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10.1002/spepro.003381 Recycled polyvinyl chloride as a sustainable solution Hong Chang and Nidal Abu-Zahra An improved
10.1002/spepro.003381
10.1002/spepro.003381

Recycled polyvinyl chloride as a sustainable solution

Hong Chang and Nidal Abu-Zahra

An improved extrusion technique for polyvinyl chloride regrind could be useful to manufacturers, builders, and architects.

Extruded polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products have been used in a range of industries for decades—because of their light weight and energy efficiency 1 —as replacement of traditional building materials such as steel, aluminum, and wood. However, scrapped PVC or its waste products take a long time to deteriorate in landfills. As a result, in re- cent years their applications have been a target of those doubting the products’ sustainability. Finding a reliable technique to effectively use recycled PVC is key to minimizing the loads of landfills and improving sustainability. Many researchers and scientists have been working on using recy- cled PVC regrind in new product development. However, the most common usage includes less than 30% regrind because of the repeated heating that is required. Often, the products have poor mechanical prop- erties and surface finishes. We have focused on using regrind at a rate of more than 50% by developing a robust formulation for extrusion 2 with suitable equipment setup. In addition, we believe that the appropriate profile geometry and the regrind’s particle size are vital to its successful use. Our results indicate that a very important processing condition in high loading of regrind is to make sure that the compound flows consis- tently and continuously through the extruder’s hopper. Bridging occurs most often in the hopper as a consequence of the segregation of regrind and virgin material because of their particle-size and specific-gravity differences. Figure 1 shows bridging with the compound stuck inside the hopper (design 1), which in turn interrupts the extrusion process. The hopper configuration (design 2) shown in Figure 2 provides a much better flow and feeding consistency. As a result, we used hopper design 2 as our standard setup for all experimental trials to develop formulations with high-loading regrind ( >50%). We conducted extensive trials of both heat-stabilizer and lubricant packages for incorporation of higher loadings of PVC regrind. The key was to balance the formulation by creating a lower melt temperature in the extruder without delaying the fusion time. Our next important finding was identification of the geometry of products that

was identification of the geometry of products that Figure 1. Simulated hopper design 1. (a) Simulation

Figure 1. Simulated hopper design 1. (a) Simulation of compound flow from hopper (top) to extruder (bottom). (b) Example of bridging (flow stopped unexpectedly). (c) Top view of the hopper after bridging.

are more suitable or efficient to run with high regrind loadings. Our results showed that higher loadings—up to 85% of regrind—could be used for relatively simple (cross-section) profile extrusion. For more complex profiles, lower regrind loadings should be considered. We also believe that the heat-stabilizer and lubricant package should be modified further when extruding very complex profiles with high re- grind loadings, such as PVC window profiles. Thus, we developed a formulation with a lubricant and stabilizer package that has strong metal-release properties (it reduces the shear heat created between ex- truder and melt) as well as strong internal lubrication characteristics (it reduces the shear heat created between the polymer particles). This formulation allowed us to incorporate up to 70% of regrind in the compound. Using the proper hopper setup (see Figure 2), we were able to extrude profiles with excellent mechanical properties and good surface finishes compared with using virgin material. Currently, we have both been able to use all of our manufacturing scrap and also purchase recycled PVC. We found that the hopper design of certain extruders plays a signif- icant role in improving the extrusion process when using regrind. In

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10.1002/spepro.003381 Page 2/2 Figure 2. Simulated hopper design 2. (a) Simulation of compound flow from
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10.1002/spepro.003381 Page 2/2
10.1002/spepro.003381 Page 2/2 Figure 2. Simulated hopper design 2. (a) Simulation of compound flow from hopper

Figure 2. Simulated hopper design 2. (a) Simulation of compound flow from hopper (top) to extruder (bottom). (b) All compounds transported through the hopper without interruption.

addition, the appropriate stabilizer and lubricant package is key to a lower melting temperature when high loadings of regrind are used in a compound. We concluded that the geometry of the profile may also im- pact the amount of regrind that could be effectively used in extrusion. Our future research will focus on development of tooling that will further improve the ability to use high loadings of recycled PVC regrind, especially for more complex profiles. As more and more recycled PVC can be used to make high-quality profiles, manufacturers will become significant contributors to sustainable, ‘green’ solutions for PVC applications. In addition, because of PVC’s low thermal con- ductivity and light weight, it will become more prevalent in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and applications.

Author Information

Hong Chang

Gossen Corp.

Milwaukee, WI

Hong Chang is a research and development scientist with Gossen and an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Nidal Abu-Zahra Materials Department University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI

Nidal Abu-Zahra, associate professor and chair of the materials depart- ment of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, holds a PhD in industrial engineering and MS and BS degrees in mechanical engineering. He is also a lean-manufacturing consultant at Gossen Corp.

References

1. Peter Mapleston, K 2010: just one word: sustainability, Plast. Eng. 66, pp. 12–24, 2010.

2. Hong Chang and Nidal Abu-Zahra, One step forward to a sustainable green solution of extruded-foam PVC building products, J. Vinyl Add. Technol. In press.

c 2010 Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)