Biodegradation & Plastic Recycling

Biodegradation & Plastic Recycling

  • Biodegradation
  • Incineration, recycling and land filling are some of the traditional methods for handling plastic wastes. However, these methods are costly and often create new environmental difficulties. When compared to other methods, biodegradation is pollution friendly. Usage of certain microorganisms and enzymes to degrade polymers are classified as the biodegradation method of polymers. Biodegradation is the breakdown or degradation on exposure to biological agents like bacteria, fungi, enzymes etc. thereby reducing the molecular weight. Fully biodegradable plastics are costly but under proper conditions microorganisms can be employed effectively to degrade plastics.

    Plastic waste pollution caused by the rapid growth of plastic utilizing industries has become a major environmental concern in recent years. Over the past 50 years, global plastic production has increased tremendously resulting in substantial production of plastic solid waste worldwide, exceeding 150 million tons per year globally. To overcome the many problems associated with plastics waste, the development of biodegradable plastics, especially for use in packaging, has been gaining increasing attention; these plastics can be degraded by suitable microorganisms into low molecular weight monomers generating carbon dioxide, methane, and water.

    This method of biodegradation will help us in reducing the plastic waste and other waste which can not be recycled.

  • Plastic Recycling
  • Before any plastic waste goes under the recycling process, it needs to go through five different stages so that it can be further used for making various types of recycled products and following are the steps for it:

    • Sorting: It is necessary that every plastic item is separated according to it’s type so that it can be processed later on accordingly in the shredding machine.
    • Washing: Once the sorting has been done, the plastic waste needs to be washed properly to remove impurities such as labels and adhesives. This will enhance the quality of the finished product.
    • Shredding: After washing, the plastic waste is loaded into different conveyor belts that run the waste through different shredders. These shredders tear up the plastic into small pellets, preparing them for further recycling of other products.
    • Identification and Classification of Plastic: After shredding, a proper testing of the plastic pellets is conducted in order to ascertain their quality and class.
    • Extruding: This involves melting the shredded plastic so that it can be extruded into pellets, which are then used for making different types of plastic products.

    Among the many processes of recycling plastic waste, the following two are the most popular in the industry:

    • Heat Compression: This type of plastic recycling is gaining attention in the United States, Australia, and Japan because of its ability to recycle all types of plastic at one go. It takes unsorted and cleaned plastic waste and mixes it in huge tumblers that churn the entire mixture. The major advantage of this process is that it does not require matching forms of plastic to be recycled together.
    • Monomer:  Through the elaborate and accurate monomer recycling process, major challenges of plastic recycling can be overcome. This process actually reverses the polymerization reaction in order to recycle the same type of condensed polymer. This process not only purifies but also cleans the plastic waste to create a new polymer.

    After knowing the processes and stages of plastic recycling, it is also important to know its various benefits. A few of them are:

    • There’s a Tons of Plastic:  One of the biggest reasons for recycling plastic is because it is used and thrown in huge quantities. It has been observed that 90% of the waste accumulated by the municipal corporation is a plastic waste. Apart from this, plastic is used for manufacturing various types of goods and items that are being used on a daily basis.
    • Conservation of Energy and Natural Resources:  The recycling of plastic helps save a lot of energy and natural resources as these are the main ingredients required for making virgin plastic. Saving petroleum, water, and other natural resources help conserve the balance in nature.
    • Clears Landfill Space:  Plastic waste is accumulated in landfills which can be used for other purposes. The only way this plastic waste can be eliminated from these landfills is by recycling it. Also, various experiments have proven that when another waste material is thrown on the same ground as plastic waste, it decomposes faster and emits hazardous toxic fumes after a certain period. These fumes are extremely harmful to the surrounding area as they can cause different types of lung and skin diseases.

    Plastic recycling not only promotes proper utilization of plastic waste but also helps conserve the environment, making it cleaner and greener.

    Because recycling helps in using less energy on sourcing and processing new raw materials, it produces lower carbon emission. It also keeps potentially methane releasing waste out of landfill sites.

    Reducing the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere is vital for stopping disastrous climate change.

    Lambeth council in London in 2017 said that ”It is 6 times cheaper to dispose of recycled waste than general refuse.” So, the more you recycle, the less you put in the bin and through this process less money resources are wasted, and that’s the reason why business cooperatives , households should focus more on recycling plastic waste.

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