A Glance at Plastics Recycling

Plastic consumption has grown at a tremendous rate worldwide, and Middle East is no exception. Plastics now play an increasingly important role in all aspects of modern life. and used in the manufacture of all sorts of items including protective packaging, mobile phones, domestic appliances, furniture items, medical devices etc. Each year around 1trillon plastic bags are used worldwide with most of them ending up in landfills, dumpsites and water bodies. Due to the rising demand, the global plastic consumption is expected to reach 300 million tons by 2015. Per capita consumption of plastics in the GCC is estimated to be 33kg per annum which is much above the world average.

Disposal of Plastic Wastes

Disposal of plastic waste has emerged as an important environmental challenge and its recycling is facing roadblocks due to non-degradable nature. Because plastic does not decompose biologically, the amount of plastic waste in our surroundings is steadily increasing. More than 90% of the articles found on the sea beaches contain plastic. Plastic waste is often the most objectionable kind of litter and will be visible for months in landfill sites without degrading.

Recycling and reuse of plastics is gaining importance as a sustainable method for plastic waste disposal. Unfortunately, plastic is much more difficult to recycle than materials like glass, aluminum or paper. A common problem with recycling plastics is that plastics are often made up of more than one kind of polymer or there may be some sort of fibre added to the plastic (a composite).

Plastic polymers require greater processing to be recycled as each type melts at different temperatures and has different properties, so careful separation is necessary. Moreover, most plastics are not highly compatible with one another. Apart from familiar applications like recycling bottles and industrial packaging film, there are also new developments e.g. the Recovinyl initiative of the PVC industry (covering pipes, window frames, roofing membranes and flooring).

Polyethlene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles have proven to have high recyclability and are taken by most curbside and drop-off recycling programs. The growth of bottle recycling has been facilitated by the development of processing technologies that increase product purities and reduce operational costs. Recycled PET and HDPE have many uses and well-established markets.

In contrast, recycling of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) bottles and other materials is limited. A major problem in the recycling of PVC is the high chlorine content in raw PVC (around 56 percent of the polymer's weight) and the high levels of hazardous additives added to the polymer to achieve the desired material quality. As a result, PVC requires separation from other plastics before mechanical recycling.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA and a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on environment and sustainability sector in the Middle East and regularly consulted on environmental projects by top firms in the region and beyond. Salman is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. He has participated in numerous conferences as session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is a prolific professional cleantech writer and has authored numerous articles in reputed journals, magazines and newsletters. He holds Masters and Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering and can be contacted on salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com
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9 Responses to A Glance at Plastics Recycling

  1. sandy says:

    Thanks for this update Gilbert. I hope more people would see the evils of littering and adding up to the pollution existing worldwide. It should be a given for people to throw away their trash where they ought to. It’s one problem that’s plaguing the Middle Eastern shores too. Check out this video of the shorelines of the Persian Gulf. http://youtu.be/Iv0YIupCcmE

  2. Jordi S. says:

     

    "Plastic polymers require greater processing to be recycled as each type melts at different temperatures and has different properties, so careful separation is necessary. Moreover, most plastics are not highly compatible with one another"

    Due to the wide array of plastics, I totally agree that the most important thing first is to sort them out by composition. You just can't treat "Plastics" as one single material because some of them, as you mention in your article, like PET & HDPE have a market once sorted & purified.
    The technology used by Picvisa, which has an European patent, can sort out in automatic lines with high yields, and at a great productivity of Tons/hour, this kind of plastics. Check out the vid in this link where you can see their Ecopack machine for plastic-sorting working:
    http://www.picvisa.com/content.php?lang=en&Item=1
    This must be the first approach to plastic recycling. Once sorted each material by composition, it will be much easier to find the right choice on what to do with each kind of plastics.
    Congratulations for this great article!

  3. Jordi S. says:

    Apologies for the previous link (that was for metal-sorting).
    The vid for the Ecopack machine, plastic-sorting, can bee seen here:
    http://www.picvisa.com/content.php?lang=en&Item=4
    Enjoy!

  4. Fatima Al-Banna says:

    Great contribution :)

  5. Mohamed Sarifdeen Rakeeb says:

    More recyclable of PET, HDPE and LDPE will ease pressure on raw materials. So that, reuse and recycle should be promoted.

  6. Michelle says:

    This is a very helpful article and quite enlightening. I would like to know who are the local plastic recycling plants/manufacturers in Qatar? I would really like to know more.

  7. Fatima Al-Banna says:

    Interesting article to read! :)

  8. This is a great article! The issues of plastics polluting our planet is an understatement. Every day we make headway throughout the world. We need to preserve our planet not only for us but for future generations.

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