Plastics Industry

Plastics have played a very significant role in industrial development since their invention. If we take a look around us, we will discover that most tools, accessories, packaging, and equipment are made out of plastic, as shown in Figure 1.3. Some of these products have a very short life cycle and are highly consumable. Others might have longer life cycle. These products are used frequently and, in most cases, are then discarded and turned to wastes. Recycling of plastics has become a great industry throughout the world because of its effectiveness and high profits.

Mechanical Medical

Mechanical Medical

Human Milk Composition
FIGURE 1.3 Uses of plastics by industry. (Source: R. J. Crawford, Plastics Engineering , 3rd ed. (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998).)

Even though plastics have a variety of benefits, they are detrimental to the environment. Many of the environmental impacts associated with the production and manufacturing of plastics include the fact that plastic production consumes a large amount of energy and materials, primarily fossil fuel, which, when combusted, emits toxins into the air. It is estimated that 4 percent of the world's annual oil production is used as a feedstock for plastics production and an additional 3-4 percent is used during manufacture.5 Plastics production also involves the use of potentially harmful chemicals, which are added as stabilizers or colorants. Many of these have not undergone environmental risk assessment, and their impact on human health and the environment is currently uncertain.5 An example of this is phthalates, which are used in the manufacture of polyvinylchloride (PVC). PVC has in the past been used in toys for young children, and there has been concern that phthalates may be released when these toys come into contact with saliva, if the toy is placed in the child's mouth or chewed by the child. Risk assessments of the effects of phthalates on the environment are currently being carried out.5 Other environmental impacts of plastics include the extensive amount of water that is needed in manufacturing. Also, the numerous plastic bags that are dispersed as litter in urban areas have also become a plaguing concern. Due to the magnitude of the problem associated with plastic waste, this section focuses on methods and mechanisms to reduce this problem for the betterment of the environment and our lifestyles. A different study concluded that 1.8 metric tons of oil are saved for every metric ton of recycled polythene produced.5 The benefits of recycling plastics are numerous, and thus should be investigated and utilized to the fullest extent.

There are numerous benefits to the recycling of plastics:

• Reduce water usage by 90 percent.

• Reduce CO2 emissions by two and a half times.

Reduce energy consumption by two-thirds.5

Plastic is divided mainly into two types: thermo plastics and thermo sets. Each type has its own manufacturing processes and its own characteristics. Most of the plastics are considered thermo plastics and can be recycled easily without any problems such as polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The other type of plastics is called thermo sets. This type is difficult to recycle due to its chemical composition. As a result, products from this type of plastics are discarded. These include melamine, epoxy, phe-nolics, and alkyds. It is worth mentioning that most thermo sets have excellent mechanical properties rather than thermo plastics. Thus, it is considered a total loss and waste of energy if these wastes are not recycled.

Thermo Plastics

Most thermo plastics can be recycled; however, there are four types of thermo plastics that are commonly recycled due to their high percentage of usage. Figure 1.4 shows the distribution and the amount of the plastic materials to be

Plastics Produced/Plastics Recycled

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment