Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Solution to environmental Hazard named Plastic
Plastics along with the convenience to our life have brought lot of miseries for the environment. As a non-degradable material used plastics are choking our daily life. Only option available is recycling the plastics to make them usable, thus lessening the burden on environment.
Causing lot of civic problems ranging from choking the pipelines and drains to the waste management for the municipal bodies all over the world. The basic problem is that the plastics if burnt in open cause lot of pollution, if they are left they don’t decay.
• If plastic doesn’t biodegrade, what does it do? It “photo-degrades” – a process in which it is broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic polymers, eventually becoming individual molecules of plastic, still too tough for anything to digest.
• For the last fifty-odd years, every piece of plastic that has made it from our shores to the Pacific Ocean, has been breaking down and accumulating in the central Pacific gyre.
• In Handbook of Environmental Health, published by CRC Press in 2002, Herman Koren claims, “By the year 2000, 9.4% of the waste was plastic, or approximately 39.4 billion lb. Since 1960, plastic production has grown at two to three time the rate of the gross national product. More than half of all discarded plastic is packaging.
• Michelle Allsop highlights the danger of waste plastic to marine animals in Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, published by Greenpeace in November 2006 when she states, “Ingestion of marine debris is known to particularly affect sea turtles and seabirds but is also a problem for marine mammals and fish. Ingestion is generally thought to occur because the marine debris is mistaken for prey. Most of that erroneously ingested is plastic."
The plastic When compared to other materials like glass and metal, plastic polymers require tough processing to be recycled. Plastics have low entropy of mixing, which is due to the high molecular weight of their large polymer chains. A macromolecule interacts with its environment along its entire length, so its enthalpy of mixing is large compared to that of an organic molecule with a similar structure. Heating alone is not enough to dissolve such a large molecule; because of this, plastics must often be of nearly identical composition in order to mix efficiently.
When compared to other materials like glass and metal materials, plastic polymers require greater processing to be recycled. Plastics have low entropy of mixing, which is due to the high molecular weight of their large polymer chains. A macromolecule interacts with its environment along its entire length, so its enthalpy of mixing is large compared to that of an organic molecule with a similar structure. Heating alone is not enough to dissolve such a large molecule; because of this, plastics must often be of nearly identical composition in order to mix efficiently.
When different types of plastics are melted together they tend to phase-separate, like oil and water, and set in these layers. The phase boundaries cause structural weakness in the resulting material, meaning that polymer blends are only useful in limited applications.
Another barrier to recycling is the widespread use of dyes, fillers, and other additives in plastics. The polymer is generally too viscous to economically remove fillers, and would be damaged by many of the processes that could cheaply remove the added dyes. Additives are less widely used in beverage containers and plastic bags, allowing them to be recycled more often
Also it is a tough task to collect bottles from scraps, home & industrial wastes and recycle them only to be used again.
Plastic recycling is gaining popularity all over the globe, although in India it needs to be kick started. It will not only solve the environmental and civic problems to much of the extent but can also provide livelihood to many.
How to recycle the plastics
Interestingly, the most commonly used plastic are easier to recycle. The soda and water bottles, medicine containers, and many other common consumer product containers fell in this category. Made up of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) these bottles and containers can be recycled to furnished products like fiberfill for winter coats, sleeping bags, life jackets etc. The recycled plastic can also be used for making the furniture, home utilities, gardening baskets, auto accessories, combs, tennis ball felt etc.
PETE is assigned number 1 by The Society of The Plastic Industry (SPI) to allow consumers and recyclers to differentiate types of plastics while providing a uniform coding system for manufacturers (1 to 7 surrounded by triangle of arrows. This sign is displayed mostly at the bottom of the product.
The class 1 plastics are easy to recycle, can be converted into by products conveniently. The process is easy, cost effective and the technology involved is readily available at nominal costs.
The model for social sector
The social organizations can
• Take a social initiative to motivate the people to use bio-degradable plastics as well as bring in the habit of collecting the plastic wastes in homes for recycling.
• Awareness generation against the use of plastics and its hazards for the environment.
• Social organizations can work on the collection of the plastics and forwarding them to recycling units
• Also, they can take initiatives for the production of recycled plastics, manufacture goods from recycled plastics and marketing of such products.
• The livelihood: The unemployed youth, the poor, the destitute and rag pickers can get a sustainable livelihood.
• The environmental impact:
a) The action will bring awareness against the use of plastics in the project implementation area.
b) The participation of communities will bring curb the mismanagements of plastics.
c) The plastics recycling will help the environment to sustain
For sustainable development solutions, we all will have to take the responsibilities and that too at the earliest. If we don’t act we will run fast towards the dooms day and that won’t be natural, rather all the disaster will be men made.
We all need small but effective solutions based on community involvement. These can be locally based social interventions. We will have to develop the models where each individual have the role to contribute and a duty to share. The plastic recycling may not bring drastic change to the health of environment but it can at least ensure that we are conscious for the cause. We together can bring change and someone has to come up with initiative, Small but effective.