Recycling

Researchers tackle recovery and recycling of bromine and antimony from flame-retarded plastics

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The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) is joining with Charles Darwin University (CDU) in Darwin, Australia and the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al Ain to develop new processes for recovering and recycling bromine and antimony from flame-retarded plastics. It is expected that results of the project will provide laboratory and modeling data to advance the technology to a pilot-plant stage.

“The project aims to test new ways of removing bromine and antimony safely and effectively from plastics prior to recycling the polymeric matrix into monomers and valuable fuels,” said Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski of the Energy and Resources Institute at CDU and co-project leader. “CDU’s strong experience in energy and the environment will help guide this pyrolysis research effort.”

Pyrolysis is a process of chemically decomposing organic materials at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen — often used for the recycling of plastics included in waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) — to produce valuable materials from these recycled materials. A key challenge with WEEE recycling involves its inhomogeneous composition; WEEE consists of various materials including metals, glass, and plastics that need to be separated before being reprocessed.

“The underlying aim of this initiative is to design a process that recycles plastic with near-zero environmental pollution,” said Associate Professor Mohammednoor Altarawneh at UAEU and co-project leader. “The challenge is to underpin operational conditions that eliminate formation of bromine-bearing hydrocarbons and enable a complete fixation of bromine in the form of metal bromides, from which the metallic content could be easily separated and recovered.”

Guided by NAFRA engineers and scientists, CDU and UAEU will collaborate on the research, with experiments being performed in Darwin and quantum chemical calculations completed in Al Ain, by doctoral candidates at each of the universities.