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Plastic Production Essay

2391 words - 10 pages

1.0 Research Background
The term of plastic has attracted more attention in the literature for the past 100 years since the introduction of the first industrial plastic at the latter part of the 19th century. John Wesley Hyatt, an American, finally came upon the solution in year 1869 with celluloid which makes its debut in plastic industry (McCord, 1964). Ever since after, there have been several milestones in the history of material science as the invention of plastic has, arguably, touched more lives than any other technological breakthrough.
Plastics play a significant role across the environmental, societal and economic dimensions of sustainable development. Our modern lifestyle would not be possible without plastics. Plastics have proliferated so readily throughout the modern world because of their inherent properties such as lightweight, versatility and durability (Fortelný et. al., 2004). By possessing these advantageous characteristics, plastics has become a good candidate for replacement of other materials that range from simple plastic parts such as household storage containers, to sophisticated devices such as heart replacement valves. It is this range of properties together with their low cost that has driven the annual worldwide demand for plastics to reach at least 308 million tonnes by 2010 (Andrady and Neal, 2009).
1.1 Impacts of Plastic Production
Although plastics have had a remarkable impact on our culture and lifestyle, the production and use of plastics pose increasing threat to environment. Most plastics are made from fossil fuels and thus plastics production has an impact on oil consumption, both as a raw material and to deliver energy for the manufacturing process (van der Voet et al, 2003). The process takes a large number of decompositions and recombination that a commercial plastic is produced. According to Statistical Review of World Energy (2010), the total oil consumption of the world in 2008 was 81.73 million barrels per day and the global proved oil reserves at the end of 2008 are estimated to have been 1.258 trillion barrels. At the current rate of consumption, it would last 42 years before the oil reserves are completely depleted. It is estimated that 4% of the world's annual oil production is used as a feedstock for plastic production and an additional 3-4% during manufacture (Nemerow et al, 2009). Considering the massive amount of oil usage in the world even 7% is a very large quantity of oil to be used in the plastic production.
On the other hand, high plastic production inevitably leads to an increasing amount of plastics ending up in the waste stream which results in serious pollution problems. A significant portion of the waste generated in Malaysia comes from plastics. The amount of plastic waste continues to accumulate as the population is growing along with a great expansion of plastic industry in our country. Therefore, various options of plastic waste management, such as landfill, incineration...

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