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.
Polymer Recycling: Science, Technology and Applications - PDF Free Download
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.
Explore further. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. More from Earth Sciences. Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more. Your feedback will go directly to Science X editors. Thank you for taking your time to send in your valued opinion to Science X editors.
You can be assured our editors closely monitor every feedback sent and will take appropriate actions. Your opinions are important to us.
We do not guarantee individual replies due to extremely high volume of correspondence. E-mail the story Toward a circular economy: Tackling the plastics recycling problem Your friend's email Your email I would like to subscribe to Science X Newsletter.
Download Product Flyer
Learn more Your name Note Your email address is used only to let the recipient know who sent the email. Neither your address nor the recipient's address will be used for any other purpose. The information you enter will appear in your e-mail message and is not retained by Phys. You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details to third parties.
How does the circular economy work? Provided by The Conversation. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Jackdaws learn from each other about 'dangerous' humans 7 hours ago.
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.