Plastic is one of the most adaptable and commonly used materials on the planet. If we didn’t have plastic then what would we use to make our drinks bottles, wellingtons, electric sockets and rubber gloves? With what would we package our food and how would we make bicycle helmets and bathtubs? Watching a DVD would certainly be difficult without plastic and what would umbrellas, speedboats and washing machines be made of?
As the material is in such high demand, it is also going to waste in huge quantities and this isn’t without a cost to the environment. Across the world, there is a need to increase the rate at which we practice recycling plastics to save energy, reduce the strain on resources and contribute towards a more sustainable future. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of recycling plastics? Let’s find out…
To Save Resources: The plastic manufacturing process depends upon the use of crude oil or natural gas. Both of these resources are finite fossil fuels meaning that they will eventually run out. If the world recycled more plastic then we could use up these resources less quickly, helping to prolong our access to the fuels in the future.
To Save Energy: If plastic manufacturing was reduced then a smaller amount of energy would be used up and in turn, less harmful CO2 would be emitted into the atmosphere. This would contribute towards a world aim to reduce these emissions, helping to protect our climate and improve the sustainability of our planet.
To Save Landfill Space: Although one benefit of plastic is its durability, this property becomes detrimental as soon as the material is sent to landfill. Plastic can last a very long time before it breaks down – for example a plastic bag can stick around for up to 500 years before it decomposes. It takes up space in landfill, spoiling our environment and posing a risk to animals.
Recycling is Easy: More and more governments around the world are introducing schemes to make recycling easier than ever before. Indeed for many, the difference between throwing away or recycling plastic has now become as simple as choosing between bins.
Need to Separate Plastics: Sorting different recyclables into recycling bins at homes and businesses may be simple but to process plastic at a recycling plant, it must be sorted into its exact different types. While this takes time and money, many types of plastics cannot be recycled at all meaning their final destination will be landfill regardless of previous efforts.
Energy Use: Plastic can use just as much if not more energy to recycle as it does to manufacture.
Threat to Environment: When plastic is melted at recycling sites it can release harmful toxic fumes which can cause a risk to plants and wildlife. The process also generates CO2 emissions which have been linked to global warming and threaten the future climate of our planet.
Health Risk: Many harmful chemicals are used in the recycling process and these can pose a risk to humans when they use the recycled plastic products. A danger is especially posed when recycled plastic is used for packaging foods as the resin can seep into the food.
Downcycling: As recycled plastic does pose health threats, much of the plastic that is recycled becomes less useful products. To give an example, a plastic water bottle is likely to be recycled into plastic furniture so more water bottles still need to be produced. Downcycled plastic is also usually unsuitable for further recycling. Therefore the final destination of recycled plastic is only ever likely to be the landfill.
Find out more about plastics at the home of high performance plastic production: www.ensinger.co.uk