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Chemical recycling won’t solve the plastic crisis

Chemical recycling cannot solve the plastic crisis

. Scientists said earlier this month that plastic has entered the fossil age, just like bronze and iron thousands of years ago. We have discharged so much plastic into our environment that it now exists in the deposits that have accumulated around us-and it has been since the exponential growth of plastic production in the 1950s.

From strangling birds or killing whales that mistake plastic waste for food, to concerns about nature and our own health due to the entry of chemicals used in microplastics and plastic production into the environment and food chain, the negative impact of waste plastics has been Widely reported. Despite this, plastic production is expected to continue to increase, provided by the same fossil fuels that drive global warming (most plastics, even bioplastics, are made from petroleum). So, what can society do?

Rejection and reuse

One method we can and should take is to reject plastics in large quantities. Food packaging, plastic children’s toys, plush winter pullovers, disposable coffee cups, party plastic, plastic outdoor furniture, nylon ropes, plastic food storage boxes-it doesn’t make sense for disposable plastics, it can be immersed in the environment (For example, wool fiber) or such a poor quality fiber will eventually break after being used a few times.

At the same time, why not reuse plastic items by buying second-hand clothes, reusing or repairing old items, taking advantage of a deposit return program, refilling used containers with simple homemade cleaning products or pasta sold by weight?

Recycle = downgrade

Did you know that putting plastic garbage into bags for roadside collection is not a real recycling, but a downgraded recycling? Every time plastic waste is "mechanically recycled"-collected, sorted, cleaned, squashed, and then processed into tiny plastic fragments, which may melt into new items-it will degenerate a bit. For example, plastic water bottles can be recycled into plastic garden furniture. Once they are full of holes or broken, they usually end up in landfills.

In addition, any "extra ingredients" found in plastic waste, such as the toxic brominated flame retardants found in many electronic products, cannot be removed through the mechanical recycling process. This is why most food packaging uses virgin plastic to reduce the risk of food contamination. In addition, some types of plastic cannot be recycled because they are too bad or contaminated. We believe that many waste plastics that have been recycled are dumped in poorer countries such as Malaysia and burned there.

So really, mechanical recycling is pushing the plastic waste problem to a higher level.

Dealing with degradable plastics

However, there may be a new solution for degradable plastics — or this is what the industry wants you to think of — in the form of chemical recycling. Potentially, chemical recycling processes can turn degraded plastic back into high-quality plastic, but it is not without warning.

The new report on Zero Waste Europe outlines the science and current development stages of three different types of chemical recycling. However, it warns against putting too much trust in chemical recycling, as these technologies are still young and under-analyzed, especially with regard to their environmental impact. In addition, these chemical recycling technologies have not yet been defined. According to the report, this may pave the way for thermal-based chemical recycling to become an incineration process that simply burns old plastic as fuel in the name of seemingly green recycling. .

Through proper research and promotion, chemical recycling can help us deal with inferior plastic waste that cannot be mechanically recycled. However, what is more difficult to decipher is how to transform our society from a one-off society to a recycling society, in which this kind of waste will not be produced on a large scale like today.

Therefore, don't let chemical recycling distract you and make you think that we are using a new process to solve the plastic waste problem-this is just a plaster to solve the plastic waste problem. Rejecting as much plastic as possible first is still the best solution!

To further study chemical recycling, you can join ZWE Live! Webinar Chemical recycling: what is it and is it suitable for a circular economy?

About the latest post

How to avoid chemicals in food packaging-29/06/2020 Chemical recycling does not solve the plastic crisis-17/10/2019 Period: It's time to abandon disposable products-08/03/2019

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