High-purity polypropylene from disposable face masks via solvent-targeted recovery and precipitation†
The high use of disposable face masks since the start of COVID-19 has globally generated 4.68–6.24 million tons per year of waste from personal protective equipment. Disposable face masks are generally disposed of in landfills. Polypropylene (PP) is the main component in face masks, which is one of the least recycled plastics but has a high market value. In this work, we extract high-quality PP from face masks using solvent-targeted recovery and precipitation (STRAP) with 90 wt% recovery. N,N-Dimethylacetamide removed the color from the recovered PP to produce a clear high-purity PP, as verified by CIELAB color space. The decolored PP shows similar thermochemical properties and color to virgin PP resin. A techno-economic analysis of the process indicates that high-purity PP recovery can be economically viable at a scale of 5000 tons per year or higher.