Does Recycling Plastic Reduce the Plastic Pollution?

Today the use of plastic products has resulted in a tense situation. The history of using the plastic products is related to the fact that in the early 1990s, the population has begun using the production made of plastic, disposable tableware, and other necessary products in everyday life, which were, unfortunately, environmentally hazardous products. However, in the 1990s the problem of garbage disposal and recycling of plastic waste was not as serious issue as it is today. This ambiguous situation has a connection with the unknown negative impact of plastic on the environment. What is more, there was no proper legal framework to regulate environmental issues.

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The most common and most dangerous way to solve the problem of plastic waste is plastic storage on landfills and debris. This method is considered the most dangerous one because the term of the decomposition of plastic is several decades. During this time, the soil and groundwater are infected with toxic substances, which are allocated by the decomposition of plastic. On the second place in popularity is the use of pyrolysis, which is also considered to be not the most optimal method of disposal of plastic because it is very energy-intensive. Many countries often use the third method, the chemical waste recycling. These products find their successful application in the paint industry. The fourth most popular place is the mechanical recycling. As a result, this process gives poor quality plastic which is not suitable for the manufacture of packaging for food products. It is used as filler. According to many experts in the field of waste disposal and recycling of plastic waste, a radical solution to this problem is to create biodegradable polymers that can be split into harmless to wildlife substances.

Recently, the ecologists have found the innovative method of recycling. It is based on magnetic density separation (MDS) and hyperspectral imaging (HIS). This method gives an opportunity to develop the high-quality polypropylene and polyethylene (Serranti, Silvia, Luciania, Bonifazi, Hu, and Rem 12). The experts say that it is a valid solution for the implementation of those techniques. The experts have analyzed around 200 countries. According to them, China as a plastic producer sets the first place in the world, while Europe takes the second one. However, people from the United States produce less than 1% of overall waste (Hardesty, Denise, and Wilcox 2). The results showed that 270 million tons of plastic were produced around the world in 2012. However, some people still do not know where the plastic ends up. An international team of experts says that between 6,350 and 245,000 metric tons of plastic waste is estimated to float on the ocean's surface (Hardesty, Denise, and Wilcox 2). Thus, it is clear that some of waste can end up in the air, sediments, and the guts of the wildlife.

 

It is a well-known fact that it will take about 450 years before the plastic starts to decompose. After that, it will take 50-80 years until it ends its decomposition. At the current rate of production of this material, the planet will be completely covered with plastic before the process of decomposition begins. An average American consumed 1.6 gallons of bottled water in 1976. Already in 2006 this figure rose to 28.3 gallons and continues to grow rapidly. Experts say that 40% of the total plastic waste is plastic bottles. However, 90% of the price people pay for water is the cost of plastic, while the water itself is about 10%. Another interesting fact is that about 90% of consumers reuse plastic bags as trash bags or for any other purposes. The studies show that the recycling of just one plastic bottle can generate enough power for the 60 Watts light bulb to light for 6 hours.

Some of the experts and ecologists argue about the importance of recycling. For example, Al-Salem, Lettieri, and Baeyens say that the recycling is a great method for saving energy and oil. In the workRecycling and Recovery Routes of Plastic Solid Waste,they state, "When the initial processing of the oil in a diesel engine, you get only about 50-55 percent of the original volume of the product. However, since the plastic in itself is made of oil, the output they get almost 80 percent of the classic fuel" (Al-Salem, Lettieri, and Baeyens 2625). According to the scientists, today there are lots of types of recycling plastic. Of course, all of those methods are significant and easy in using. Indeed, none of them is perfect. For example, the mechanical recycling has a lot of disadvantages, including the large consumption of energy and poor-quality plastic (Al-Salem, Lettieri, and Baeyens 5). However, they state that the importance of waste disposal has both environmental and resource reasons. Many materials are limited, and their time far exceeds the lifetimes of several generations of people. What is more, the accumulated waste pollutes the environment.

Some ecologists claim that that the process of recycling is not as safe as it seems at the first sight. For example, Packham argues, "Plastic processing plants themselves have an impact on the environment" (248). In the bookA Crisis in the Environment, he states:

Most types of plastic cannot be recycled. Plastic is a loose concept. In everyday life, we use about 7 of its species, of which only two types of processing lends itself to success. The rest is recovering in a landfill. On the other hand, it can be burned near the cement plant just like in Germany. Therefore, among the plastic may be chemicals, such as bisphenol A, from the unsafe plastic. (248)

Thus, the recycled plastic is a potential threat to consumers. Pacham says that the recycling plastic helps to save the energy. What is more, the ecologist Ahsan supports his statement. He says that the energy-saving method of recycling will not reduce the demand for fossil fuels. Thus, it can be useful for the economy of the country, but not to the ecology (Matter, Ahsan, Marbach, and Zurbr?gg 2). However, the experts Zhang, Zhu, and Okuwaki think that because of the recycling plastic electronic wastes engender equally complicated recycling challenges which include some highly toxic materials (231). For example, a well-known expert Fletcher supposes that "most of the recycling plants work at a loss" (248). In the United States, recycling of one ton of plastic bags cost $4000. At the same time, the ton of plastic bags costs about $32 (Lazarevic, Emmanuelle, Nicolas, and Nils 248). This means that recycling plastic will not be profitable. This statement is more popular among the ecologists and has more followers.

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Some experts claim that the plastic can cause some serious problems with the health, which means that both recycling and using plastic is not safe. For example, Eureka Recycling Team argues that plastic can cause cancer. In the article "Recycling Plastics: Complications & Limitations",Eureka Recycling Team states,

The plastic releases toxic chemicals, such as benzene and vinyl chloride, which can cause cancer. Despite the fact that some of the kinds of plastic can be safe, such as Polyethylene terephthalate, High-density polyethylene, Low-density polyethylene, and Polypropylene, the situation is not getting better, because no one knows how to distinguish safe from dangerous plastic. (Eureka Recycling 2)

Mostly, the chemicals and toxins migrate from plastic containers to food (Eureka Recycling 2). What is more, most of the resign codes on the plastic products do show people that this item is recyclable, which means that this technology is not discovered and modernized yet.

Some scientists claim that the right method of recycling will save the planet from plastic pollution. For example, North and Halden claim that the best choice will be using biodegradable plastics. In the article "Plastics and Environmental Health: The Road Ahead,"they say, "This kind of plastic can be a high-quality product with lots of recycling streams. This method should prevent the long-term environmental damage from pollution" (North and Halden 8). North and Halden continue:

Biodegradable plastics is a large family of different polymers. They are made from plant material and decompose to carbon dioxide and water. Some plastics decompose under natural conditions; others require high temperature and humidity, which are achieved in industrial composting (polylactide). (North and Halden 8)

Zhang, Zhu, and Okuwaki support this theory. In their workProspect and Current Status of Recycling Waste Plastics and Technology for Converting Them into Oil in China,they discuss the methods of getting the liquid products from the biodegradable plastic. Other ecologists and experts try to search the method of thermal decomposition of plastic under the temperature range of 450° to 500° C (Zhang, Zhu, and Okuwaki 231).

Some scientists claim that the best option to cut the plastic garbage will be innovative technologies. For example, Serranti, Silvia, Luciania, Bonifazi, Hu, and Rem suppose that the best option to save the environment from the plastic pollution will be the method of recycling based on magnetic density separation (MDS) and hyperspectral imaging (HIS). In their article "Plastics Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities", Hopewell and Dvorak say, "The best strategy will be the 4Rs strategy in waste management parlance, which includes reducing, reusing, recycling (materials) and recovering (energy)" (Serranti, Silvia, Luciania, Bonifazi, Hu, and Rem 12). This theory is supported by several other scientists, such as Kreiger, Mulder, Glover, and Pearce. In their article "Life Cycle Analysis of Distributed Recycling of Post-Consumer High-Density Polyethylene for 3-D Printing Filament," they claim, "The plastic pollution can reduce by the innovative method of 3-D printing. It based on the recycling of high-density polyethylene the fiber suitable for additive layer manufacturing with 3-D printers" (Kreiger, Mulder, Glover, and Pearce 90).

While the ecologists argue about the best method of recycling, advantages and disadvantages of plastic, many people tend to forget about this complicated issue. The biggest problem for the environment is people's irresponsibility. Recycling plastic has obviously proven to be significant and useful technology for the environment. However, people will never feel the changes without the nation's effort. Recycling plastic gives a chance to save the planet from plastic pollution. The most productive method of recycling plastic does not even exist, because if it existed, it would have already been implemented. Thus, someone would have felt a difference. However, everything depends on the people. Some of them do recycling, while others refuse to do this. Thus, the aim of the plastic pollution policy is to regulate the rules of using plastic and other unnecessary things.

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This kind of policy should contain some necessary laws and regulations, which should help the population prevent the plastic pollution. First of all, people should think about the things they throw away. The biggest problem of the enormous garbage on the landfills is that no one cares. Clothes are the type of waste which can be donated or sold. If a person does not need these clothes, they should choose what to do with them instead of throwing them away.

This rule can also be related to food. There are a lot of homeless people or animals who could eat it. Doubtless, reusing things can also help, for instance, using old shopping bags or containers. People can use less packaging. If people could buy things without extra-packaging, it would be helpful for the environment. Million tons of plastic in landfills and in the oceans are water bottles, which people throw away every day. Thus, reducing the usage of plastic water bottles should become a rule.

Every day people buy new products made from the original material. However, it is possible to buy things made from the recycled products. It will be cheaper for the families and, of course, better for the environment. House cleaning always includes lots of cleaning products which are hazardous to the environment. Most of those products are plastic. People can save their money and the nature by using eco-products, such as baking soda and vinegar.

People should use only recyclable items. Every plastic product has a resign code, which means the main type of chemical compound used in the product. Of course, sometimes it can be misleading, but it is a chance to understand which item is recyclable. Efficiency and accessibility of plastic explain its popularity. Thus, the production of plastic requires 21% of energy less than the manufacture of glass.

Finally, recycling plastic has proven to be the last chance of humanity to save the home planet. Of course, this issue has resulted in many complaints and argues about it. However, using the greenest method of recycling can help people to save energy, cut garbage in landfills, and make the environment clean. Recycling plastic saves energy and precious natural resources. Building harmless recycling plants will provide people with energy and reduce garbage in landfills and oceans. For example, Chinese company Beijing Roy Environmental Technology Ltd has announced the creation of installation EZ-Power recycling various kinds of plastic waste into electricity. This establishment works completely silent and produces no harmful emissions into the environment. Indeed, recycling plastic plants have some disadvantages. On the other hand, it is a step to make the environment clean and safe.

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