Pretreatment of plastic waste: Removal of colorants from hdpe using biosolvents

Ana M. Ferreira, Isa Sucena, Vanessa Otero, Eva Mariasole Angelin, Maria João Melo, João A. P. Coutinho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Plastics recycling remains a challenge due to the relatively low quality of the recycled material, since most of the developed recycling processes cannot deal with the additives present in the plastic matrix, so the recycled products end up in lower-grade applications. The application of volatile organic solvents for additives removal is the preferred choice. In this study, pretreatment of plastic packaging waste to remove additives using biosolvents was investigated. The plastic waste used was high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with blue and orange colorants (pigment and/or dye). The first step was to identify the type of colorants present in the HDPE, and we found that both plastics presented only one colorant that was actually a pigment. Then, limonene, a renewable solvent, was used to solubilize HDPE. After HDPE dissolution, a wide range of alcohols (mono-, di-, and tri-alcohols) was evaluated as antisolvents in order to selectively precipitate the polymer and maximize its purity. The use of limonene as solvent for plastic dissolution, in combination with poly-alcohols with an intermediate alkyl chain length and a large number of hydroxyl (OH) groups, was found to work best as an antisolvent (1,2,3-propanetriol and 1,2,4-butanetriol), leading to a removal of up to 94% and 100% of the blue and orange pigments, respectively. Finally, three cycles of extraction were carried out, proving the capability of the solvent and antisolvent to be recovered and reused, ensuring the economic viability and sustainability of the process. This pretreatment provides a secondary source of raw materials and revenue for the recycling process, which may lead to an increase in the quality of recycled polymers, contributing to the development of an economical and sustainable recycling process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number98
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Additives
  • Circular economy
  • Closed-loop recycling
  • Dissolution-precipitation
  • Dyes
  • High-density polyethylene
  • Pigments
  • Solvent extraction


Dive into the research topics of 'Pretreatment of plastic waste: Removal of colorants from hdpe using biosolvents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this