Pyrolysis of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Plastics for Energy and Material Recovery

University essay from KTH/Energi- och ugnsteknik

Abstract: The society is striving to tackle the over-extraction of Earth’s resources due to the ongoing population rise. The increased needs of energy and material resources leads to a growing volume of materials waste, which include a variety of dangerous pollutants among them. Waste of electrical and electronic equipment poses a universal problem due to its vast quantities, responsible for environmental pollution and numerous diseases to humans and animals. The high demand in electrical and electronic equipment along with its short-life time due to its obsolescence, leads to the expansion of WEEE waste stream. Energy and material recovery from WEEE can minimize significantly the over extraction of precious metals and minerals along with fuels towards a more sustainable future. Currently, there are several ways to treat WEEE and recover material fractions along with energy, such as incineration and landfilling. Thermochemical treatment of WEEE offers the possibility to convert waste into energy and material simultaneously, in an environmentally friendlier way, resulting in a more sustainable waste management. In this research, pyrolysis is examined as a method for energy and material recovery from WEEE. Brominated plastics along with Polyethylene plastic mixtures have been acquired from Stena and Boliden AB separation processes respectively. Both materials are subjected to pyrolysis in a fixed bed and an auger reactor. The pyrolysis products show their strong relation to the pyrolysis temperature, the type of the reactor and the initial composition of the feedstock material. The carried-out experiments depict the upward trend of the gaseous products in favor of the oils as the pyrolysis temperature increase. The amount of solid residue remained almost at the same levels throughout the temperature range, meaning that no higher temperatures are needed in order to achieve higher decomposition rates of the tested material. Unreacted carbon and inorganic compounds end up in the solid residue that could be used as fuel in a combustion process. The metal fraction can be separated and recycled, as it possesses commercial value. Main oil compounds listed were, styrene, toluene, ethylbenzene, alpha methylstyrene benzene, phenol. Compounds such as benzene, indene and p-xylene were produced as the organic compounds were further decomposed during the experiments at the highest temperatures. Chlorine and bromine content must be separated in order to be a formidable fuel. The amount of combustible gases was increasing and their energy potential with the temperature rise. The gaseous fraction consists mainly of: H2, CO, CH4, CO2, C2H2, C2H4, C2H6, C3H6, C3H8. Both the gaseous and oil compounds can be used as fuels in a combustion process. The amount of halogens was measured at low levels within the product range, though their separation is important. Pyrolysis of WEEE is a promising method for energy and material recovery that can boost the sustainability of our society.

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