Recycling Plastics: In an Efficient Way
Only 8% of the plastics in the world are recycled. The rest lands up in landfills, and are pernicious to our ecosystem, because they are not biodegradable or broken down further into other useful forms, the cost of recycling them is very expensive or they consume huge amounts of energy.
Recent methods include mixing all types of plastics, to avoid a time-consuming sorting process, but this was totally inefficient, ineffective and costly. In addition to this, plastics or polymers consisting of huge polymers that do not mix well when heated. Using some sort of catalyst to break this down to lower molecular weight products turned out to be abortive. Majority of the plastics are made up of polyethylene terephthalate. Breaking down these polymers to simpler molecules has been a total challenge all together. There are certain types of plastics called elastomers which cannot be even heated to higher temperatures for repurposing. Producing plastics which can be recycled umpteen number of times is another enigma.
Compatibilizers, essentially mixers, which avoids sorting and works on all polymers to recycle them; but they are hard to find. A customary compatibilizer approach for each polymer is the need of the hour. Finding new catalysts for efficiently breaking down polymers is yet another problem. Inventing new form of plastics which can be easily recycled is another difficulty. Better ways of recycling plastics would save energy, save our environment and be economically viable. Furthermore, amount of plastic waste buildup would also be reduced. Moreover, dependence on petroleum products for generating plastic products, should also be reduced. Effective ways of recycling polystyrene are also being studied. Expanding to nonrecyclable polymers would be a welcome gesture. Hydrocarbon based polymers should be replaced by plant or vegetable oil based materials, also called bio-renewable materials. Transforming plastic waste, by pyrolysis, into alternative forms of energy without emitting any greenhouse gases is heartwarming. Converting plastic waste into foam, through other reagents like coconut oil, which can be used in other industries, is another cost productive way.