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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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    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 8 months ago from Tasmania

      For several years now I have not had margarine in my home. Nor that well-known cola, and I will not drink it. I happily eat butter, but not the soft "spreadable" kind, it contains canola. I eat fat from the roast, but not totally happy about it: concerned about the "feedlot" cattle and what they are fed in the way of antibiotics. And pork ?! Those breeding sows lying in cramped pens, on concrete floor, so fat they can hardly move.....such cruelty.

      My blood pressure is low. Cholesterol no problems. Bit of arthritis in my hands, still doing plenty of digging (moved 2 tons of soil yesterday with a shovel), and the old brain is still active enough to be full of painful jokes.

      Vegetable oils? No bleeding thank you! And I avoid those plastic throw-away bottles. Back to the topic of this hub.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 8 months ago from Florida

      That is exactly what I am talking about, thank you Alan, that is something I most assuredly would not have discovered on my own.

      I will search for more information in its support, and most likely margarine will go bye bye and butter will be back in. My kids will be thankful for that I'm sure.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 8 months ago from Tasmania

      If you care to read through this and other researches done by Sally Fallon and the Late, Mary Enig, you will get confirmation for what you are saying, Ken.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 8 months ago from Tasmania

      If that is the niche you find and feel is the right space for you at this time, who am I to criticize?

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 8 months ago from Florida

      I applaud that you do get involved.

      Part of that involvement is here as well, with your articles, to know something and spread that knowledge in what ways you can.

      Such as grey water conversion and the problems of plastic waste.

      It is hard to pass on knowledge in a post or article, the reader has to have a base understanding of the topic, and have a similar account of the facts for it to work.

      I write about things mostly to put facts out there, not because I particularly feel one way or another about them... but to add to the information people are working with.

      I prefer it when those facts are challenged, if they are challenged with data or info I haven't seen before. I think here in Hubpages, having discussions with others motivates me to check my information, which often has me learning something new I would have never found out about without that interaction.

      I don't harp on the corruption in D.C. or the power corporations have to 'sit back in my armchair blaming others'...

      I bring those things up repeatedly because I want to move the conversation past the naïve, or misguided beliefs to get into something more relevant.

      So when a conversation goes like "The FDA approved that, they said it was ok, so it must be ok" ... or ... "It is critical we have the Paris Accords because of global warming" ... or ... "The TPP was going to bring us millions of jobs, the D.C. experts say so"

      I prefer it if the people I am debating issues with, and sharing info with, are working on the same base of understanding... which is, our government, the administrations in place to protect us, the politicians elected to do what's best for us, do the exact opposite.

      The FDA works for the benefit of the Meat Industry, Monsanto (Bayer), Phizer, Johnson & Johnson, etc. the people running the FDA are those who worked for, or were hired by those very companies.

      Same for FERC, the SEC, etc. they are controlled by the very corporations, industries, entities they are supposed to be overseeing.

      If we both understand that corporate greed has a stranglehold on the lawmakers and overseers in D.C. then we can throw away everything they are telling us is relevant about what is causing global warming, or what is causing cancer, or why fracking isn't dangerous... and approach a problem with open eyes, not eyes blinded by the falsehoods fed us.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 8 months ago from Tasmania


      "....powerful corporations and government agencies...." are all operated by human beings. Those entities do not operate by themselves. It is human minds you need to look at. And be willing to confront those individual persons who put everyone in the world to ransom....and their wellbeing.

      I have not closed my eyes to the problems of the world, Ken. Yet, to concentrate on those problems and try to impose my own set of values on other people, rarely if ever works.

      The best I can do is try to set an example of alternative ways to improve habits - those that have negative effects on the lives of others.

      I do not sit back in my armchair blaming others. There is so much more work for me to do, even at 76.!

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 8 months ago from Florida


      I don't think we disagree so much as we are seeing things differently because we have experiences and information that are not the same.

      The fact that you noted Plastic is a major problem, I not only agree with, I suggest your concern is underrated to how problematic it is, for the entire globe, and for all animal life.

      The fact that you are concerned about 'Climate change' and 'Global warming' is a fair concern, however the causes and what can be done about it you and I differ on because of what information/sources we are basing our opinions on.

      People know something is wrong, that we are affecting things globally, that we are polluting air, water, and our bodies with things we shouldn't.

      But powerful corporations, and the government agencies that protect them redirect the people towards things that are not the causes of our greatest problems... its a brilliant campaign of lies and deceit hoisted upon the concerned and caring people of the world that would do the right things, if they new, for themselves, their children, and the future.

      If a government information campaign was run against the dangers of plastic, changes would be made...

      If they did the same thing about the meat industry, people would convert to a diet which was much less meat based and more fruits and vegetables orientated...

      If it was about the truth, and doing what is right for our health, and for the future, we would be living in a different world, one without plastics, one without burger joints on every corner, one without cancer being 5,000 percent what it was a hundred years ago, one without 1 in 4 Americans now suffering with diabetes...

      But we don't live in that type of world.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 8 months ago from Tasmania

      Ken, I have no criticism of what you have written here. I agree that "Government" has been hijacked by big, greedy, busiiness interests. Yes, the EPA both in your country and I suspect ours, has been used and abused by those very same interests. People on the EPA board have popped into and out of executive positions with the bigger companies, displaying a shocking willingness to loyalty conflicts. Who can we trust?

      I am not taken in by those lies. This is why I do at least a little bit of thinking outside the square and questioning popular beliefs.

      Haiti, the primary subject of my hub here, has a lot of people in it doing great work. The S.O.I.L. organisation has done a fantastic job of demonstrating the Humanure compost toilet technology. Small businesses are operating in Haiti, dealing with the humanure from compost toilets, collecting, etc.

      So, regardless of disagreements in other areas, we are probably united in this one.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 8 months ago from Florida


      This is a far larger problem than most people understand, the levels of plastic that have entered into the foodchain have reached toxic levels. And yet, our governments do nothing about it, or even try to curtail the problem.

      It is but one more example of how our government serves corporate interests, and not the interests or wellbeing of the people, or the planet.

      It’s a shame that concerned citizens such as yourself are so easily taken in by their lies about ‘global warming’ the corrupt D.C. establishment is deliberately, knowingly deceiving the people with.

      So many lies, the FDA protects the very corporations that are poisoning the food supplies.

      The American Heart Association tells you to eat the very things most likely to lead to heart disease and plaque filled arteries. Do you want to know why? Check out their sponsors:

      Note that one of them is Bayer right?

      Maker of Aspirin and other helpful medicines, so what is wrong with that?

      Did you know Bayer just absorbed Monsanto?

      Do you know what Monsanto is?

      So the company that is responsible for about 90% of the food grown to feed humans, and feed animals, and producing the poisons to spray on those foods to protect them from bugs and disease, is a major sponsor to the AHA, to the tune of tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars…

      Think there might, just possibly, be a conflict of interest that a mega-billion dollar international corporation is heavily funding the AHA?

      Anyways, as to the problems with plastic pollution, that has hit epic levels. Take a look at these links:

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 13 months ago from Tasmania

      Thank you, Eric.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 13 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 years ago from Tasmania

      Thank you.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 3 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.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 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 .

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 5 years ago from Tasmania

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

    • 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

      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.

    • gmmurgirl profile image

      G Maria 5 years ago from Philippines

      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.