Challenges and Factors in Plastics Reutilization/Recycling: A Review

Challenges and Factors in Plastics Reutilization/Recycling: A Review

Vaishali Tomar (ABH Natures Products, USA), Ankita Dhillon (Banasthali Vidyapith, India) and Dinesh Kumar (Central University of Gujarat, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9452-9.ch020


Plastics are used worldwide due to the low price, lightweight, and long-lasting availability. It can be molded into different products. Therefore, the invention of plastics has been increased significantly over the last 50-60 years. Several environmental problems are generating due to plastics used across the world. This kind of observation indicates that plastics are not sustainable. It is accumulating in landfills and natural locales due to the stability of the polymers involved. This chapter discusses the structure and uses of plastics. Plastics recycling is a very challenging duty in waste management. This chapter explores the factors affecting the plastic recycling in detail. This chapter also explores the plastic recycling methods and challenges during plastic recycling and deliberates more briefly how the government sector is working to clean most of the plastic waste from landfills to recycling over the next periods. In the last, this chapter highlights the plastic effects on the environment and how we can use again through recycling.
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Plastics are organic polymers which are derived from petrochemicals and contain high molecular mass. Generally, we can say that it is a group of materials of high molecular weight chains with a carbon backbone. These materials are defined as a monomer which relates to its repeated units to make a polymer. The class of mouldable polymers which can be deformed irreversibly without breaking is known as plasticity (Achilias, 2006; Watanabe, Yasuaki, Takashi, Hiroshi, Toshiyuki & Katsuhiko, 2009). Plastics are a material which consists of an extensive range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that can be easily changed into solid substances.

Plastics are produced from fossil oil and gas. Annually 4% of petrochemical is using in the manufacturing of plastics. The energy which is required to produce plastics comes from the regular consumption of fossil fuel (Onu, Vasile, Ciocilteu, Iojoiu & Darie, 1998; Williams& Williams, 1998). Plastics are reducing the use of fossil fuel. Replacement of heavier conventional material like steel by plastic is an example of the reduction of fossil fuel.

Plastics can easily be molded in other substances, and it makes it more useable by the people. People are using plastics due to the low price, low weight, and durability (Achilias, Roupakias, Megalokonomosa, Lappas & Antonakou, 2007). It is also using to substitute heavy materials with weight reduction which give results for 3-7% improvement in fuel efficiency. There are so many examples where plastics are using like packaging, pipes, cable coated materials, structural materials, and agricultural films. The use of plastic is breaking the record every year (Xie, 2008; Zhao, 1996). The plastic industry has been developed due to the different routes for the development of polymers from petrochemical sources. The estimation of the production of the polymer is almost 260 million metric tons per annum which contain synthetic fibers, thermoplastics, and thermoset plastics. Thermoplastic resins are two third part of this production, and globally it is increasing almost 5% per annum (Westerhout, Waanders, Kuipers,& Swaaij, 1997; Yoshioka, Furukawa, Sato & Okuwaki, 1998). Biodegradable plastics are made of bio-plastics; bio-plastics are made up of renewable raw materials. Biodegradable plastics can decompose in the environment naturally by a microorganism (Xiao, Ni, Chi, Jin, Xiao, Zhong & Huang, 2009).The advantage of biodegradable plastics on conventional plastics is the manufacturing process. During the manufacturing process, carbon, methane and other forms of pollute does not release when biodegradable plastics burned or recycled. But most of the plastics are not biodegradable, and their longevity is uncertain in the environment. Most of the polymers will be preserved for centuries (Woo, Ayala& Broadbelt, 2000).On the other side, the degradable plastics may be kept for a significant time, and it depends on different factors like ultraviolet light exposure, oxygen, and temperature, and biodegradable plastics rely on the presence of micro-organism(Achilias, 2007). But the degradation factors vary between landfills, terrestrial and aquatic environments. A plastic item reduces due to the impact of weathering; it breaks down into the minor pieces of plastic wreckage. But polymer cannot degrade in the limit timeframe (Wu, Zhou, Zhao, Deng, Zhang& Wang, 2009; Onwudili, Insura& Williams, 2009). The result of this impact is increasing the accumulation of plastics in landfills and as wreckage in the environment and this factor is giving support to waste-management issues and environmental damage.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Challenges: Mixed plastic recycling is a big challenge in plastic recycling. Government and public are doing mixed effort to solve this problem.

Ecological Influences: Recycling constituents requires energy. Recycled plastic products save energy and raw material in comparison to make new products. After dumping the waste in landfills, it will start emitting greenhouse gases when it starts.

Factors: Plastic recycling is a challenging fact for recycling industry. Some of the struggles have been framed as opportunities for investment. Low energy costs are important factor in virgin plastic production.

Waste Management: It is the process which requires activities and actions to manage the waste from its inception to its final disposal. It includes collection, treatment, monitoring, and regularization of the waste.

Plastic Recycling: It is the process in which waste material after reprocessing converts into useful material. It is a global effort to decrease plastic in the waste stream.

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