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Use of Recycled Plastics in Eco-efficient Concrete

Use of Recycled Plastics in Eco-efficient Concrete

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Use of Recycled Plastics in Eco-efficient Concrete

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964 pages
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Nov 21, 2018


Use of Recycled Plastics in Eco-efficient Concrete looks at the processing of plastic waste, including techniques for separation, the production of plastic aggregates, the production of concrete with recycled plastic as an aggregate or binder, the fresh properties of concrete with plastic aggregates, the shrinkage of concrete with plastic aggregates, the mechanical properties of concrete with plastic aggregates, toughness of concrete with plastic aggregates, modulus of elasticity of concrete with plastic aggregates, durability of concrete with plastic aggregates, concrete plastic waste powder with enhanced neutron radiation shielding, and more, thus making it a valuable reference for academics and industrial researchers.

  • Describes the main types of recycled plastics that can be applied in concrete manufacturing
  • Presents, for the first time, state-of-the art knowledge on the properties of conventional concrete with recycled plastics
  • Discusses the technological challenges for concrete manufactures for mass production of recycled concrete from plastic waste
Nov 21, 2018

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Use of Recycled Plastics in Eco-efficient Concrete - Elsevier Science

Use of Recycled Plastics in Eco-efficient Concrete


Fernando Pacheco-Torgal

Jamal Khatib

Francesco Colangelo

Rabin Tuladhar

Table of Contents

Cover image

Title page


List of contributors

1. Introduction to the use of recycled plastics in eco-efficient concrete

1.1. The waste plastic problem

1.2. Outline of the book

2. Techniques for separation of plastic wastes

2.1. Introduction

2.2. Plastic waste sources and typologies

2.3. The plastic recycling chain

2.4. Plastic waste separation technologies

2.5. Recycled plastics quality control

2.6. Technical challenges in plastic recycling

3. Hydraulic separation of plastic wastes

3.1. Introduction

3.2. Principles of the hydraulic separation process

3.3. Devices for the hydraulic separation within mechanical recycling plants

3.4. The hydraulic separator channel

3.5. Separation efficacy of the hydraulic separator channel

3.6. Conclusions

4. Production of recycled polypropylene (PP) fibers from industrial plastic waste through melt spinning process

4.1. Introduction

4.2. Physical cutting of waste plastic

4.3. Mechanical recycling of plastic wastes

4.4. Production of recycled plastic fibers

4.5. Material characterization

4.6. Mechanical properties of recycled PP fibers

4.7. Conclusions

5. Fresh properties of concrete containing plastic aggregate

5.1. Introduction

5.2. Mix proportion and design

5.3. Workability of fresh concrete containing plastic aggregate

5.4. Fresh density of concrete containing plastic aggregate

5.5. Self-compacting plastic aggregate concrete

5.6. Conclusions

6. Mechanical strength of concrete with PVC aggregates

6.1. Introduction

6.2. Properties of concrete with PVC waste aggregate

6.3. Summary

7. Characteristics of concrete containing EPS

7.1. Introduction

7.2. Preparation of EPS

7.3. Physical properties of EPS

7.4. Chemical properties of EPS

7.5. Substitution levels of EPS

7.6. Production and applications of EPS concrete

7.7. Density of concrete containing EPS

7.8. Fresh properties of concrete containing EPS

7.9. Mechanical properties

7.10. Thermal conductivity

7.11. Durability-related properties of concrete containing EPS

7.12. Structural performance of reinforced concrete beams

7.13. Conclusions and recommendations

8. Lightweight concrete with polyolefins as aggregates

8.1. Introduction

8.2. Production of expanded granules

8.3. Use of recycled polyolefins in different sectors

8.4. Use of polyolefins as recycled aggregates in lightweight concrete (case study)

8.5. Future trends

9. Properties of concrete with plastic polypropylene aggregates

9.1. Introduction

9.2. Waste polypropylene-based aggregates for concrete

9.3. Structural properties of concrete with PP aggregates

9.4. Mechanical properties of concrete with PP aggregates

9.5. Thermal properties of composites with PP aggregates

9.6. Hygric properties of composites with PP aggregates

9.7. Possible application of PP in concrete production and future trends

10. Virgin and waste polymer incorporated concrete mixes for enhanced neutron radiation shielding characteristics

10.1. Introduction

10.2. Neutron radiation and shielding

10.3. Use of hydrogenous aggregates and polymers in radiation shielding

10.4. Use of virgin HDPE powder as partial replacement to sand

10.5. Properties of PISCC mixes in their fresh states

10.6. Neutron radiation shielding properties of polymer incorporated concrete mixes

11. Performance of dioctyl terephthalate concrete

11.1. Introduction

11.2. Dioctyl terephthalate concrete

11.3. Comparison of the polyethylene terephthalate and dioctyl terephthalate concrete

11.4. Conclusions and recommendations

12. Recycling of PET in asphalt concrete

12.1. Introduction

12.2. Using PET waste as modifier in asphalt mixture

12.3. Conclusion

13. Recycling of different plastics in asphalt concrete

13.1. Introduction

13.2. Polymer modification of asphalt and the need for plastic recycling in asphalt concrete

13.3. Materials and methods

13.4. Results

13.5. Future trends

13.6. Summary and conclusions

14. Replacement of stabilizers by recycling plastic in asphalt concrete

14.1. Introduction

14.2. Need for stabilization of asphalt concrete

14.3. Addition of plastic in asphalt concrete

14.4. Performance of asphalt concrete with plastics

14.5. Field investigations

14.6. Conclusion

15. The use of recycled plastic as partial replacement of bitumen in asphalt concrete

15.1. Introduction

15.2. Bitumen’s role in asphalt

15.3. Modification of asphalt mixtures with polymers

15.4. Modification of asphalt mixtures with polystyrene

15.5. General Conclusions

15.6. Future lines of study

16. Concrete reinforced with metalized plastic waste fibers

16.1. Introduction

16.2. Metalized postconsumer plastic wastes: challenges and issues for management

16.3. Feasibility of MPW in concrete: outcomes from pilot studies

16.4. Role of MPW fibers in the workability and strength properties of conventional concrete

16.5. Effect of MPW fibers on the deformation due to the axial compression by modified concrete

16.6. Advantages and limitations of the usage of MPW in concrete

16.7. Important findings and concluding remarks

16.8. Future trends

16.9. Sources of further information and advice

17. Performance of concrete with PVC fibres

17.1. Introduction

17.2. Performance of concrete with PVC fibres

17.3. Conclusions

17.4. Future research perspective

18. Recycled waste PET for sustainable fiber-reinforced concrete

18.1. Introduction

18.2. Use of PET in concrete

18.3. Tests (summary) and results

18.4. Conclusions

19. Properties of recycled carpet fiber reinforced concrete

19.1. Introduction

19.2. Carpet types and fiber recycling methods

19.3. Properties of recycled carpet fiber

19.4. Physical properties of concrete containing recycled carpet fiber

19.5. Durability-related properties of concrete containing recycled carpet fiber

19.6. Mechanical properties of concrete containing recycled carpet fiber

19.7. Future trends

20. Performance of asphalt concrete with plastic fibres

20.1. Introduction

20.2. Polyethylene terephthalate

20.3. The use of polyethylene terephthalate in asphalt mixture

20.4. Recycled polyethylene terephthalate fiber

20.5. Characteristics of recycled PET fiber

20.6. Application of recycled PET fiber in asphalt mixture

20.7. Conclusion

21. Sustainability of using recycled plastic fiber in concrete

21.1. Introduction

21.2. Sustainability in construction materials

21.3. Comprehensive LCA of recycled plastic fibers used for reinforcing concrete

21.4. Conclusions



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List of contributors

I. Aghayan,     Shahrood University of Technology, Shahrood, Iran

Khaleel Al-Adham,     Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Ali Asghar Asgharian Jeddi,     Textile Engineering Department, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

Ankur C. Bhogayata,     Department of Civil Engineering Marwadi Education Foundation's Group of Institutions, Rajkot, India

Giuseppe Bonifazi,     Department of Chemical Engineering, Materials & Environment, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

Miguel Ángel Calzada-Pérez,     GCS Research Group, University of Cantabria, Av. de los Castros 44, Santander, Spain

Francesco Colangelo,     Department of Engineering, University Parthenope of Naples, Materials Science and Engineering Research Group—MASERG, Centro Direzionale, Is. C4, Naples, Italy

M.A. Dalhat,     Transportation and Traffic Engineering Department, College of Engineering, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

A. Elkordi,     Faculty of Engineering, Beirut Arab University, Beirut, Lebanon

Ilenia Farina,     Department of Engineering, University Parthenope of Naples, Materials Science and Engineering Research Group—MASERG, Centro Direzionale, Is. C4, Naples, Italy

Dora Foti,     Department of Civil Engineering Sciences and Architecture, Polytechnic University of Bari, Bari, Italy

M.A. Habib,     Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Sheelan M. Hama,     Department of Civil Engineering, University of Anbar, Ramadi, Iraq

B.A. Herki,     Faculty of Engineering, Soran University, Erbil, Iraq

Nahla N. Hilal,     Department of Civil Engineering, University of Anbar, Ramadi, Iraq

I. Indacoechea-Vega,     GITECO Research Group, University of Cantabria, Av. de los Castros 44, Santander, Spain

Masoud Jamshidi,     School of Chemical Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST), Tehran, Iran

Senthil Kumar Kaliyavaradhan,     Key Laboratory for Green and Advanced Civil Engineering Materials and Application Technology of Hunan Province, College of Civil Engineering, Hunan University, Changsha, China

R. Khafajeh,     Shahrood University of Technology, Shahrood, Iran

J.M. Khatib

Faculty of Engineering, Beirut Arab University, Beirut, Lebanon

Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom

M.M. Kocakerim,     Department of Chemical Engineering, Çankırı Karatekin University, Uluyazı Campus, Çankırı, Turkey

H. Korucu,     Department of Chemical Engineering, Çankırı Karatekin University, Uluyazı Campus, Çankırı, Turkey

Floriana La Marca,     DICMA-Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

Pedro Lastra-González,     GITECO Research Group, University of Cantabria, Av. de los Castros 44, Santander, Spain

Tung-Chai Ling,     Key Laboratory for Green and Advanced Civil Engineering Materials and Application Technology of Hunan Province, College of Civil Engineering, Hunan University, Changsha, China

Emanuela Lupo,     DICEA-Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

Santhosh M. Malkapur,     Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, M.S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, Bengaluru, India

Mohd Idrus Mohd Masirin,     Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, Rarit Raja Johor, Malaysia

Farnaz Memarian,     Textile Engineering Department, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

A.A. Mohammed,     Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Sulaimani, Sulaimani, Iraq

Monica Moroni,     DICEA-Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

Mattur C. Narasimhan,     Department of Civil Engineering, National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) Surathkal, Mangalore, India

F. Pacheco-Torgal,     C-TAC Research Centre, University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal

Hamid Reza Pakravan,     Textile Engineering Department, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

Z. Pavlík,     Department of Materials Engineering and Chemistry, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Czech Technical University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic

M. Pavlíková,     Department of Materials Engineering and Chemistry, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Czech Technical University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic

Amir Masoud Saghafi,     Technical and Production Director, Savin Carpet Company, Tehran, Iran

Goutham Sarang,     Assistant Professor (Senior), School of Mechanical and Building Sciences (SMBS), Vellore Institute of Technology - Chennai Campus, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Silvia Serranti,     Department of Chemical Engineering, Materials & Environment, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

B. Şimşek,     Department of Chemical Engineering, Çankırı Karatekin University, Uluyazı Campus, Çankırı, Turkey

Rabin Tuladhar,     Centre of Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia

Nura Usman

Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, Rarit Raja Johor, Malaysia

Department of Civil Engineering, Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic, Katsina, Nigeria

T. Uygunoğlu,     Department of Civil Engineering, Afyon Kocatepe University, Ahmet Necdet Sezer Campus, Afyon, Turkey

Marta Vila-Cortavitarte,     GITECO Research Group, University of Cantabria, Av. de los Castros 44, Santander, Spain

Shi Yin,     College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia

M. Záleská,     Department of Materials Engineering and Chemistry, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Czech Technical University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic


Introduction to the use of recycled plastics in eco-efficient concrete

F. Pacheco-Torgal     C-TAC Research Centre, University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal


This chapter addresses several problems associated with waste plastic. Data on plastic production and on waste plastic are reviewed. The unrealistic expectations that have been put on the miracle digesting plastic enzyme case are commented upon. The case of Europe, European directives, and targets concerning waste plastic recycling, as well as on the risk of waste smuggling, are addressed. The importance of recycling waste plastics through concrete is emphasized. A book outline is included.


Plastics; Recycling targets; Thermoplastics; Thermosetting plastics; Waste

1.1. The waste plastic problem

Deriving from the Greek word ''plastikos'' meaning fit for moulding, plastics comprise mainly two broad categories (thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics). The former include plastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, polysterene, polycarbonates, etc.) that can be heated up to form products and if needed can be reheated and melted again for new forms. In contrast, the latter (polyurethane, polyesters, phenolic and acrylic resins, silicone, etc.) can be melted and formed, but unlike thermoplastics cannot be remelted. The global production of fossil-based plastics has grown more than 20-fold since 1964 to 322 million ton in 2015 ( Wei and Zimmermann, 2017; PlasticsEurope, 2017). Not only the production of plastics consumes yearly 4%–8% of the global crude oil extraction meaning that if plastics are disposed instead of being recycled, these resources are lost but the worst part is that plastic waste is harmful because pigment contains many trace elements that are highly toxic and need hundreds of years to degrade (Huysman et al., 2017). More worrying is the several millions of tons of plastic waste that are entering the ocean each year, for quite some time, whose damaging action has been addressed by several authors (Eriksen et al., 2014; Jambeck et al., 2015; Sussarellu et al., 2016; Green et al., 2016; MacArthur, 2017; Lamb et al., 2018). Between 8 and 24 tons of plastic waste enter oceans each minute (Haward, 2018).

According to ten Brink et al. (2018), the annual cost of marine litter is conservatively estimated at US$ 40 billion. And in July 19, 2017 Science magazine published an article warning that by 2050, we'll have produced 26 billion tons of plastic waste, half of which will be dumped in landfills and the environment (Guglielmi, 2017). It’s then no surprise that target 14.1 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular, from land-based activities, including marine debris, by 2025. Yes, it’s true that on 17th of April 2018 a paper published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Austin et al., 2018) reported the discovery of an enzyme that can digest highly crystalline PET and also polyethylene-2,5-furandicarboxylate (PEF). However, as Oliver Jones, analytical chemist at RMIT University in Melbourne, recognized there is still a way to go before you could recycle large amount of plastic with enzymes (Gabbatiss, 2018). But a more wise position was made by Adisa Azapagic, at the University of Manchester who mentioned that A full life-cycle assessment would be needed to ensure the technology does not solve one environmental problem—waste—at the expense of others, including additional greenhouse gas emissions (Carrington, 2018). And if a lesson can be extracted from this case, it is that scientists should have some lessons on public communication, a problem recognized several years ago (Soapbox Science, 2012; Goldstein, 2012; Grant, 2016). In the meantime a study published on May of 2018 showed that each liter of sea ice on the Arctic contained around 12,000 particles of plastic (La Daana et al., 2018). No wonder then that a previous study (Wilcox et al., 2015) revealed that around 90% of seabirds have plastic waste particles in their gut that they mistakenly took to be fish eggs. Also, Rochman (2018) recently showed that the ocean is not the only place to suffer damaging environmental impacts. Around 26 million tons of plastic waste are generated in Europe every year, which makes Europe the second largest producer of plastic materials, being responsible for 20% of the world production. Packaging applications, the largest application sector, represent 39.6% of the total plastic demand (Huysman et al., 2017). In the past years significant share of European waste plastics leave the EU to be treated in third world countries, where different environmental standards may apply (EUROSTAT, EuropePlastics). However, since January of 2018 China decided to ban the imports of 24 kinds of waste including waste plastic which will aggravate the problem of plastic waste in Europe. And that is why plastic waste is one of the five priority areas in the EU action plan for the circular economy—CE (EC, 2015a). The CE concept may have been inspired by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and the limits to growth thesis of the Club of Rome in the 1970s (Winans et al., 2017) and is being promoted by the EU, but several national governments still argue (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017) that the conceptual relationship between the CE and sustainability is not clear, having detrimental implications for the advancement of sustainability science. Others (Korhonen et al., 2018) mentioned that the CE practice has almost exclusively been developed and led by practitioners, that is, policy-makers, businesses, business consultants, business associations, and business foundations and as a result the research content of the CE concept is superficial and unorganized.

Still in the European Union context, looking into the past is worth remembering that the previous Directive 94/62/EC had imposed a recycling target which required 22.5% of waste plastic packaging to be recycled. This target increased toward 55% by 2030 (EC, 2015b) but on March 14 of the 2017 the European Parliament voted for legislation to aim for a recycling rate target of 70% by 2030, with a proposed 80% target for packaging materials—including paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal, and wood. This constitutes a high ambition postured by the EU and there is still some controversy regarding job creation in the field of waste recycling. While the report cited by the European Parliament mentioned the possibility of creation of 1–3 million jobs (IP, 2017) the fact is that the European Commission has presented a much lower number of just 170,000 direct jobs (Politico, 2018). Most of these optimistic projections usually tend to forget that as Cooper and Gutowski (2017) recently pointed the fact that reusing a product does not guarantee an environmental benefit because of the need to upgrade old product efficiencies and the fact that more efficient new products can be on the market. For instance, as contradicting as it may seem, Dunant et al. (2018) showed that reused steel is somewhat more expensive than new steel elements. Fig 1.1 shows plastic post-consumer waste rates of recycling, energy recovery, and landfill per country in 2016 and also the group of 10 countries that have implemented landfill restrictions. The figure illustrates in a very clear way the effort that needs to be taken to close the gap between the state-of-the-art plastic waste recycling and the new recycling targets. Of course energy recovery is nothing more than incineration (Eriksson and Finnveden, 2017).

Also the proof that the new and ambitious waste plastic recycling approved by the European Parliament could be hard to achieve is given by Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of industry organization Plastics Europe, who responded to the parliamentary proposals, saying that: Taking into account today's recycling technology, we already consider that the 55% plastics packaging preparing for re-use and recycling target proposed by the Commission is challenging. We would therefore like to call on the Presidency of the Council to carefully assess the impact prior to adopting any substantive amendment to the rules on the calculation initially proposed by the Commission. That position however must be seen in the light of the interests of the associates of Plastics Europe which are in the business of plastic manufacture and not in the business of waste plastic recycling. Of course, some European countries like the Netherlands, which in 2014 already recycled 50% of (packaging) plastics, aiming for 52% in 2022 (Gradus et al., 2017) will be in a better position to achieve this requirements. Be there as it may, the truth is that even countries with top performance concerning plastic waste recycling like Austria recognized that in order to achieve the proposed increased target major steps will be needed with respect to both collection and sorting of waste plastic (Van Eygen et al., 2018). This also means that even in Europe there's still much to do in order to aim at a 100% recycling target (zero plastic waste scenario). In January 16 of 2018 the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy was released (COM, 2018). The document confirmed that more than 85% of plastic was sent to China. The document mentions that internalizing the environmental costs of landfilling and incineration through high or gradually rising fees or taxes could improve the economics of plastic recycling. However, this is just wishful thinking lacking a sound study. More likely it could constitute an incentive for illegal dumping or for exportation of plastic wastes to Africa as was mentioned in a United Nations University study (PiP, 2017) meaning that at this moment it is not possible to forecast how increasing recycling targets and the use of internalizing the environmental costs through rising fees or taxes may lead to an increase of smuggling waste to third world countries. The concept of eco-efficiency was firstly coined in the book Changing Course (Schmidheiny, 1992) in the context of 1992 Earth Summit process. This concept includes the development of products and services at competitive prices that meet the needs of humankind with quality of life, while progressively reducing their environmental impact and consumption of raw materials throughout their life cycle, to a level compatible with the capacity of the planet. All of these give an important value to the option of recycling waste plastics through concrete, which is the most consumed material in our planet, about 25 gigatonnes per year around 3.5 ton per capita (Hossain et al., 2018). Not to mention the several billion tons of asphalt concrete used by the pavement industry each year. The use of recycled plastics in eco-efficient concrete can be done mainly by replacing natural aggregates, as binders and also as recycled fibers, allowing for improvements in the ductility of concrete composites. Those are the areas covered by this book.

Figure 1.1  Plastic waste rates of recycling, energy recovery, and landfill per country ( Plastics, 2017 ).

1.2. Outline of the book

This book thus provides an updated state-of-the-art review on the use of recycled plastics in eco-efficient concrete.

Part I encompasses processing of plastic wastes (Chapters 2–4).

Chapter 2 concerns techniques for the separation of plastic waste namely gravity separation, electrostatic separation, magnetic density separation, flotation, and sensor-based sorting. Auxiliary technologies usually found in plastic recycling plants are also described: magnetic and Eddy current separators. The importance of recycled plastic quality control and product certification is strongly pointed out, reporting both traditional and advanced quality measurement techniques.

Chapter 3 discusses hydraulic separation of plastic waste. This chapter presents an original device for the hydraulic separation of plastic polymers from mixtures. An extensive experimental campaign was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of the apparatus, using two geometric arrangements, nine hydraulic configurations, and three selections of polymers at three stages of a material’s life cycle. Experimental data were also employed to validate a numerical model developed within the framework of Computation Fluid Dynamics. The separation results were evaluated in terms of grade and recovery of a useful material.

Chapter 4 presents the case for the production of recycled plastic fibers. The production process includes melt-spinning and hot-drawing processes, which increase crystallinity of the plastic polymer fibers and improve its mechanical properties.

Part II concerns the case of concrete with recycled plastic as aggregate or binder (Chapters 5–15).

Chapter 5 reviews the fresh properties of concrete with plastic aggregates. The chapter also reviews the case for fresh properties of self-compacting concrete.

Chapter 6 covers mostly the mechanical strength of concrete with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) aggregates including compressive and tensile strength and modulus of elasticity.

Chapter 7 provides a comprehensive review of concrete containing Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), covers recent research, including some recent research by the authors, with some details on the compositions of concrete mixes, presentation, and discussion of the results obtained. The review includes the influence of different amounts of EPS as a replacement for natural aggregates on the different mechanical, physical, and durability properties of lightweight aggregate concretes (LWAC). The chapter also includes the methods and techniques for recycling waste EPS to be utilized in concrete.

Chapter 8 deals with the use of polyolefin waste aggregates (PWA) obtained from recycled plastics and used as plastic aggregates to replace the natural ones to produce lightweight aggregate concrete (LWAC). The mechanical properties (compressive and tensile strength) and physical properties (porosity, density, and thermal stability) are determined. Furthermore, the postfire residual mechanical performance, ultrasonic testing, and compression force are evaluated.

Chapter 9 is concerned with waste polypropylene-based aggregates, in terms of its physical, mechanical, and hygric properties and, in particular, of thermal attributes and optimum energy performance in building construction.

Chapter 10 addresses polymers for enhancing neutron radiation shielding of concrete. Past research in the field is reviewed. The feasibility issues and concerns while using virgin and waste pulverized High-density polyethylene (HDPE) polymeric materials as partial replacement to fine aggregates for making concrete mixes with enhanced neutron radiation shielding characteristics are discussed. The fresh and hardened properties of these mixes and their effect on neutron radiation shielding are also discussed.

Chapter 11 reviews the reuse of dioctyl terephthalate (DOTP) obtained from waste PET into concrete. Fresh properties as well as mechanical properties of hardened concrete are reviewed, along with thermal conductivity. Performance comparisons between DOTP concrete and PET concrete are also reviewed.

Chapter 12 covers studies investigated in the usage of PET wastes in asphalt mixture. The volume and mechanical properties of asphalt mixtures containing PET wastes along with the physical characteristic of the PET-modified binder are examined.

Chapter 13 discloses results on a case study of asphalt concrete performance with different plastic wastes. Mechanical properties and durability parameters are covered. Emissions footprint is also covered.

Chapter 14 discusses the need of stabilization of asphalt concrete and different stabilizer materials using recycling plastics. Suitable methods for incorporating waste plastics, advantages of each, performance of waste plastic added mixtures are discussed in detail with brief information on some field evaluations.

Chapter 15 reviews the use of recycled plastic as partial replacement of bitumen in asphalt concrete. The need for stabilization of asphalt concrete is reviewed. The performance of asphalt concrete with plastics is also addressed.

Finally, Part III covers concrete with recycled plastic fibers (Chapters 16–22).

Chapter 16 surveys the usage of metalized plastic waste (MPW) as a cement concrete constituent in a macrofibrous form. The chapter focuses on how to obtain the optimum quantity of MPW fibers with a suitable size to be used in concrete and changes in the deformation response due to the axial compression along with the evaluation of preliminary material properties.

Chapter 17 addresses concrete with PVC fibers in the fresh and hardened state. It is suggested that the use of PVC fibers, either 0.8% (by weight of cement) or 0.2% (by volume of concrete), could significantly improve the performances of concrete. Limitations and practical issues on the utilization of PVC fibers in concrete mixes are identified. Hence, recommendations and future research needs on the practical implications of the use of PVC fibers are given at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 18 addresses the case of polymers added to concrete in the form of binder or as discrete elements (fibers) or continuous (strips) can limit the presence of cracks and especially avoid the corrosion processes in reinforced concrete structural elements. In more detail, the effect of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) on concrete mix is especially considered. Laboratory results of concrete reinforced with PET fibers derived from recycled water bottles and with different shapes are analyzed.

Chapter 19 presents an overview of physical and mechanical properties of concrete containing recycled carpet waste fibers, as well as the carpet structure and fiber properties.

Chapter 20 gives details of a case study on the performance of asphalt concrete reinforced with recycled PET fibers.

Chapter 21 closes Part III with a chapter on the life cycle assessment. The production of 100% recycled polypropylene fibers is compared with the environmental impacts of virgin PP fibers and steel reinforcing mesh.


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Techniques for separation of plastic wastes

Silvia Serranti, and Giuseppe Bonifazi     Department of Chemical Engineering, Materials & Environment, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy


Global plastic production is continuously increasing and there is a strong need to increase plastic recycling accordingly. The most demanded polymers and their main applications are introduced and an overview of the different operations forming the plastic recycling chain is presented. Mechanical recycling is the most important option to recover plastics; it can be carried out at macro or micro level, depending on the size of plastic waste. Separation technologies are divided into gravity separation, electrostatic separation, magnetic density separation, flotation, and sensor-based sorting. Auxiliary technologies usually found in plastic recycling plants are also described: magnetic and Eddy current separators. The importance of recycled plastic quality control and product certification is strongly pointed out, reporting both traditional and advanced quality measurement techniques. The final section is devoted to list some of the main current research topics on plastic recycling.


Mechanical recycling; Plastic recycling; Plastic waste; Polymeric materials; Quality control; Separation/sorting technologies

2.1. Introduction

Mechanical recycling, which is the processing of waste by physical means, represents the main approach to follow in order to recover plastics. This process typically includes different actions, such as collection, screening, manual and/or automatic sorting, size reduction, washing, extrusion, and granulation that may occur in different sequences and more than one at a time, according to the characteristics of the feed plastic waste, in terms of origin, size, shape, and composition (Hopewell et al., 2009; Ragaert et al., 2017).

Foundation of each mechanical process, finalized to separate a specific material inside a flow stream containing other materials also, is to know the different properties of the target material, with respect to the actions to be applied (i.e., comminution, classification, separation). Important material properties useful to select the best separation strategies for segregation of plastic waste include: particle size, class distribution, density, magnetic and electric properties, color, shape, etc. Density usually represents one of the most utilized properties to perform material separation. Unfortunately, some polymers are characterized by very close values of density (Al-Salem et al., 2009); in these cases this property cannot be successfully utilized, especially to obtain high-quality single polymer streams.

The need of powerful technologies to perform plastic waste separation, being at the same time cost-effective and able to guarantee high quality of products in terms of purity is more and more stringent in order to produce secondary plastics that are competitive in the market in comparison with the virgin polymers. In fact, the actual economic and environmental constraints dramatically increase the interest of many players (i.e., industries, recyclers, technology developers, engineers, etc.) both in waste-sorting technologies, for the production of high-quality secondary polymers, and in developing automatic sensors for quality assessment of waste-derived secondary polymers. On December 2015 plastic was in fact identified by the European Commission as a key priority in the "EU Action Plan for a circular economy" (COM, 2015) and in January 2018 a "European strategy for plastics in a circular economy" (COM, 2018) was adopted in order to use such a resource in a more sustainable way, including measures for the improvement in plastic sorting and recycling capacity and in quality of recycled plastics.

A mechanical process aimed to perform plastic waste recycling is based on the utilization of fast, accurate, and reliable tools and equipment specifically addressed to separate and recover single polymer streams, eliminating polluting elements (i.e., other polymers or other materials) present in the feed. As already stated, recycling plant layout has to be developed and managed taking into account the different polymers in the feed as well as the presence of other materials, both aspects in relation to the plastic waste sources (Ignatyev et al., 2014), that is: virgin and used ones. The polymer-based products that belong to the first source class (i.e., virgin waste) never reached the consumer (i.e., runners from injection molding, waste from production, changeovers, fall-out products, cuttings, and trimmings). These start-of-life plastic wastes are usually uncontaminated both from other polymers and/or nonpolymers. Obviously, they represent the higher-quality grades of polymer waste. End-of-life plastic wastes belong to the second source class (i.e., postconsumer waste). These latter can strongly vary both in quantity and in quality according to the collecting source and/or the adopted collecting strategies.

Mechanical recycling can be applied to plastic waste sorting following two different approaches, that is, at macro- or microscale.

Plastic macrosorting is usually performed when the waste flow stream contains the polymers to be recovered as macroobjects easy to be identified and separated. In this case, any specific mechanical action (i.e., size reduction/screening) has to be preliminary applied and waste plastics, usually bottles and containers, are separated. Specific polymer attributes are first detected by specialized sensing devices and according to their characteristics further separated, usually following air-blow–based strategies. Manual separation strategies are also applied and human knowledge is at the base of the separation, It is a labor-intensive, costly, and inefficient option, even if today plastic containers are labeled according to the constituting polymer and/or blend of polymers.

Plastic microsorting is usually applied when waste plastics are recovered as flakes, that is, individuals resulting from milling actions, inside a flow stream of mixed waste characterized by different physical chemical attributes. In this case, handling costs decrease and the quantity of waste strongly increases, but more complex, and often also sophisticated technologies have to be designed, implemented, set up, and applied. These technologies (e.g., size reduction, screening, separation, etc.) are usually sequentially applied. In the latter case, sorting units and related logics, both addressed to separation and/or recovered polymer flow stream quality assessment play a preeminent role.

2.2. Plastic waste sources and typologies

2.2.1. Production of plastic waste

Over the last 50  years the role and importance of plastics in our economy have grown steadily. World plastic production has increased twentyfold compared to the 1960s reaching 335 million tonnes in 2016 (Plastics the Facts, 2017), and should double in the next 20  years. In the EU, plastic production reached 60 million tonnes in 2016. The largest plastic producers are China (29%), followed by Europe (19%) and NAFTA (18%).

Despite the global increase in plastic production, the potential for recycling plastic waste is still largely unexploited. The reuse and recycling of plastic at the end of life are very low, especially compared to other materials such as paper, glass, and metal.

The European plastics converter demand by segment in 2016 is reported in Fig. 2.1, showing that the packaging sector accounts for 39.9%, followed by building and construction (19.7%); automotive (10%); electrical and electronic equipment (6.2%); household, leisure, and sports (4.2%), agriculture (3.3%). Other sectors, including appliances, mechanical engineering, furniture, medical, etc., account for the remaining 16.7% (Plastics The Facts, 2017).

In Fig. 2.2 the European distribution of plastic waste generation by segment in 2015 is reported. It is evident that the main source of plastic waste is packaging, accounting for 59% of the total plastic waste. It can be noticed that from production to waste, different plastic products are characterized by different life cycles, depending on their use, for example, plastic packaging has a service life of less than 1  year, plastic for industrial equipment can have a service life of 40  years or more. That is the reason why the volume of collected plastic waste in 1  year usually does not match the volume of plastic production.

About 27.1 million tonnes of plastic waste were collected in Europe in 2016 (Plastics The Facts, 2017), of which 31.1% was collected for recycling, 41.6% for energy recovery and 27.3% still went to landfill. Even if the percentage of recycled plastics is quite low, a positive aspect is that in the past 10 years (from 2006 to 2016) plastic waste recycling has increased by 79% and landfill has decreased by 43%. Unfortunately, even if the EU situation is improving, in many countries landfill is still the first or second option for plastic waste.

Concerning plastic packaging waste treatment, in 2016 recycling was the first option accounting for 40.9%, followed by energy recovery (38.8%) and landfill (20.3%).

Figure 2.1  Plastic demand by different market sectors in 2016. 

Plastics The Facts, 2017.

Figure 2.2  EU plastic waste generation in 2015. 

COM, 2018. A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. p. 28.

It was estimated that plastic production and the incineration of plastic waste generate a total of about 400 million tonnes of CO2 per year (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2016). Increased use of recycled plastics can reduce dependence on fossil fuel extraction for plastic production and contain CO2 emissions. According to estimates (Rahimi and García, 2017), recycling of plastic waste from around the world could result in annual energy savings of 3.5 billion barrels of oil.

Alternative types of raw materials are also being developed (for example, bio-based plastics or plastics produced from carbon dioxide or methane), which offer the same functionalities of traditional plastics with a potentially lower environmental impact, but currently represent a very small slice of the market.

Very large quantities of plastic waste, generated both on land and at sea, are dispersed in the environment, causing considerable economic and environmental damage. Worldwide, between 5 and 13 million tonnes of plastics end up in the oceans each year, representing between 1.5% and 4% of the world production of this material (Jambeck et al., 2015). Plastic is estimated to account for over 80% of marine litter. The plastic residues are transported by sea currents, sometimes even for very long distances, and can be deposited on land, break up into microplastics, or form dense areas trapped in oceanic gyres.

The phenomenon is accentuated by the increasing amount of plastic waste generated every year, also due to the growing diffusion of single-use plastic products, for example, packaging or other consumer products thrown away after only one short use, rarely recycled, and subject to being dispersed in the environment. These products include small packaging, bags, disposable cups, lids, straws, and cutlery, in which the plastic is widely used for its lightness, low costs, and practical features.

New sources of plastic dispersion are also increasing, generating further potential risks to the environment and human health. Microplastics, defined as tiny plastic fragments smaller than 5  mm, accumulate in the sea, where, due to their small size, they can be easily ingested by marine fauna, and can also enter the food chain. Recent studies have found the presence of microplastics in the air, in drinking water, and in foods, and their impact on human health is still unknown.

Furthermore, the increase in the market share of plastics with biodegradable properties creates new opportunities but also generates risks. In the absence of a clear labeling for consumers and without proper collection and processing of waste, it could lead to an increase in the dispersion of plastics and create problems for mechanical recycling. On the other hand, biodegradable plastics can certainly be useful for some applications and innovation in this sector is welcomed.

2.2.2. Typologies of polymers, characteristics, and uses

The term plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos, meaning fit for moulding. This refers to the material's malleability or plasticity during manufacture, which allows it to be cast, pressed, or extruded into a variety of shapes—such as films, fibers, plates, tubes, bottles, boxes, and much more. There are two categories of plastics: thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics can be melted when heated and hardened when cooled, the process is reversible. Due to their characteristics, they can be reheated, reshaped, and frozen many times Thermoplastics include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS) among others. On the contrary, thermosets undergo a chemical change when heated, so they cannot be remelted and reshaped. Thermosets are widely used in electronics and automotive products. Thermoset plastics include epoxy, polyester, melamine, phenol formaldehyde, vulcanized rubber, silicone, polyurethane (PUR), etc.

Each plastic is identified by a resin code that was introduced to facilitate recycling operations (ASTM, 2014). In Table 2.1 a list of the main plastic types, with their typical applications, is reported.

The most diffused polymers, according to plastic converter demand, are (Fig. 2.3): PP, LDPE, HDPE, PVC, PUR, PET, and PS. Such polymers are also the most abundant in plastic waste with some variations according to different lifespan of products. Polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE) is the most abundant polymer in plastic waste, due to their dominance in packaging applications, followed by PP, forming together the polyolefin family, accounting for 56.1% of plastic production demand. Other polymers, accounting for 19.3% of the total, are mainly represented by acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), utilized in many different fields, such as medical, electronics, aerospace, etc.

2.3. The plastic recycling chain

The plastic recycling chain can be divided in the following operations:

Table 2.1

Figure 2.3  European plastics converter demand by polymer types in 2016. 

Plastics The Facts, 2017.

Each step of the chain affects the others. For example, the selection of

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