M.S. Thesis: Tertiary Recycling of Waste Plastics: An Assessment of Pyrolysis by Microwave Radiation

By Timothy T. Sharobem

Advisor: Professor Ah-Hyung Alissa Park

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

May 2010

The traditional ways of handling non-recycled plastic wastes are landfilling and incineration. It can be argued however that neither of those approaches are adequate solutions. Landfills require large areas which may be challenged by increasing population. Furthermore, there is no energetic incentive to sequester these polymers for decades. A better approach to land filling is energy recovery via incineration, which uses the heat of combustion to generate electricity. However, the necessity for considerable pollution control, the difficulty of burning plastics, and their chemical composition suggest that some type of recycling is more valuable. Tertiary recycling (also known as feedstock recycling) is the processing of waste into fuels or basic chemicals. Several methods of plastic feedstock recycling have been investigated in recent years (e.g. depolymerization, catalytic cracking/reforming) with the goal of either recovering original monomers or, more commonly oils and waxes.

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