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Recycling of Polymers: A Review

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Abstract

Plastics are inexpensive, easy to mold, and lightweight. These and many other advantages make them very promising candidates for commercial applications. In many areas, they have substantially suppressed traditional materials. However, the problem of recycling still is a major challenge. There are both technological and economic issues that restrain the progress in this field. Herein, a state-of-art overview of recycling is provided together with an outlook for the future by using popular polymers such as polyolefins, poly(vinyl chloride), polyurethane, and poly(ethylene terephthalate) as examples. Different types of recycling, primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, and biological recycling, are discussed together with related issues, such as compatibilization and cross-linking. There are various projects in the European Union on research and application of these recycling approaches; selected examples are provided in this article. Their progress is mirrored by granted patents, most of which have a very limited scope and narrowly cover certain technologies. Global introduction of waste utilization techniques to the polymer market is currently not fully developed, but has an enormous potential.

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