Plastics are used globally on a huge scale, but many plastics currently in use cannot be easily recycled. This includes flexible plastic films, which have become increasingly popular due to their versatility, lightness, resistance and printability.
Due to their low bulk density during the recycling process, flexible plastic film wastes are usually directly discarded or incinerated, leading to severe environmental pollution. Therefore, converting plastic wastes into value-added products has attracted more and more attention in recent years, in an attempt to help resolve the issue of plastic pollution.
Paper has a myriad of uses, but poor stability of traditional cellulose paper in harsh environments, such as humid conditions and extreme temperatures, limits the range of applications. Synthetic, polymer-based paper offers excellent thermal properties and resistance to acids, alkalies and water.
A recent study published in Polymer International shows that printable, paper-like composites can be prepared from plastic film wastes via thermally induced phase separation method.
This is achieved by adding polyethylene-graft-maleic anhydride (PE-g-MAH) as a compatibilizer and fumed silica as an additive. The resulting paper-like composites demonstrated enhancements in mechanical, thermal, and printable properties, when nano-SiO2 loading was 2.5-3 wt%. Uniformly distributed holes, which enhance printability by providing space for ink or other functional molecules, were observed, and the CIE whiteness value reached 96.7%. Additionally, the paper-like composites exhibited good solid ink affinity, and high water or oil adsorption capacity.
In this way, plastic flexible film wastes can be recycled into high-performance, printable, paper-like composites that can be used as major components of multi-functional papers.
Find more research like this in Polymer International