The utilization of plastic is increasing by consumers in their daily lives. It is used in almost everything like grocery bags, cutlery, water bottles, sandwich wrap, and many more. Plastics are polymers that contain long chains of molecules produced from repeating units called monomers. The plastics’ chemical structure can be arranged in such a way that it can give diverse properties such as flexibility or hardness, transparency, or opacity. They are also very sturdy, light in weight, water-resistant, long-lasting, and reasonably simple as well as affordable to produce. Nowadays, plastics are produced by using fossil fuels such as natural gas or petroleum, but as technology is developing, the polymers derived from renewable sources like corn or cotton are being utilized for producing plastics. Furthermore, the utilization of plastics across a wide range of industries is taking place, there are also thousands of patented plastics in use across the world, having their own set of characteristics that make them suitable for their intended use. The most common use of plastic is in packaging and building material, they are also utilized in pharmaceutical packaging, and medical industries. But the overconsumption, as well as mismanagement of plastic, can cause various negative effects on the environment. As the plastic waste ends up in the landfills they cause an overflow of landfills, affecting the rivers, and killing the marine life. It was observed that in the early’s 2000s, the plastic waste amount was generated more in a single decade compared to the previous 40 years. Moreover, today 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated every year. As the consumption of plastic products and their packaging is increasing because of their various benefits as well as utility, waste generation is also increasing at the same time. Various packaging industries across the globe are utilizing plastic for offering packaging products into the market. The single-use plastics are responsible for half of the plastic waste generation, as it is meant to be thrown away after a single short use. Because of the increasing plastic pollution, the negative impacts on the environment cause global warming, climate change, and many more. As the idea and knowledge about plastic pollution are increasing people are changing their perspectives toward sustainable solutions. Therefore, the countries, corporations, big organizations, governments, and communities are developing various strategies and taking certain initiatives to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics.
Many entities are focusing on producing sustainable plastic products that can be recycled. The demand for recycling plastic is increasing and various organizations are engaged in developing 70-75% recyclable plastic materials and making commitments to developing 100% recyclable plastic packaging in the coming years. Furthermore, the government is taking various initiatives and making regulations for plastic recycling. For example, Thailand, the Philippines, and the Malaysian governments have made roadmaps related to a circular economy to prioritize policies related to plastics as well as investments in target sectors and locations. The public and private sectors are also reorienting their priorities, which include Thailand’s public-private partnership for plastic and waste management, the Malaysia Sustainable Plastic Alliance, and the Philippine Alliance for recycling and materials sustainability. As the idea and demand for plastic recycling are increasing the development of the recycling technology is also increasing. Two methods were utilized for recycling plastic such as chemical and mechanical methods. These two methods are widely utilized by many companies to recycle plastic and convert it into useful products. The usage of chemical recycling technology is high because it offers several advantages over mechanical recycling. Furthermore, many big players are also developing their technology for recycling plastic waste. The utilization of artificial intelligence for sorting plastic waste is in use by AMP Robotics Company. To obtain a circular economy and reduce plastic waste various initiatives have been taken by many organizations.
Mechanical recycling processes plastic waste into secondary products without significantly changing the chemical structure of the material. Plastics are initially sorted into their resin type. Sorting can be carried out using manual sorting or mechanized automation processes. The plastic is then shredded, sieved, and separation by rates of density or by spectrophotometric distribution technologies e.g. UV/VIS, NIR, Laser, etc. Some plastic products are also separated by color before they are recycled. After shredding impurities like paper labels are eliminated by extrusion into pellets and can be reused.
There are various types of plastic available according to the material used, which includes Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), High-density polyethylene (HDPE), Low-density polyethylene (LDP), Polystyrene (PS), and Expanded polystyrene (EPS). Accordingly, the plastics can be sorted into two wide classifications such as easily recycled and hard-to-recycle. Plastics that are recycled easily like most bottles, which are made of PET and HDPE are used for making pipes as well as containers, they can be washed, grind to form a powder, melted, and extruded into pellets that can be reheated and remolded. This process is called mechanical recycling. Furthermore, chemical recycling can be utilized to recycle hard-to-recycle plastics like LDPE, polyethylene film, and plastic containers that are contaminated as well as uncleaned. The chemical recycling process involves altering the polymer structure of the plastics and then converting it into a feedstock that may be utilized to replace the virgin ingredients during plastic production.
Chemical recycling involves three methods such as hydrogenation, gasification, and pyrolysis.
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