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Recycling Plastics

5 Pages 1127 Words

Chemistry Environmental Problem in Canada Project -- Recycling Plastics

This paper will mainly focus on the recycling of plastics although the aspects of reducing and reusing/repairing will be briefly touched upon.To begin with an over view of what plastics are, the types of degradable plastics that exist, and current methods of plastic desposal will be presented. Finally, an overall assessment of the plastic recycling effort will be made.

What are plastics? Plastics are made of long, chainlike molecules called polymers. There are two different types: Thermoset plastics and thermo plastics. Thermoset plastics are hard and rigid and thermo plastics are soft and more flexable. Thermo plastics can be melted and reshaped many times unlike Thermoset plastics. Nylon, polyethylene, polyurethane and silcones are all types of Thermo plastics. Oil (petrolem) makes plastics, a non-renewable resource.

Today, most of our garbage is likely to end up in a landfill or at an incinerator centre where it is burned. This of course includes plastics. The plastic industry is trying to create new materials that will decompose, but experts are worried that the decomposing process could release toxic substances in to the ground and water. Even if they do become safe, plastics will still take up space in landfills. The majority of plastics do not decompose at all. The plastics ending up in landfills today would be around for a least 500 years! In Canada 1/5 of the solid waste that ends up in landfils is plactic.

There are two different types of degradable plastics. One type is know as photodegradable plastics which break down when they are exposed to sunlight. The problem is that in landfills the plastic are buried and are not exposed to any sunlight. The other type is know as biodegradable plastics which are partly made of cornstarch. Bacteria eat the cornstarch then other chemicals in the environment break down the rest of the plastic into s...

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