessandro
Spennati, Elena
Converti, Attilio
Busca, Guido
Download PDF

How to Cite

Casazza A., Spennati E., Converti A., Busca G., 2019, Study on the Thermal Decomposition of Plastic Residues, Chemical Engineering Transactions, 74, 1141-1146.
Download PDF


The use of plastics in the last decades significantly increased, thus plastic recycling processes are needed. Generally, mixtures of plastic materials are disposed together, hence the recovery of the polymeric material is difficult and expensive. Plastic residues could be valorized by thermal degradation processes aimed at recovering energy and/or valuable compounds for chemical industry. The main technologies used for this purpose are gasification and pyrolysis. The latter is a thermal degradation process that occurs in the absence of oxygen at moderate temperature (300-700°C), that could be used to recover the thermal power of biomasses. The reaction products are bio-oil, biogas and biochar. The aim of this work was to employ pyrolysis to energetically exploit different pure plastic materials, namely polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyamide (Nylon-6), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU), as well as a complex one such as end of life tyres (ELT). The reaction was performed at 400 °C for 90 min. The pyrolysis system was composed by a tubular quartz reactor heated with a tubular vertical oven. An integrated condenser was used to separate the liquid reaction products, while the incondensable gases were collected in a latex balloon. The reaction products were quantified gravimetrically and, in order to evaluate the functional groups, characterized by FTIR analysis. The reaction gases were also analyzed by GC-MS to determine the composition of this fraction. Results obtained from the different plastics were significantly different in terms of distribution and composition. In particular, PET produced a biogas consisting mainly of acetaldehyde and hydrocarbons, while the liquid fraction was composed of benzoic and terephthalic acids. Nylon-6 degraded producing a large amount of reaction gas (65 g/100g) composed of ammonia and light hydrocarbons, while the reaction liquid was mainly caprolactam. Around 53 g/100g of PVC reaction products were gaseous, mainly hydrochloric acid, followed by toluene and benzene at high concentrations. The degradation of PU produced a reaction gas, mainly composed by formic and acetic aldehydes. ELT pyrolysis was responsible for the production of high amounts of solid residue, while reaction gas and liquid seemed to be mainly constituted by hydrocarbons. In general, the study of pure plastic pyrolysis could help to better understand the thermal decomposition of complex plastic residues such as ELT.
Download PDF