The predictability of pyrolysis yields and product composition of mixed plastics has been studied. To do so, pyrolysis of virgin polymers (HDPE, LDPE, PP, PS and PET) and 8 individual sorting categories from a real waste DKR-350 stream (PE rigid/film, PP rigid/film, PET, PS, multilayer flexibles, and clogged materials) was performed in a batch reactor at 500 ◦C at laboratory scale.
The obtained oil/wax, gas, and solid yields and the composition of oil/wax of those individual feedstocks were used as input of a superposition model to predict the corresponding pyrolysis yields and oil/wax composition of mixed feeds, which were later compared with the experimentally measured product yields from the pyrolysis of those mixed streams. This linear model predicts the oil/wax yield of the mixed streams to a reasonable extent, with a maximum yield deviation (overestimation) of 8 percentage points.
However, the presence of significant amounts of PET (above 33 wt%) in the mixed plastic streams negatively impacts the production of the condensable product and promotes the formation of solid products beyond the expected predicted values. Quantification of the type of carbon (aliphatic, aromatic and carbonyl) present in all the oil/wax products was done using 13C NMR spectroscopy.
A linear model could also predict the aliphatic carbon yield in the condensable product from plastic waste streams with high accuracy (maximum yield difference of 6 percentage points). However, the aromatic carbon yield could not be predicted, probably due to the observed behavior of PET, which interacts with other polymers to promote solid product formation.