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Open access

Irene Villafañe, Colin Keogh, Thomas P. Curran and Emmanuel G. Reynaud

Abstract

As the production of single use plastic packaging materials is increasing rapidly, the resultant generation of waste material is quickly becoming one of the world’s major environmental issues. These plastic materials are highly stable, with excellent material properties which can allow them to be used beyond their intended single use. To effectively utilize these recovered plastic materials, an understanding of their mechanical properties is required. The aim of this study was to assess the mechanical properties of recovered plastic bottles to prove the feasibility of utilisation for additional uses in non-shredding based recycling systems with lower energy requirements. This system would conserve the physical integrity of the bottles, using them as a raw material for new direct reuse and repurposing applications. Tensile tests were conducted on samples cut from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles considering different sets of variables: cutting method, orientation of the samples and degradation method. The results clearly demonstrate the superior strength characteristics, and minimal effect of degradation, showing the potential for a whole new field of applications where these recovered materials could be used. However, successful adoption of this new concept relies on structural changes to the operations of recycling and manufacturing companies as well as legislators, regulators and the general public.