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How plastic contributes to sustainability

Plastics role in sustainability

Plastic can contribute to sustainability in many ways. It is durable, preventing the need to replace it as often as other materials. It protects products, reducing waste due to damaged products or spoiled food. It is lightweight, requiring less fuel and producing fewer emissions in machinery or vehicles made from plastic. It is used for safety purposes in shock-absorbing foams and other materials, as well as many healthcare products and packaging. It is a fantastic insulation material for buildings, requiring less energy to keep our homes and other structures warm.

Methods for recycling plastic

While mechanical recycling is the most common approach for recycling today in the advanced materials industry, both chemical and energy recovery recycling are popular alternatives.

Mechanical Recycling

This method is ideal for recycling mass quantities of plastic, because even though the chemical structure of the materials degrade slightly when reworked, it is possible to upgrade it again with antioxidants and other additives to increase the quality.

Chemical Recycling

Chemical recycling helps to divert certain plastic waste from landfills. With chemical recycling, plastic debris is sorted and separated for chemical processing. The chemical structure of waste is transformed, converting it into shorter molecules that are used for new reactions.

Energy Recovery 

When plastic cannot be efficiently recycled, energy recycling is the most resource-efficient solution. This process takes place in modern combined heat and power recovery plants (CHP Plants), where waste plastics and other highly calorific materials are used to generate heat and power. 

Reusable plastic reduces waste

Reusability has a major impact on plastic waste footprint.

Innovation in reusable materials is accelerating. Right now, a handful of companies are developing sustainable materials which come in a pellet form that transforms into a hard plastic durable enough to stand everyday wear and tear, for example with daily use around the home.

Such materials also have the highly desirable benefit of removing BPA (bisphenol A – a synthetic organic compound) from the formulation, which may be added when other processing techniques are used.

Fast facts

While all plastic can be recycled, not all plastic waste can be sustainably or economically recycled. In those cases, plastic can go through energy recovery in order to produce energy and power.

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