Plastic is difficult to recycle by traditional means, hence it ends up filling our landfills and water bodies. Plastic is mainly made of petroleum and recycling a tonne of plastic can save around 3.8 barrels of oil. Did you know that a plastic bottle takes over 400 years to decompose and that 90 percent of floating waste that harms marine life is plastic?
To make up for all the plastic garbage out there, some people have come up with promising techniques that help to recycle plastic into useful products:
Plastic is made from petroleum, and some people are helping to convert it back to fuel, that can be used to power our vehicles or produce energy. A Pune based organization called Rudra Environmental Solutions is using a process called pyrolysis that helps to convert different types of plastic bags, food containers, wrappers, cable covers into liquid fuel (majority), gases and sludge. It produces very little emissions. The gases (methane and propane mostly) that are produced are used to reheat the next cycle. The sludge is polymer based and is used in the construction process of roads. The liquid fuel is used in boilers, agriculture machines and even as a replacement for kerosene in homes. The team has been collecting 5-6 tons of plastic waste from more than 5000 homes in Pune every day and converting it to useful fuel.
Scientists from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC) are also conducing experiments to efficiently convert plastic to fuel with lesser emissions.
The United States discards around 47 billion plastic bottles a year. In India, Prashant Lingam, founder of a Hyderabad based organization called ‘Bamboo House of India’ has designed a house made of scrap plastic PET bottles. PET bottles used for beverages are filled up with sand or mud and inserted into a metal grid to create walls. Cow dung, clay and a little cement is used to finish up the homes. Small plastic bottle houses can be built at a cost of only INR 50,000 and this would be great to solve both the housing and plastic bottle crisis in India. These homes are highly insulative to weather conditions and are also fire proof, earthquake resistant and bullet proof!
Plastic bottle houses are already in play in Nigeria. 14000 such bottles are used to make a two bedroom house. In Panama, a project called ‘Plastic Bottle Village’ is setting up an entire village of houses made of beverage bottles.
Rosa Montesa, a designer from Spain, has used 180 bottles to create a beautiful dress. Unifi, a polyester and nylon yarn maker has converted 4 billion plastic PET bottles to recycled fabric in the last few years. Named ‘Repreve’, they make recycled yarn from 100 percent used plastic bottles and hybrids of plastic bottles and fabric waste. The process involves shredding plastic bottles into pellets and melting them. The melted pellets are extruded and spun into polyester yarn which is used to make all types of clothes, from gowns to t-shirts to car seat covers. Brands such as Patagonia, The North Face, Levi’s, Adidas, Nike and Ford already use it.
Polythene carry bags, chocolate wrappers and other plastic cups and pouches are being mixed with bitumen to construct water resistant and stronger roads in Madurai, Jamshedpur and a few other places in India. Recently, the government has made it mandatory to mix such plastic waste in road construction. Soon, we will have cheaper and greener roads throughout the country.
High Density Polyethene (HDPE) used to make thicker plastic bottles is being recycled into plastic furniture such as benches, chairs, patio furniture, cargo liners, and even recycling bins.
Most of the above techniques are cost effective too. If these are carried out on a mass scale, the plastic problem can be greatly reduced. If you know of anyone who is also involved in recycling or reusing plastic, do let us know 🙂