The Harmful Effect of Plastics on Our Environment
Modern industrial development could not survive without the production of a large amount of plastics, which ends up being a potential threat to the surrounding environment. The other potentially disastrous thing is that plastic is not easy to get rid of without harmful consequences: it does not dissolve as time passes, and it gives off toxic substances while being burnt, which is why the only way to transform plastics without any negative effects on ecology is to recycle it in order to make some other equally useful products.
On the other hand, recent trends indicate that it’s just as common (unfortunately) for consumers / producers to leave large amounts of plastic goods in rubbish dumps, not paying attention to the influence that the plastic has on the environment. That is why several technologies have been introduced to reduce or eliminate plastic’s harmful impact.
Steven Miller and his scientific colleagues from Kentucky have offered a rather peculiar and surprising way of transforming the valuable features of plastics. In particular, they proved that polyethylene might provide a useful basis for motor oil and transmission fluid. These products are expected to be manufactured from wax, which is made of polyethylene under the influence of elevated temperatures.
In addition, besides the technological aspect of this advancement, such production promises economic benefits due to the abundance of cheap plastics and no need to involve expensive petroleum-based materials in the production. Therefore, people might actually experience lower prices on motor oils in the future!
Adding Plastics to Steel-Making
To continue the subject of transforming plastics into things of common good, it is also appropriate to mention one more technology, which serves to put plastics in the steel-making process. It was discovered by Veena Sahajwalla, materials specialist from the University of New South Wales, who eventually was honored with one of the most prestigious Australian scientific awards for her work.
To give some details, her discovery replaces the current carbon source with plastics, which when heated to 1600°C, might represent the ideal substitute for coal or coke. Though coal-miners should likely not be afraid for the disappearance of the coal-mining industry. While the use of plastics in the replacement of coal for some uses represents a significant ecological breakthrough, there are still multiple other industrial applications where coal is of great necessity.
Scientists from University of Warwick created the whole machine of recycling plastics into useful goods back in 2010. In particular, the scientific team headed by Jan Baeyens, constructed an engine where plastics, heated to 500°C, disintegrate into initial monomers. The crucial issue of this machine is that it provides people with the opportunity to recycle various types of plastics simultaneously, without preparatory sorting.
Such a mixture of plastic products transformed into wax, styrene, terephthalic acid, methyl methacrylate, and carbon. Thus, the plastic recycling process and process for producing plastic materials is gradually becoming more and more improved.
Durable Plastics Broken Down With White Rots
The alternative to expensive and toxic methods of transforming plastics was introduced by researchers from the University of Wisconsin. There, they discovered that durable plastics, made of phenolic resins, might be broken down with the help of white rots. This trial started from scientists’ observation of the similarities between the chemical structure of phenolic and lignin, the main substance of wood.
From this point, scientists drew the initial conclusion that just as the way wood is destroyed, so too plastics appeared to also contain the same potential breaking point. To put it precisely, this breaking down involves the occurrence of white rot. Their following experiments demonstrated that white rot actively recycled plastics, breaking down compounds and creating depressions on the plastic surface.
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