Environmental impact of pyrolysis of mixed WEEE plastics part 1: Experimental pyrolysis data

Sue M Alston, Allan D Clark, J Cris Arnold, Bridget K Stein

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Growth in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is posing increasing problems of waste management, partly resulting from its plastic content. WEEE plastics include a range of polymers, some of which can be sorted and extracted for recycling. However a nonrecyclable fraction remains containing a mixture of polymers contaminated with other materials, and pyrolysis is a potential means of recovering the energy content of this. In preparation for a life cycle assessment of this option, described in part 2 of this paper set, data were collected from trials using experimental pyrolysis equipment representative of a continuous commercial process operated at 800 °C. The feedstock contained acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene and high impact polystyrene with high levels of additives, and dense polymers including polyvinylchloride, polycarbonate, polyphenylene oxide, and polymethyl methacrylate. On average 39% was converted to gases, 36% to oils, and 25% remained as residue. About 35% of the gas was methane and 42% carbon monoxide, plus other hydrocarbons, oxygen and carbon dioxide. The oils were almost all aromatic, forming a similar mixture to fuel oil. The residue was mainly carbon with inorganic compounds from the plastic additives and most of the chlorine from the feedstock. The results showed that the process produced around 70% of the original plastic weight as potential fuel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9380-5
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • Acrylonitrile
  • Butadienes
  • Electronic Waste
  • Environment
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Plastics
  • Polymers
  • Styrene
  • Waste Management

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