The separation process within a mechanical recycling plant plays a major role in the context of the production of high-quality secondary raw materials and the reduction of extensive waste disposal in landfills. Traditional plants for plastic separation employ dry or wet processes that rely on the different physical properties among the polymers. The hydraulic separator is a device employing a wet technology for particle separation. It allows the separation of two-polymer mixtures into two products, one collected within the instrument and the other one expelled through its outlet ducts. Apparatus performance were analyzed as a function of fluid and solid flow rates, flow patterns developing within the apparatus, in addition to the density, shape, and size of the polymers. For the hydraulic configurations tested, a two-way coupling takes place where the fluid exerts an influence on the plastic particles and the opposite occurs too. The interaction between the solid and liquid phases determines whether a certain polymer settles within the device or is expelled from the apparatus. Tests carried out with samples of increasing volumes of solid particles demonstrate that there are no significant differences in the apparatus effectiveness as far as a two-way interaction takes place. Almost pure concentrates of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), and Polycarbonate (PC) can be obtained from a mixture of traditional polymers. Tests conducted on Polylactic Acid (PLA) and Mater-Bi®
samples showed that the hydraulic separator can be effectively employed to separate bio-plastics from conventional plastics with remarkable grade and recovery.
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