Characterization of particle emissions and fate of nanomaterials during incineration†
As the use of nanotechnology in consumer products continues to grow, it is inevitable that some nanomaterials will end up in the waste stream and will be incinerated. Through laboratory-scale incineration of paper and plastic wastes containing nanomaterials, we assessed their effect on emissions of particulate matter (PM) and the effect of incineration on the nanomaterials themselves. The presence of nanomaterials did not significantly influence the particle number emission factor. The PM size distribution was not affected except at very high mass loadings (10 wt%) of the nanomaterial, in which case the PM shifted toward smaller sizes; such loadings are not expected to be present in many consumer products. Metal oxide nanomaterials reduced emissions of particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Most of the nanomaterials that remained in the bottom ash retained their original size and morphology but formed large aggregates. Only small amounts of the nanomaterials (0.023–180 mg g−1 of nanomaterial) partitioned into PM, and the emission factors of nanomaterials from an incinerator equipped with an electrostatic precipitator are expected to be low. However, a sustainable disposal method for nanomaterials in the bottom ash is needed, as a majority of them partitioned into this fraction and may thus end up in landfills upon disposal of the ash.