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Plastic Recycling Essay

2797 words - 11 pages

History:Plastic is a material that is used widely throughout the world. We can find plastic everywhere in our daily lives. It has changed our lives a great deal; however often its importance is forgotten. There are many things in today's world that are made of plastic.Within the last years, plastic has evolved immensely. There exist more than 1,000 different plastics that vary widely and can be used for different purposes. We can define plastic "as a group of synthetic resins or other substances that can be moulded into any form" (1, p.10). Molecules determine the structural form of the plastic as well as their physical feature. Plastics are also known as polymers or resins.A polymer is a large molecule of high molecular mass formed by the joining together of a large number of molecules of low molecular mass (2). The individual molecules forming the polymer are called monomers. Polymers can be divided into 2 categories; extendable polymers and cross-linked polymers (1). Extendable polymers are thermoplastic and cross-linked polymers are thermoset. Both groups differ in their structure, properties, and chemical processes (1). The most important difference between both is that thermoplastic can be remelted after processing and can be remoulded where as thermoset plastics cannot be remelted. Thermoplastics are elastic and flexible; they "are the most important class of plastics material available commercially and account for more than two thirds of all polymers used in the world today" (1, p.14).The polymer industry began in the 1870s; however the first synthetic polymer was created in 1909 by Leo Baekeland (3). Following this discovery there was a great amount of research "to understand the molecular structure of polymers" (3, p.3). In 1920, their unique properties were discovered by Hermann Staudinger although this was only accepted in 1928. "The 1930s were the glory years for the development of new synthetic polymers" such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (PS) (3, p.3). With the discovery of 'accelerated' polymerization in 1953 making plastics a superior product, polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) were created (3).Below is a table outlining some of their uses:PVCIt is used in piping, vinyl siding, oil bottles, and clothing and upholsteryPSApplications include computer housings, kitchen appliances, foam packaging, and plastic utensilsPPIt is found in dishwater safe food containers as well as diapers, carpeting, and screw on lidsPEIt is used in bottles, food trays, grocery bags, textile, and children's toys(1)Plastic Resin Codes:As discussed previously, there are many different types of polymers. To help categorize the major polymers that are recyclable, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) developed a resin identification code system in 1988. The SPI was founded in 1937 and represent the entire plastics industry supply chain. They host a number of different shows and publish various different reports on the plastic industry....

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