Understanding Plastic and Its Recycling Methods
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To trace out the factor that how plastic recycling was carried out historically it can be said that it was done by companies involved in manufacturing. The in-house scrap was subjected to the method of reprocessing by adding virgin materials to it that rendered an improvement in the final product.
The problem of plastic waste has caught the public eye quite recently. It is driven by mainly two influencers: the first one being the rapidly growing concern related to the economic losses and harm to the environment owing to the huge landfills and the second one accounts for the sheer volume of plastic waste forcing its way into the streams of water.
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Let's know About Plastics
In order to go ahead with the recycling of plastic, we must first appreciate plastic as a material and try gathering information about it. Plastic material comprises additives and polymers. Polymer percentage in a plastic material can range from being 100 percent to low as being 20 percent.
The plastic material can be well understood if we try to classify it as thermosets and thermoplastics.
This distinction runs from the way molecular structure sets apart and therefore it asks for different ways of recycling. A plastic that is used for the first time is called a virgin material.
A thermoplastic when subjected to heat melts and when it cools down it solidifies. On the other hand, thermosets do not have the quality to be remelted rather they decompose.
Why do We Need to Separate Plastics?
After appreciating the difference between thermoplastics and thermosets it can be inferred that separating plastic is an essential step.
Also, inside the thermoplastics family, its various members to require to be separated and sorted since it is proven that if all the thermosets are not sorted, they might mix and the resultant material would not be of good quality and would not bind. This is because the chemical composition of the polymers differs. As a result, it can be understood why the separation of plastic is a crucial step.
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Techniques to Recycle Plastic
Despite the increasing development in the field of research with respect to hunting technical solutions, there is still a gap that looms over when it comes to recycling plastic waste.
Another major problem is that the plastic waste is contaminated with other materials which makes it a herculean task to get a hold of separating the plastic first.
Plastic can be recycled by employing some mechanical ways like:
- Homogenizing plastic waste using physical methods like shredding, sorting, etc.
- Melt processing like reprocessing and re granulation.
To recycle plastic it is to be kept in mind that the size must be reduced to allow the feedstock to be able to fit in the machinery that carries out the reprocessing. Shredding must be done up until it reduces to the size of 25-50 mm and then be subjected to flaking.
The plastic waste must be cleaned to remove all the contaminants using a detergent which shall ensure that the quality of feedstock is up to the mark and also facilitate an easy and smooth sorting process.
Other methods to recycle plastic
- Chemical recycling: It involves the process that witnesses the breaking down of the polymer into much smaller molecules. This process is also called by the name as feedstock recycling that renders the creation of raw materials for processes related to petrochemical. To exemplify we can take note of hydrogenation or cracking. Restrictions on the material type are being placed by such processes which are handled by them. Chemical recycling of plastic is generally confined to the polymers that are formed by the process of condensation reactions like Nylon. However, it must be wary of one thing that runs on the need of plastic-free from impurities.
- Conversion technology (thermal): Thermal processing can be understood to mean converting the solid wastes into useful products followed by release of energy. It very well serves the purposes like recovery of energy and reduction in volume. It can offer wide range of benefits like:
- Comparably a cleaner process in the context of environmental protection and generates lower levels of emissions
- With the density witnessing a reduction, it acts instrumental in reducing the cost that comes along the further transportation.
- It yields increased levels of energy density
- As compared to the standard method of combustion the process that converts plastic to fuel entails a higher rate of efficiency.
- Pyrolysis: Through the use of this method, fuels can be produced.
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- Hydrogenation: This process shares some similarities to the process of pyrolysis which involves the mechanism wherein the mixed plastic waste is subjected to heat together with the hydrogen. The molecules after they undergo cracking, the process of saturation begins in the presence of hydrogen molecules that yield a liquid that is saturated and also produces hydrocarbons in gaseous form. The oil that is produced is of very high quality. Important thing to be noted is that the pressure of the hydrogen must be maintained in order to lead to suppression of depolymerization or the production of the by-products that are not needed.
- Gasification: This technology forms its basis on the combustion that is construed partial. Originally it was launched for use with coal and oil. This process is quite favorable for the production of the fuel gas without requiring to employ the expensive plants that render air separation.
It can be concluded that the plastic is known to be a versatile material that is on the verge of wreaking havoc in our world. Suitable plastic recycling methods must be adopted to put a full stop to this menace.