The impact of plastics or the global impact of plastics is a hot topic about saving the earth. Here there will be a brief explanation of the global impact of plastic and the recycling of plastics. How are plastics damaging the earth and other lifeforms? therefore the actions taken by the countries to control plastic waste. Why recycling plastics is required and how can it control further plastic damage. How recycled plastics can be used.
Anantha Sairam Pasupulati, Cademix Institute of Technology
Plastics and their Applications
Plastics are a broad category of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials based on polymers. It can be molded, extruded, or pressed into solid objects of various shapes. Its adaptability, along with other properties like lightweight, durability, flexibility, and low cost, has led to its widespread use.
In addition to packaging, plastics are used in other industries like construction (pipes, gutters, doors, and windows), textiles (stretchable fabrics, fleece), consumer goods (toys, tableware, toothbrushes), transportation (headlights, bumpers, body panels, wing mirrors), and electronics (phones, computers, televisions).
History of Plastics
At the 1862 London International Exhibition, Alexander Parkes introduced the world’s first man-made plastic. Parks discovered “Parkesine” while trying to develop a synthetic substitute for shellac for waterproofing. Parkesine, though not a commercial success, was an important first step in the development of synthetic plastics. John Wesley Hyatt of Albany, New York, discovered a way to manufacture an improved version of Parkesine, commonly known as celluloid.
Plastics effecting on a global scale
Most of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from land. Major rivers also carry trash to the sea, acting as conveyor belts, picking up trash as they flow. If plastics are in ocean currents, they will travel the world.
Scientists found plastic from Russia, the US, Europe, South America, Japan, and China on Henderson Island, an uninhabited atoll in the Pitcairn Group halfway between Chile and New Zealand. The South Pacific gyre, a circular ocean current, carried them there.
Once at sea, sunlight, wind, and waves break down plastic garbage into tiny bits. Microplastics are in every corner of the world. From Mount Everest to the Mariana Trench, the deepest trench in the world. Microplastics continue to break down. Plastic microfibers are in municipal water systems and in the air.
Plastic kills millions of creatures every year, from birds to fish to other marine life. Plastics have harmed nearly 700 species, including endangered ones. Almost every seabird eats plastic. The images below show the live example of plastic damage on Aquatic and wildlife.
Plastic Waste in Aquatic and Wildlife
Due to the global impacts of plastics most animal deaths are due to entanglement or malnutrition. Abandoned fishing gear or six-pack rings strangle seals, whales, turtles, and other animals. These little pieces often travel through the digestive system unnoticed. Other studies show plastics can obstruct digestive tracts or penetrate vital organs, killing. Plastic-filled stomachs limit appetite, causing famine.
Many land-based species, such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, camels, and other large mammals, have died after eating plastic. Researchers found damage to the liver and reproductive systems of some species, such as oysters, resulting in reduced egg production. In the initial days of life, larval fish consume nanofibers, prompting new concerns about plastics’ impact on fish populations.
Global impact of plastics damage
By 2025, the ocean will have 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish. Plastic makes up over 80% of marine litter, killing up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine creatures annually. The global impact of plastics causes at least $13 billion in annual economic damage to the global marine ecosystem and cleaning up beaches from plastic costs more than manufacturing.
Some studies estimate that people consume five grams of plastic per week from the tap, bottled water, and food. This eventually gets into our blood, causing cancer and other diseases. In addition, burning plastic can harm human health and contribute to climate change.
Global plastic action
“single-use plastic,” is the major reason for the global impact of plastics. Cutlery and stir sticks also contain these. Canada has decided to ban single-use plastics by 2021 to reduce pollution. Along with Canada, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastic items in March. Last June, India pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022.
At the start of 2018, China, which imports 45 percent of all plastic waste, banned 24 recyclable materials, including recycled plastics. That pushed the European Union to recycle its own waste.
Why Recycling plastics
Recycling plastics leads to conserving natural resources and Energy, and it is important because the usage of plastics is growing.
In America, plastics have grown in importance in our nation’s municipal solid waste (MSW), from less than 1% in 1960 to over 12% in 2018, according to an EPA report. 1. According to Statista, bottled water sales have increased steadily over the last decade, from 8.45 billion gallons in 2009 to 14.4 billion gallons in 2019. 2 American consumers of bottled water are clearly on the rise.
Plastic recycling saves energy and resources (water, petroleum, natural gas, and coal). The Pacific Institute of California’s Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley discovered that a pint-sized bottle of water requires 2,000 times the energy that tap water does.
Steps in Recycling of Plastics
Plastic recycling is easier than making new plastic products. However, plastic recycling is not an easy task. It necessitates meticulous procedures. It may take months. Regardless of the plastic’s use or type, it goes through some basic steps during recycling. Here are six steps to recycle plastic.
Plastic waste collection:
The first step in plastic recycling is collecting waste. While this process appears simple, it is not. Recyclers place recycling bins in public, residential, and industrial zones to facilitate collection.
Sorting of Plastics waste
After collection, recyclers send the plastic to facilities that sort it by type. Plastics vary in size, color, thickness, and use.
Washing is essential to avoid damage to the new product. Aside from that, contaminants in plastic products may not be recyclable.
Resize and Shred
Plastic material is cut into small pieces to easier the process. Plastic is reprocessed into other sizes using shredding. Resizing also helps recyclers identify elements like metal that were missed during washing.
Plastics Identification and Sorting
Here plastics are tested and determined their quality. The plastics sorted further processing. This process tests several features. Density is one of them. Particles sinking are less dense than those floating. This step also determines the plastic’s color and melting point. They sort the plastic particles and send them to be processed. other is Air. Plastic particles blown into the wind tunnel to test air classification. Larger plastic will stay at the wind tunnel’s bottom. Thinner one’s float.
Plastic recycling ends with compounding. Recycling converts plastic particles into materials that manufacturers can use. It involves smashing and melting plastic to make pellets. Later on, nevertheless, the pellets are then processed into new plastic and non-plastic products. This last step takes the most time and energy. Then new plastic materials emerge. Or other materials intended by the recycler.
Recycling Methods of plastics
Mechanical Recycling: This is the most common recycling method. Mechanic recycling is another term for old-fashioned This method recycles thermoplastics. Plastics are traditionally recycled by melting and reprocessing. After recycling plastic, injection molding is used to create new products.
Advanced Recycling: Advanced recycling uses chemicals to break down plastic. This method includes three techniques. Pyrolysis, chemical recycling, and gasification are examples. Firstly Pyrolysis is a method of turning plastic waste into crude oil. Secondly, Chemical recycling involves converting a polymer into a monomer. Finally, gasification turns plastic into gas. As a result, producers use this gas to generate electricity.
According to treehugger the examples of recyclable plastics are LDPE, HDPE, PP, PVC, PET, PS
A new method in the recycling plastics
One of the challenges in recycling plastic is recycling different types of plastics together due to their differing properties. Although plastics have an irreversible and detrimental biological impact on the environment, separating and treating each type of plastic adds to the cost of recycling plastic.
Tingan Lin and Limin Bao of Shinshu University studied thermoplastic materials’ recyclability and sustainability. Material properties were also studied. Plastics are the third most used manmade material after steel and cement. This has resulted in excessive plastic pollution.
Compatibilizer to different plastics
Melting thermoplastic polyurethane and polypropylene together proved difficult due to their different melting points of 145°C and 165°C. Therefore Lin et al. added a suitable compatibilizer that acts as a go-between for the plastics, allowing them to be processed simultaneously. The plastic’s quality has not changed.
The researchers used melt extrusion and injection molding to efficiently produce thermoplastic blends. Therefore compatibilizer, polypropylene grafted maleic anhydride, was used sparingly. This discovery would revalue unwanted plastic and protect wildlife and the environment from further pollution. Professor Bao plans to keep researching thermal behaviors and how they affect thermoplastic reusability.
“Polypropylene/thermoplastic polyurethane blends: mechanical characterization, recycling and sustainable development of thermoplastic materials,” says their paper.
Plastic Recycling and Replacement Ideas
To prevent the global impact of plastics, plastics from entering oceans and landfills, some companies are now melting plastic products, mixing additives, and using the mixture to pave roads. Therefore MacRebur was the one to build plastic roads. As a result, it helps reduce carbon footprint by using only single-use plastics.
Empty plastic bottles filled with clean, dried, single-use plastics with no gaps. Therefore this makes them extremely durable and reusable as building blocks for tables, beds, stages, and even walls. a school in South Africa made of Ecobricks
3D Printing Street Furniture
Lab in Thessaloniki firstly uses household plastic waste to create urban furniture. Therefore deforestation is controlled, New Raw has made it happen. This project uses recycled plastic parts to create innovative products that breathe new life into urban public spaces.
In recent years, the number of refugees and homeless people has increased globally. This necessitates affordable housing solutions. Therefore Bath University researchers have been designing and testing reusable shelters with Protomax Plastic Engineering. Although it is cheap and simple to build housing will be in high demand in the coming years and may help solve the big plastic waste problem.
Usage of plastic has been increased exponentially and increases to do so. To control the global impact of plastics, one effective way is increasing plastic recycling and avoiding one-time usable plastics. There are so many innovative ideas and projects going on with recyclable plastics. The main challenge is controlling plastics entering wild and aquatic life. Every human being who uses and who does not use plastics has to be respectful towards nature and other life forms and be attentive while throwing off the plastics.