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The Problems of Plastic Waste Streams

Updated on October 11, 2013
Mixed Plastic Waste on the Street
Mixed Plastic Waste on the Street

The Problem as I see it

Mixed waste garbage, seen on the streets of many countries, has become a huge problem for our world.

It gets blown about; washed into drains and blocking them; hindering sewerage treatment plants; ending up in water ways and the oceans.

It can cause injuries and death to wild life, both on land and in the oceans. Accumulating in street garbage, the plastic bags can contain other contaminants, including faeces, motor oils, food waste, body parts, opened and sharp tin cans, etc. Therefore the collection and recycling, if possible, of these plastic wastes is not an easy, simple process.

Important questions

Sanitizing the Waste: The waste materials cannot be handled safely before hazardous items and contaminants have been carefully removed and separated. Mechanical methods of separation are already dealt with on an industrial scale. But what about the biological hazards? How do you render the plastics safe, so that no one handling it subsequently is in danger of disease?

More importantly, what processes could be adopted which don't require the supply of enormous amounts of energy or sophisticated machinery?

Potential Solutions

Thermophilic There are various operations around the world, where thermophilic composting is used to sanitize biological materials, e.g., Humanure, Bedminster. I suggest that research in this area, i.e., putting all the waste, including plastics, through the thermophilic process first, would be the most sensible and economical method of sanitizing. It could provide employment for large numbers of people, especially in developing countries.

As more and more research is done into recycling different groups of plastic material, the output will become more valuable, providing funds for the initial collection and processing.

As the waste plastics acquire a value, it will provide incentive for people to collect and return containers, bags and packaging immediately after use, thus preventing the street-wide accumulation in the first place.

A Measure of Hope and Sanity

I have just come across this Website, showing a very positive progress in Haiti.

The lastest reports I can find so far were written in 2012. Much might have happened since then, but if anyone has more information please feel free to share it in this Comments column.


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    • gmmurgirl profile image

      Geisha M 5 years ago from Pilipinas

      Hello there! This is the same problem we encounter in my country as plastic continue to clog our drainage systems, flooding always ensues even with light rain. Thanks for the information.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 5 years ago from Tasmania

      Thanks for your interest and comment, gmmurgirl. The experiences I have drawn on were mostly from Nepal and Haiti.

      There is a link on this page to "Waste to Energy Companies - 2012 Survey. I clicked into that and found through the link "corn cobs" this article:

      BioCycle June 2008, Vol. 49, No. 6, p. 48

      It's a fascinating look into using corn cobs, which are otherwise a waste product left in the field to rot very slowly, and instead converting them into ethanol fuel.

      Quite apart from the details of this technology, I am really impressed by that farmer's energy, zeal, commitment to find answers! If there is one thing that the USA does well, it's having bred up individuals that are innovative. All the excitement of a young teenager gets channeled eventually into real benefits for the community.

      As long as non-selfish ethics prevail, we all benefit in the long run.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 5 years ago from Only In Texas!

      When I walk around my small TX town with my dogs every day, I pick up half a dozen plastic bottles in half an hour just about every single day. Plastic bags and other plastic litter are all over the place even with public trash cans and dumpsters in place on almost every street. People need to pick up after themselves and learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle! Thanks for good information! Voted up and useful! ;D

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 5 years ago from Tasmania

      Thank you SallyTX. All it takes is a little thought, right?

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Street waste and plastic at that, is the issue which needs to be tackled on a war scale since it has assumed gigantic proportions and in the developing countries has gone out of hand since nothing is done to separate it and dispose it of correctly.

      The thing is, we use it for its ease of use and when done just dump it anywhere we want and from blocking the drainage system to being consumed by stray animals, to being burnt to get rid of it fast it causes immense harm to animal life and the environment.

      You have highlighted a burning issue.

      Voted up, useful .

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      I am so very grateful that I live in a wilderness area that is protected from litter and pollution. People who live here and those who visit, are responsible for hauling out their own garbage with them. We have huge recycle bins for the plastic waste, glass, etc. ; and they get used.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 2 years ago from Tasmania

      Thank you.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So happy to have had you visit so I came and checked up on you. We Californians are goofy but we just passed a no plastic bag law. Really cool. I think it is already making a difference. Makes me happy. Your care on this issue also makes me happy. Thanks.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 3 months ago from Tasmania

      Thank you, Eric.

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