Plastic waste treatment trends toward recycling in many countries; however, the melting process in the facilities which adopt material recycling method for treating plastic waste may emit toxicants and cause sensory annoyance. The objectives of this study were to analyze the pollution characteristics of the emissions from the plastic waste recycling plants, particularly in harmful volatile organochlorinated compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), odor levels and critical odorants. Ten large recycling plants were selected for analysis of odor concentration (OC), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and PAHs inside and outside the plants using olfactometry, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography-fluorescence detector, respectively. The olfactometric results showed that the melting processes used for treating polyethylene/polypropylene (PE/PP) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic waste significantly produced malodor, and the odor levels at downwind boundaries were 100-229 OC, which all exceeded Taiwan's EPA standard of 50 OC. Toluene, ethylbenzene, 4-methyl-2-pentanone, methyl methacrylate and acrolein accounted for most odors compared to numerous VOCs. Sixteen organochlorinated compounds were measured in the ambient air emitted from the PVC plastic waste recycling plant and total concentrations were 245-553 μg m-3; most were vinyl chloride, chloroform and trichloroethylene. Concentrations of PAHs inside the PE/PP plant were 8.97-252.16 ng m-3, in which the maximum level were 20-fold higher than the levels detected from boundaries. Most of these recycling plants simply used filter to treat the melting fumes, and this could not efficiently eliminate the gaseous compounds and malodor. Improved exhaust air pollution control were strongly recommended in these industries.
- Plastic waste recycling
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- Volatile organochlorinated compounds