The first and most important variable is that people need to participate. In general, Americans show a strong commitment to using recycle bins — when they are made available. But far too many large event centers and point sources of plastics waste do not prioritize collection of recyclable items. Furthermore, the public is confused about which plastic types can and should end up in the recycling bin. Complex plastic products such as multi-layer film and electronics housings are more difficult to recycle. And current trends suggest that manufacturers are shifting to more complex materials.
Bright, multicolored designs end up as a dull brown color when the different packages are melted down. Advanced functionality such as embedded electronics, oxygen barrier layers and other exciting technologies have the unfortunate downside of decreasing the package value in a recycled stream, because separations are difficult and costly. The technology to sort different varieties of plastic is also lagging.
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The quality of a recycled plastic depends on its purity. It must be decontaminated from food waste, labels and other polymer types before it is melted down and resold to a product maker. While some automated technologies exist, a large amount of the sorting is still done by hand and the results are imperfect at best.
Once industry demands high quality recycled plastic, then reprocessors will have the confidence to produce a consistent stream to replace some or all of the virgin material they use in their products.
FAQs on Plastics
The industry needs to standardize the metrics by which the quality of recycle streams are measured. This wish list for improving the recycling infrastructure may seem insurmountable, but public-private consortia like the REMADE institute are gathering industry stakeholders, university researchers and national labs to tackle the challenge. In July , China announced that it would stop accepting imports of certain classes of waste that come from the recycled streams in other parts of the world. These included contaminated bales of mixed plastics and forms that are challenging to reprocess.
This has left piles of waste plastics sitting on loading docks at municipal recycling facilities around the U. At the same time, the public outcry over the plastics pollution problem is growing. From the recent efforts to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the viral image of a turtle with a straw in its nose that led to widespread rejection of drinking straws, the public is increasingly aware of and demanding solutions to the problem.
The foundation has called for a circular economy approach to work toward a new plastics economy. They are working with business, government and academia to shift the way humans consume. Currently society's throwaway culture supports a linear economy in which items, especially plastics, are used once and tossed out. In a circular economy, plastics would be designed, manufactured and collected in such a way that they could easily be broken down, separated and recycled.
As an example, a thoughtfully designed cellphone could be separated into plastics, electronics, glass and other components, and each stream could then be recycled into something just as high quality the second time around — hence the phrase "circular economy. The concept introduces a three-pronged approach to eliminate unnecessary plastics we consume, innovate new packaging designs that are more easily recycled or reused, and recirculate more of the plastics we do use through appropriate diversion and reprocessing strategies.
The time is ripe for innovation, but academics, regulatory agencies and stakeholders from multiple points in the value chain must work together. We are working on new biodegradable polymer recipes and new processes for recycling plastics. We are sharing our findings with the public , collaborating with industry-leading partners and educating next-generation plastics engineers so they can be leaders of change.
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Currently Reading: Polymer Recycling Science Technology and Applications
He has worked on projects concerning the fracture, stress cracking, processing, characterization and recycling of styrenic polymers. John has authored over 50 scientific papers, including 8 encyclopedia chapters, and a number of books on polymer analysis and polymer recycling. Professor Walter Kaminsky studied chemistry at the University of Hamburg. Since he has been a full professor for technical and macromolecular chemistry at the University of Hamburg.
He has organized several international symposia in the field of olefin polymerization and pyrolysis of polymer wastes. He is advisor for authorities and companies in the fields of metallocene catalysts, polymerization of olefins, and recycling of plastics and environmental protection. Polymer recycling : science, technology, and applications.
John Scheirs. Provides an overview of state-of-the-art recycling techniques together with current and potential applications.