Plastic in the United States About 25 Thesis

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In the United States about 25 million tons of plastic is discarded every year as waste. These materials are usually dumped in land fills and they are not degraded for decades. It also forms twenty percent of all municipal waste. There fore there is a need to find an alternate solution for the disposal of plastics. (Ware, 3) Condemning plastic altogether and replacing it totally seems to be a task that is Herculean and be best left for the future. The harmful effects of plastic especially when discarded and absorbed into the ecosystem where it takes considerable time before it can be decomposed is proven, and this parameters prompts the enquiry into the ways and means of containing the use and waste generation in plastic and polymers. Assuming that the consumption of plastic will not abate in the near decade or even the century and that it cannot be eliminated altogether, the next consideration is how to prevent it from becoming a hazard. This hypothesis is thus based on the solution that plastic could be recycled and also restricted in use. Thus the hypothesis/thesis statement is that that since it is not possible and desirable to eliminate plastic use altogether, various methods of disposal and recycling must be attempted and made the practice with regard to plastic materials which must be classified as a separate type of waste, and processed. Where it can be replaced plastic must give way to less harmful material.


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TOPIC: Thesis on Plastic in the United States About 25 Assignment

There are many arguments that show that plastic is harmful. One argument is that plastics are not biodegradable, that is capable of being consumed by organisms and therefore indestructible for larger period of time. Plastic prevents the earth from getting water in rain by forming a film in land fills, and not being degraded also cause harm to animals and hazards to living creatures. The effects are felt both in land and sea. There was thus a campaign all over the world to ban plastic bags and the like. However the effects of plastics are more theory than practical scientific evidence. There are arguments from scientists that these claims are highly exaggerated and there is no basis for the alarm. For example it was reported in the Times that some environmentalists and scientists have come out with the opinion that the "global campaign to ban plastic bags is based on flawed science and exaggerated claims." (Mostrous, 4)

These contenders refute the claims that plastic kills a million animals a year as having been exaggerated. The argument is that marine waste "poses only a minimal threat to most marine species, including seals, whales, dolphins and seabirds." (Martin, 7) The argument that animals are harmed was negated with the argument that "mammals are too big to get entangled in plastic" bags. (Mostrous, 4) This group argues that the problem of the plastic waste cannot be solved merely by concentrating on plastic bag waste. "Of all the waste that goes to landfill, 20 per cent is household waste and 0.3 per cent is plastic bags." (Mostrous, 4) The scientists like Lord Taverne, feels that jumping to conclusions about plastic without scientific evidence is "bad science leading to bad decisions which are counter-productive." (Martin, 7)

There is evidence on the contrary that the use of plastics itself is harmful to humans. There is discovery that plastics and polymers are also harmful to human health. Baby feed bottles for example leach bisphenol. This was "found to cause harm in the case of laboratory animal studies." (Toxic Baby Bottles) Thus toxicant Exposure to Bisphenol is widespread. At least in this area "the manufacturers should be required to label children's products with the name of any potentially dangerous chemical and the specific health risks associated with the chemical." (Toxic Baby Bottles) Plastic wastes by way of films in agricultural use -- mulching film, irrigation tubes silage bags and packing are non-degradable and are adverse in effect to the fertility of the soil. In this case the controlled photo biodegradable option is the best method of ridding the waste. This is also true to the litter at the sea shore and the seas. (Mantia, 2) The composting of mixtures with plastics from household waste and thus degrading them with other items are akin to using bio degradable methods. The compost system also provides for diverse nutrient rich soil. (Mantia, 2)

Methods or suggestions to solve the problem from plastic use:

There are many methods that have been and are being tried out. There is a lot of research going on in the area. The most practical way is to recycle plastic and this has taken the stature of a separate industry. Recycling of waste is a concept that has been appreciated as an alternate to destruction of plastic waste. There are number of systems that have evolved over the years and these pertain to different types of plastics. Thus this makes sorting of plastic waste to different categories mandatory to keep the tensile strength and the purity of the material. One method was to number the plastic from 1 to 7 when a product is manufactured so that the type of the plastic is found from the item. But in spite of the process of recycling the result as of now is that only 3.5% of the plastic debris is recycled. Recycling is said to be the soundest method of eliminating plastic waste to a great extent. (Ware, 64)

Thus the recycling concept is now all over the world. There have been many plastic waste management policies, both in Europe and USA. The one important activity that is considered as a policy is recycling. Recycling has its own difficulties that are associated with the logic of recovery of the waste, collection transportation and the process of recycling to suitable standard raw materials. The costs of recycling and the final product, to make it ineffective must be lesser than the original plastic materials. There is asocial unacceptability of this waste management practice and the market concerns in using recycled plastic which is considered inferior. (Azapagic; Emsley; Hamerton, 104)


The benefits of this system are numerous. For example there is no destruction of the material. Recycling is also an economic alternative because the rising price of fossil sources pushes up the cost of the virgin polymers which make the recycled polymer a better choice in terms of costs. The method of recycling by pyrolosis that is converting waste polymer into synthetic oil could be attractive and this oil could take the place of petrol as an alternate energy source. Recycling is effective and the best know alternative. (Azapagic; Emsley; Hamerton, 115)


Disadvantages include the fact that repeated recycling also causes incremental chemical damage on the micromolecular structure of polymers and it is difficult to determine the actual damage or the number of recycle that the mass has undergone. Thus producing important components that require strength and assured quality cannot be manufactured from the recycled material. (Mantia, 5) There are costs involved. The cost of collection and disposal of plastics is high. The other methods are incineration which is both beneficial and harmful. In theory it is "thermodynamically equal" to burning the petroleum feedstock. We could achieve complete combustion, thus the result being carbon dioxide and water. However in practice there is the danger of releasing low molecular weight compounds in the atmosphere. Secondly destruction by burning does not allow use to reuse the derived compounds. Thus this process is costly and lesser effective. Raquel Pinderhughes says that the largest consumer of plastic is in the medical field and the incineration of medical waste pollutes the atmosphere with air pollution. This includes bad odors and the burning of many items like plastic, polyvinyl chloride, batteries lead to the release of dioxins, Furnas, arsenic, lead, cadmium and so on into the air. Medical waste incinerators are the source of dioxin and mercury pollution of the environment. (Pinderhughes, 64-65)

Yet another method in vogue uses light to degrade materials. This method considered is the use of photo degradation using ultraviolet rays. Some form of plastics can be degraded using this method. Some like the six pack rings end up in the ocean to destroy marine life. The photo degradable plastic use is limited because the degradation cannot be controlled and thus the product may be rendered useless after manufacture, and if it enters the earth then the UV light cannot reach it. (Ware, 16)


The use of biodegradable polymers is the latest method suggested and biodegradable polymers are dependent on micro organisms destroying the polymer. Thus the biodegradable polymer is a special blend of petrochemical plastic blended with corn starch. Organisms that consume starch break down the compounds but the possibility is that these organisms may consume only the starch and not the plastic. (Ware, 32) Bio synthesized polymers could be a solutions like "poly-R=3 hydroxybutyrate -- PHB that is a class of polymer called polyhydroxy alkanoates --PHAs."… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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