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Plastics Recycling: Challenges and opportunity for growth
Ahmad Alkhathami
University of St. Thomas
April 13, 2011
Research Project
Materials Engineering
ETLS 771
Spring 2011
1
Abstract
The main purpose of this paper is to discuss possible solutions for increasing the recycling
rate of the plastics products. Plastics are relatively new materials developed in the last century.
Their applications have grown very fast. As a result, many environmental issues have grown
such as the products finite sources, end-of-life treatment, and the energy consumption and
emission of gases. The percentage of materials that are recycled is relatively low. This paper
covers the challenges facing the plastic recycling, the role that different society’s groups could
play to address that issue, and the proposal that could share in reducing the negative impact of
plastics uses.
Introduction
In few decades, plastic products became one of the largest materials consumed by people, and
the demand continues to grow. Plastics have many benefits that led to new applications as well
as substituted existing materials. They are strong materials, light, durable, corrosion resistance,
and long lasting. They are used in wide range of industries from food packaging to aerospace
industry. However, with the rapid growth and increase of demand for plastics, negative effects
have gradually appeared. Plastics are derived from a finite source (crude oil). Also, the high
demand has created problems at the end-of-life of the plastics when it is scraped. Plastics mostly
ends up to the land filled, creating a huge waste of energy and natural resources. This paper will
address the challenges facing the recycling of plastics, the roles that each of the society’s groups
has played and could play toward this issue. Then, the paper is concluded with some suggestions
that could enhance the growth of the recycling that could minimize plastic waste. As a result, it
will minimize the impact on environment and the use of the materials
2
Challenge of Recycling
Unlike metals, only small percentage of plastics is being recycled. There are many reasons
that account for this low percentage of plastics recycling. Some of them due to the chemical
structure of the material which makes it unrecyclable such as Thermosat material. Once they are
heated and shaped they can’t be heated and reshaped again (irreversible), instead they will burn
after certain period of heating.
Other reason is due to the government legislations in term of collaborating with the
manufacturers for producing materials that are recyclable. Plastic are considered to be new
materials that have developed during the last few decades, and they have slow negative impact to
the environment that is hard to be measured. Also, providing financial support to either research
and development of new materials or for the recycling industry is still small comparing to the
huge amount of plastic produced to the market.
Until recent years, the energy conservation from secondary plastics is not efficient enough to
cannibalize the primary materials. In contrast, the energy of collecting, sorting, and processing
the recycled materials could exceed the process of the virgin material. Even if success to produce
secondary plastic with efficient energy saving, it can’t have the same properties as the primary
material.
In addition, most of the plastics are not economically recyclable. The cost of collecting,
sorting, and recycling could reach or exceed the cost of producing new material. Moreover, the
cost of recycling to the environmental benefit is not that efficient. One obvious example from the
industry is rubber where about 21% is recycled due to economic reasons.1
Other reason is due to the complexity of the products that contain huge number of different
materials. For example, the keyboard contains about 9 different materials which make it almost
impossible to sort them in cost effective manner that could make the recycling process profitable.
In general, most if it is not all plastics can technically be recycled. However, the high cost of
recycling, low cost of raw material, and level of technology existed put limitation on the amount
and types of plastics that can be recycled.
1 Anthony Andrady,”Plastics and The Environment,”
3
A conference that took place at MIT on durable products recycling highlighted different types
of challenges facing the recycling industry including suppliers, manufacturers, and recyclers.
Below are some of those challenges2:
1- The uncertainty about the environmental benefits of recycling. It is not obvious the
contribution of recycling to the energy and environmental conservation. There is lack of
data to make informed decisions.
2- Tight market for recycled materials, the primary material cost could compete the
secondary materials in term of price or material properties.
3- Contamination of the materials, where many products contain numerous resin types
which make separating very costly.
4- Lack of public support from government and citizens, where sometimes government
becomes a setback for dismantling businesses to get permits, as well as the lack of
support from citizens.
Environmental impact
There are many advantages of polymers and plastics in particular that have played big role
in the fast growing of its applications in the last few decades. The light weight, durability,
corrosion resistivity, and low cost are some of the advantages. Plastics, also, consumes less
energy than any other materials. Due to the facts that plastic materials are cheap, that make
them inefficient for recycling, most of the plastics end up in land fill.
Plastic materials are not degradable, they don’t break down and pollute the soil ground
and water, and their stability allows the land to settle quickly. However, with the rapid
expansion of plastics uses in our world the environmental impact became a bigger issue in
term of energy resources conservation and environmental protection. Plastics contribute in
consuming about four percentage of fossil fuel in term of energy and raw materials. Also, it
contributes to air pollution due to the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases.3
Another major impact on the environment is the increase of the demand for more landfill
areas, which increase the effect on the soil for the long term, especially that there are some
2 Jennifer Nash, “DurableProducts recycling:stakeholder perspectives and directions for public policy.”
3 Anthony Andrady, “Plastics and The Environment,”
4
plastics (red and yellow plastics) that contain cadmium which is a poisonous substance, when
they degrade, the rain water will wash them and transfer the poison to the soil and water. 4
Developing degradable materials could be a solution, yet they are expensive to produce
and at the same time they are not recyclable. Another type of plastics is photo degradable
plastics which is required being outdoor facing the sun to degrade. The challenge with that
kind of materials is that to degrade they have to face the sun light and should not be buried in
the landfill, which if we think to do so the earth is going to be covered with plastics.
As a result of increasing plastic waste in the last few decades, there are new processes and
applications for reusing the plastic at the end of its life. One area is recycling and using it as
feedstock, mostly for different applications rather than the primary use. For instance, PET
and HDPE are used for water and soft drink bottles. When they are recycled, they won’t be
used again for the same purpose since they are melted down at low temperature and may be
contaminated by dangerous substances that are released in during the process that may harm
humans. Thus, they end up being used for other application.
Other use of disposed plastic is for power generation to produce energy. That energy is
used for production of electricity or some industries.
Recycling of Plastics
As I mentioned above, not all plastics are recycled due to the cost-benefit analysis. The
majority of recycling materials are mostly limited to the industrial scrap, and household
wastes. The collection of PET and HDPE bottles make up over 95% of household plastics.5
That may account for the profitability of the recycling of those materials due to the
economics of scale.
Once those disposal products are collected, they send to Material Recovery facility MRF
for sorting plastics. That process mostly occurs manually. Then, it goes through recycling
processes. At the end, the material is used as secondary material mostly for different
4 Joy Palmer, “Recycling Plastics”
5 Anthony Andrady, “Plastics and The Environment”
5
applications since the material losses some of its properties that makes it not as efficient as
the virgin material.
The four types of recycling process as Anthony describes in the book Plastics and the
Environment are:
- Primary Recycling, which is the recycling of scrap plastics to produce material with
similar properties to the primary material.
- Secondary Recycling, is the recycling for producing material with different properties
that the primary material.
- Tertiary Recycling, which is the production of basic chemical or fuel from scrap plastic.
- Quaternary Recycling is the retrieving of energy from the scarp plastic to be used as a
fuel for energy production such as electricity and steam.
Also, materials are recycled for different reasons and purposes. The reason for the
important of recycling of materials could due to the increase of their production and uses
which causes a threat to the environment. For instance, the packaging industry account for
about 25% of the plastics produced. That raises the attention of the environmental
advocacies, and legislation to the need for actions. That resulted in the expanding of
recycling programs. Some approaches are the developing of new materials for packaging that
are recyclable such as PHBV and Polylactic, and reducing the amount and size of packaging
to the minimum to reduce plastic waste.
The recycling industry has been growing rapidly in the recent years. Furthermore,
advanced technology and automation systems have entered this industry as the economies of
scale and the cost-benefit analysis show opportunity for investment. From 1989 to 1998 the
number of companies in the recycling industry in the USA increased by 500% from 230
companies to 1400. The diagram below shows the significant growth of the PET plastics
recycling in the U.S. from 1995 to 2008.6
6 Seetha Coleman-Kammula,” More than justPlastics.”
6
0
200000000
400000000
600000000
800000000
1E+09
1.2E+09
1.4E+09
1.6E+09
1995 2008
Poundrecycled
PET bottle Recycling growth in the U.S. from
1995 to 2008
Fig.1, PET recycling growth in pound.
Technologies went further to use many types of machines to sort different materials even
different colors using diversity of technologies such as laser, infrared, and x-ray.
Technologies are expected to be developed for new applications.
Energy
The concept Gross Energy is the total energy for making the product which includes
energy for: production, feedstock, and transportation.
The major concern for the efficiency of recycling is the saving of energy besides the cost
of materials. Therefore, for recycling energy assessment the gross energy of the recycled
material must be less than the virgin material. As the feedstock energy is the same for both
materials the only factor to analyze is the production Energy. This is not the case with metals,
where for example gross energy of producing primary AL is 150MJ/Kg. In AL recycling the
gross Energy is only 20 MJ/Kg which achieves about 87% of energy saving for production.
In contrast, in polymers, if virgin material needs 45MJ/Kg feedstock energy, the same
feedstock energy is needed for the recycled polymer.
However, the plastic bottles produced from PET have showed economical and
environmental benefit in term of energy conservation. Recycling a single plastic bottle saves
energy to power 60 Watt light bulb for 6-hour. According to an article from the association
of postconsumer plastic Recycler, states that only 27% of the 1.4 billion pound of PET
7
plastic bottle is recycled in the U.S. in 20087. Assuming that each bottle is about 0.25 pound,
there are about 5.6 billion bottles. And only 1.512 billion were recycled which caused energy
saving about 1.9 × 109
𝑀𝐽. This saving of energy is enough to enlightening about 130
million 60-watt bulbs for three days. Remember, that is due to recycling only 27% of PET
bottles.
Therefore, the recycling process is encouraged to be used if its production energy is less
than the production energy of the virgin material. The production energy includes the energy
of collecting, sorting, and recycling the scrap material.
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0.12
PP PS PET PVC HDPE LDPE
Gross Energy to produce 1 kg of Polymer
Gross Energy from primary prodcution,MJ
Gross Energy from recyclingprocess,MJ
Fig. 2. The Gross energy of producing 1kg of some of the most popular polymers8
Another application for beneficial using waste plastics is as energy source. This occurs by
using plastics as processed engineering fuel for industrial energy production purposes.
Legislations and regulations
With the passage of time, the awareness of the important of recycling takes bigger room in
the government legislative level. The goal is to reduce the environmental impact from the
plastic products through recycling. Also, many programs have been launched for reducing
the impact such as the waste management program, reduction from the source, sustainability
7 Seetha Coleman-Kammula,” More than justPlastics.”
8 EduPack Software database.
8
development, etc. Achieving such a goal needs the collaboration of the legislators,
manufacturers, and environmental advocacies groups.
The interesting fact that I found during my research is that effort exists mainly only in
countries such as Japan, the European Union, and the USA, while right now there are major
players of the environmental issues in countries such as India and China.
There are some actions that showed the governments respond to address the environmental
impact of plastics. They set minimum requirements for collecting and recycling of plastic
packaging (about 60% as a minimum). Also, many standards are being established for
materials applications. For instance, in 1994 the European Union adopted from 25-45%
recycling packaging policy.9 Another example of recent recycling policy is a new legislation
in New York to recycle all household plastic containers in 2012. The European Union
legislation set a target of recycling 85% in 2006 and 95% in 2015 of end of life vehicles.
On the other hand, the responsibility the corporations can share is considered to be the
major one. As they are the producers of the products that consume the major part of energy
and cause the impact on the environment. Here are some examples of companies that go
further in this area and established goals for environmental friendly products. Sony
Corporation announced a goal of reducing its environmental impact to zero by 2025, which
shows the company responsibility and the role it can play toward the environment.10 HP and
Xerox created integrated supply chain infrastructure to handle the products take-back at the
end of life.
Suggestions
The most important player in taking the initiative to enhance the progress for recycling
programs and reduce the ecological impact is the government. The government regulations
and legislations could drive other forces to the right directions through close collaboration
with major players such as the suppliers, manufacturers, and recycling businesses.
9 Anthony Andrady, “Plastics and the Environment.”
10 The Wage Age Staff,” Tip off, News, Facts,and Figures.”
9
The manufacturers must ensure when they design their products that they will be easy to
recycle. Also, the collaborated groups must ensure that the recycled material will be
competitive in the market. Indeed, they should focus upon finding a stable market for the
recycled products.
Companies with the government should support the research and development for
recyclable materials that can cannibalize existing materials. The materials that could achieve
benefit including saving in energy, environmental emission, and land filled areas which
outweigh the cost of energy and production. Also, they should work to develop the
technology that is useful to recycling industry.
The participants of the MIT conference “Durable Products Recycling” developed a proposal
of how to overcome the challenges of products recycling in the US through:
1- The necessity for multi-industries collaboration and linking recyclers with suppliers and
manufacturers by information system network.
2- Ensuring the quality of recycled materials by direct communication between recyclers in
one side and the suppliers and manufacturers in the other side, also, by establishing
certification for the standards of the materials produced.
3- Educate policy makers and citizens through environmental advocacy groups about the
benefit of resources conservation and how to collaborate.
4- Develop life cycle analysis to know the real impact of the product on the environment
and the benefit to energy and resources conservation based on reliable data.
5- Suppliers and manufacturers should use recycled materials and design products for
recyclability that are easy for disassembly.
Design for recyclability could be efficient to the cost of the products. European computer
manufacturer reduced the cost of assembly by 50% when designed for easy recycling.11
11 Mark Pagell,Zhaohui Wu,Nagesh N. Murthy, “The Supply Chain Implicationsof Recycling.”
10
Conclusion
Despite the challenges facing plastics recycling industry and the low percentage of
plastics being recycled, there is a worldwide trend toward reducing the plastic waste. This
trend is obvious in many industrialized countries. However, I expect that they will work as a
driving force to many of the developing countries in the near future. Knowing the problem is
halfway the solution, by understanding the impact of plastics waste and the effectiveness of
recycling by all groups of the society such as government agencies, manufacturers, and
consumers that could concentrate the effort to great results. Government could develop new
legislations and standards for the consuming products. Manufacturers should consider the
end-of-life of their products when designing and start to adopt the design for recyclability
concept. Consumers must be educated and become aware about the benefits of recycling.
Collaborating for that purpose is the tool for bright future of producing materials that
guarantee eliminating of products’ environmental impact, conservation of energy, and our
natural resources.
11
References
- Andrady, A. (2003). Plastics and the Environment. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley &
Sons.
- EduPack Software database.
- Fletcher B., Mackay M. (1996). Model of plastics recycling: does recycling reduce the
amount of waste? Resources, conservation, and recycling, 17, 141-151
- Kammula. C. S. (2008). More than just Plastics. Association of Postconsumer Plastic
Recyclers; American Chemistry Council’s Plastic Recycling Facts
- Nash J. (1995). Durable Products recycling: stakeholder perspectives and directions for
public policy. Resources, conservation, and recycling, 15, 41-50
- Pagell M., Wu Z., Murthy N. (2007). The Supply Chain Implications of Recycling.
Business Horizons, 50, 133-143
- Palmer, J. (1990). Recycling Plastic. New York: F. Watts.
- ‘Plastics’1992, video recording, Science Pictures Ltd.
- The Wage Age Staff. (2010). Tip off, News, Facts, and Figures. Penton Media, Inc. p.6-8
- ‘Understanding Plastics’ 1987, video recording, UW-Stout Teleproduction Center.
- Waste Age. (2002). A growing Opportunity. Primedia Business Magazines & Media,
Inc.p.62

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Plastics Recycling

  • 1. 0 Plastics Recycling: Challenges and opportunity for growth Ahmad Alkhathami University of St. Thomas April 13, 2011 Research Project Materials Engineering ETLS 771 Spring 2011
  • 2. 1 Abstract The main purpose of this paper is to discuss possible solutions for increasing the recycling rate of the plastics products. Plastics are relatively new materials developed in the last century. Their applications have grown very fast. As a result, many environmental issues have grown such as the products finite sources, end-of-life treatment, and the energy consumption and emission of gases. The percentage of materials that are recycled is relatively low. This paper covers the challenges facing the plastic recycling, the role that different society’s groups could play to address that issue, and the proposal that could share in reducing the negative impact of plastics uses. Introduction In few decades, plastic products became one of the largest materials consumed by people, and the demand continues to grow. Plastics have many benefits that led to new applications as well as substituted existing materials. They are strong materials, light, durable, corrosion resistance, and long lasting. They are used in wide range of industries from food packaging to aerospace industry. However, with the rapid growth and increase of demand for plastics, negative effects have gradually appeared. Plastics are derived from a finite source (crude oil). Also, the high demand has created problems at the end-of-life of the plastics when it is scraped. Plastics mostly ends up to the land filled, creating a huge waste of energy and natural resources. This paper will address the challenges facing the recycling of plastics, the roles that each of the society’s groups has played and could play toward this issue. Then, the paper is concluded with some suggestions that could enhance the growth of the recycling that could minimize plastic waste. As a result, it will minimize the impact on environment and the use of the materials
  • 3. 2 Challenge of Recycling Unlike metals, only small percentage of plastics is being recycled. There are many reasons that account for this low percentage of plastics recycling. Some of them due to the chemical structure of the material which makes it unrecyclable such as Thermosat material. Once they are heated and shaped they can’t be heated and reshaped again (irreversible), instead they will burn after certain period of heating. Other reason is due to the government legislations in term of collaborating with the manufacturers for producing materials that are recyclable. Plastic are considered to be new materials that have developed during the last few decades, and they have slow negative impact to the environment that is hard to be measured. Also, providing financial support to either research and development of new materials or for the recycling industry is still small comparing to the huge amount of plastic produced to the market. Until recent years, the energy conservation from secondary plastics is not efficient enough to cannibalize the primary materials. In contrast, the energy of collecting, sorting, and processing the recycled materials could exceed the process of the virgin material. Even if success to produce secondary plastic with efficient energy saving, it can’t have the same properties as the primary material. In addition, most of the plastics are not economically recyclable. The cost of collecting, sorting, and recycling could reach or exceed the cost of producing new material. Moreover, the cost of recycling to the environmental benefit is not that efficient. One obvious example from the industry is rubber where about 21% is recycled due to economic reasons.1 Other reason is due to the complexity of the products that contain huge number of different materials. For example, the keyboard contains about 9 different materials which make it almost impossible to sort them in cost effective manner that could make the recycling process profitable. In general, most if it is not all plastics can technically be recycled. However, the high cost of recycling, low cost of raw material, and level of technology existed put limitation on the amount and types of plastics that can be recycled. 1 Anthony Andrady,”Plastics and The Environment,”
  • 4. 3 A conference that took place at MIT on durable products recycling highlighted different types of challenges facing the recycling industry including suppliers, manufacturers, and recyclers. Below are some of those challenges2: 1- The uncertainty about the environmental benefits of recycling. It is not obvious the contribution of recycling to the energy and environmental conservation. There is lack of data to make informed decisions. 2- Tight market for recycled materials, the primary material cost could compete the secondary materials in term of price or material properties. 3- Contamination of the materials, where many products contain numerous resin types which make separating very costly. 4- Lack of public support from government and citizens, where sometimes government becomes a setback for dismantling businesses to get permits, as well as the lack of support from citizens. Environmental impact There are many advantages of polymers and plastics in particular that have played big role in the fast growing of its applications in the last few decades. The light weight, durability, corrosion resistivity, and low cost are some of the advantages. Plastics, also, consumes less energy than any other materials. Due to the facts that plastic materials are cheap, that make them inefficient for recycling, most of the plastics end up in land fill. Plastic materials are not degradable, they don’t break down and pollute the soil ground and water, and their stability allows the land to settle quickly. However, with the rapid expansion of plastics uses in our world the environmental impact became a bigger issue in term of energy resources conservation and environmental protection. Plastics contribute in consuming about four percentage of fossil fuel in term of energy and raw materials. Also, it contributes to air pollution due to the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases.3 Another major impact on the environment is the increase of the demand for more landfill areas, which increase the effect on the soil for the long term, especially that there are some 2 Jennifer Nash, “DurableProducts recycling:stakeholder perspectives and directions for public policy.” 3 Anthony Andrady, “Plastics and The Environment,”
  • 5. 4 plastics (red and yellow plastics) that contain cadmium which is a poisonous substance, when they degrade, the rain water will wash them and transfer the poison to the soil and water. 4 Developing degradable materials could be a solution, yet they are expensive to produce and at the same time they are not recyclable. Another type of plastics is photo degradable plastics which is required being outdoor facing the sun to degrade. The challenge with that kind of materials is that to degrade they have to face the sun light and should not be buried in the landfill, which if we think to do so the earth is going to be covered with plastics. As a result of increasing plastic waste in the last few decades, there are new processes and applications for reusing the plastic at the end of its life. One area is recycling and using it as feedstock, mostly for different applications rather than the primary use. For instance, PET and HDPE are used for water and soft drink bottles. When they are recycled, they won’t be used again for the same purpose since they are melted down at low temperature and may be contaminated by dangerous substances that are released in during the process that may harm humans. Thus, they end up being used for other application. Other use of disposed plastic is for power generation to produce energy. That energy is used for production of electricity or some industries. Recycling of Plastics As I mentioned above, not all plastics are recycled due to the cost-benefit analysis. The majority of recycling materials are mostly limited to the industrial scrap, and household wastes. The collection of PET and HDPE bottles make up over 95% of household plastics.5 That may account for the profitability of the recycling of those materials due to the economics of scale. Once those disposal products are collected, they send to Material Recovery facility MRF for sorting plastics. That process mostly occurs manually. Then, it goes through recycling processes. At the end, the material is used as secondary material mostly for different 4 Joy Palmer, “Recycling Plastics” 5 Anthony Andrady, “Plastics and The Environment”
  • 6. 5 applications since the material losses some of its properties that makes it not as efficient as the virgin material. The four types of recycling process as Anthony describes in the book Plastics and the Environment are: - Primary Recycling, which is the recycling of scrap plastics to produce material with similar properties to the primary material. - Secondary Recycling, is the recycling for producing material with different properties that the primary material. - Tertiary Recycling, which is the production of basic chemical or fuel from scrap plastic. - Quaternary Recycling is the retrieving of energy from the scarp plastic to be used as a fuel for energy production such as electricity and steam. Also, materials are recycled for different reasons and purposes. The reason for the important of recycling of materials could due to the increase of their production and uses which causes a threat to the environment. For instance, the packaging industry account for about 25% of the plastics produced. That raises the attention of the environmental advocacies, and legislation to the need for actions. That resulted in the expanding of recycling programs. Some approaches are the developing of new materials for packaging that are recyclable such as PHBV and Polylactic, and reducing the amount and size of packaging to the minimum to reduce plastic waste. The recycling industry has been growing rapidly in the recent years. Furthermore, advanced technology and automation systems have entered this industry as the economies of scale and the cost-benefit analysis show opportunity for investment. From 1989 to 1998 the number of companies in the recycling industry in the USA increased by 500% from 230 companies to 1400. The diagram below shows the significant growth of the PET plastics recycling in the U.S. from 1995 to 2008.6 6 Seetha Coleman-Kammula,” More than justPlastics.”
  • 7. 6 0 200000000 400000000 600000000 800000000 1E+09 1.2E+09 1.4E+09 1.6E+09 1995 2008 Poundrecycled PET bottle Recycling growth in the U.S. from 1995 to 2008 Fig.1, PET recycling growth in pound. Technologies went further to use many types of machines to sort different materials even different colors using diversity of technologies such as laser, infrared, and x-ray. Technologies are expected to be developed for new applications. Energy The concept Gross Energy is the total energy for making the product which includes energy for: production, feedstock, and transportation. The major concern for the efficiency of recycling is the saving of energy besides the cost of materials. Therefore, for recycling energy assessment the gross energy of the recycled material must be less than the virgin material. As the feedstock energy is the same for both materials the only factor to analyze is the production Energy. This is not the case with metals, where for example gross energy of producing primary AL is 150MJ/Kg. In AL recycling the gross Energy is only 20 MJ/Kg which achieves about 87% of energy saving for production. In contrast, in polymers, if virgin material needs 45MJ/Kg feedstock energy, the same feedstock energy is needed for the recycled polymer. However, the plastic bottles produced from PET have showed economical and environmental benefit in term of energy conservation. Recycling a single plastic bottle saves energy to power 60 Watt light bulb for 6-hour. According to an article from the association of postconsumer plastic Recycler, states that only 27% of the 1.4 billion pound of PET
  • 8. 7 plastic bottle is recycled in the U.S. in 20087. Assuming that each bottle is about 0.25 pound, there are about 5.6 billion bottles. And only 1.512 billion were recycled which caused energy saving about 1.9 × 109 𝑀𝐽. This saving of energy is enough to enlightening about 130 million 60-watt bulbs for three days. Remember, that is due to recycling only 27% of PET bottles. Therefore, the recycling process is encouraged to be used if its production energy is less than the production energy of the virgin material. The production energy includes the energy of collecting, sorting, and recycling the scrap material. 0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1 0.12 PP PS PET PVC HDPE LDPE Gross Energy to produce 1 kg of Polymer Gross Energy from primary prodcution,MJ Gross Energy from recyclingprocess,MJ Fig. 2. The Gross energy of producing 1kg of some of the most popular polymers8 Another application for beneficial using waste plastics is as energy source. This occurs by using plastics as processed engineering fuel for industrial energy production purposes. Legislations and regulations With the passage of time, the awareness of the important of recycling takes bigger room in the government legislative level. The goal is to reduce the environmental impact from the plastic products through recycling. Also, many programs have been launched for reducing the impact such as the waste management program, reduction from the source, sustainability 7 Seetha Coleman-Kammula,” More than justPlastics.” 8 EduPack Software database.
  • 9. 8 development, etc. Achieving such a goal needs the collaboration of the legislators, manufacturers, and environmental advocacies groups. The interesting fact that I found during my research is that effort exists mainly only in countries such as Japan, the European Union, and the USA, while right now there are major players of the environmental issues in countries such as India and China. There are some actions that showed the governments respond to address the environmental impact of plastics. They set minimum requirements for collecting and recycling of plastic packaging (about 60% as a minimum). Also, many standards are being established for materials applications. For instance, in 1994 the European Union adopted from 25-45% recycling packaging policy.9 Another example of recent recycling policy is a new legislation in New York to recycle all household plastic containers in 2012. The European Union legislation set a target of recycling 85% in 2006 and 95% in 2015 of end of life vehicles. On the other hand, the responsibility the corporations can share is considered to be the major one. As they are the producers of the products that consume the major part of energy and cause the impact on the environment. Here are some examples of companies that go further in this area and established goals for environmental friendly products. Sony Corporation announced a goal of reducing its environmental impact to zero by 2025, which shows the company responsibility and the role it can play toward the environment.10 HP and Xerox created integrated supply chain infrastructure to handle the products take-back at the end of life. Suggestions The most important player in taking the initiative to enhance the progress for recycling programs and reduce the ecological impact is the government. The government regulations and legislations could drive other forces to the right directions through close collaboration with major players such as the suppliers, manufacturers, and recycling businesses. 9 Anthony Andrady, “Plastics and the Environment.” 10 The Wage Age Staff,” Tip off, News, Facts,and Figures.”
  • 10. 9 The manufacturers must ensure when they design their products that they will be easy to recycle. Also, the collaborated groups must ensure that the recycled material will be competitive in the market. Indeed, they should focus upon finding a stable market for the recycled products. Companies with the government should support the research and development for recyclable materials that can cannibalize existing materials. The materials that could achieve benefit including saving in energy, environmental emission, and land filled areas which outweigh the cost of energy and production. Also, they should work to develop the technology that is useful to recycling industry. The participants of the MIT conference “Durable Products Recycling” developed a proposal of how to overcome the challenges of products recycling in the US through: 1- The necessity for multi-industries collaboration and linking recyclers with suppliers and manufacturers by information system network. 2- Ensuring the quality of recycled materials by direct communication between recyclers in one side and the suppliers and manufacturers in the other side, also, by establishing certification for the standards of the materials produced. 3- Educate policy makers and citizens through environmental advocacy groups about the benefit of resources conservation and how to collaborate. 4- Develop life cycle analysis to know the real impact of the product on the environment and the benefit to energy and resources conservation based on reliable data. 5- Suppliers and manufacturers should use recycled materials and design products for recyclability that are easy for disassembly. Design for recyclability could be efficient to the cost of the products. European computer manufacturer reduced the cost of assembly by 50% when designed for easy recycling.11 11 Mark Pagell,Zhaohui Wu,Nagesh N. Murthy, “The Supply Chain Implicationsof Recycling.”
  • 11. 10 Conclusion Despite the challenges facing plastics recycling industry and the low percentage of plastics being recycled, there is a worldwide trend toward reducing the plastic waste. This trend is obvious in many industrialized countries. However, I expect that they will work as a driving force to many of the developing countries in the near future. Knowing the problem is halfway the solution, by understanding the impact of plastics waste and the effectiveness of recycling by all groups of the society such as government agencies, manufacturers, and consumers that could concentrate the effort to great results. Government could develop new legislations and standards for the consuming products. Manufacturers should consider the end-of-life of their products when designing and start to adopt the design for recyclability concept. Consumers must be educated and become aware about the benefits of recycling. Collaborating for that purpose is the tool for bright future of producing materials that guarantee eliminating of products’ environmental impact, conservation of energy, and our natural resources.
  • 12. 11 References - Andrady, A. (2003). Plastics and the Environment. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. - EduPack Software database. - Fletcher B., Mackay M. (1996). Model of plastics recycling: does recycling reduce the amount of waste? Resources, conservation, and recycling, 17, 141-151 - Kammula. C. S. (2008). More than just Plastics. Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers; American Chemistry Council’s Plastic Recycling Facts - Nash J. (1995). Durable Products recycling: stakeholder perspectives and directions for public policy. Resources, conservation, and recycling, 15, 41-50 - Pagell M., Wu Z., Murthy N. (2007). The Supply Chain Implications of Recycling. Business Horizons, 50, 133-143 - Palmer, J. (1990). Recycling Plastic. New York: F. Watts. - ‘Plastics’1992, video recording, Science Pictures Ltd. - The Wage Age Staff. (2010). Tip off, News, Facts, and Figures. Penton Media, Inc. p.6-8 - ‘Understanding Plastics’ 1987, video recording, UW-Stout Teleproduction Center. - Waste Age. (2002). A growing Opportunity. Primedia Business Magazines & Media, Inc.p.62