In is a low permeable layer designed

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In the current modern society, the disposal of waste is a crucial part of everyone’s daily lives but often disregarded as a simple process of merely throwing away useful items. Most wastes in the modern society are disposed through the methods of dumping into either landfills or oceans or through the method of incineration, all of these methods being highly environmentally detrimental and are making the planet’s environment unsustainable. For example, disposing of waste in landfills is one of the most common ways of disposing waste at the current time, however, it is one of the most environmentally damaging ways of doing so. Landfills are often layered with a protective liner, commonly known as the composite liner (See fig. 1, indicated by letter “C”), is a low permeable layer designed to keep the toxic chemicals from the water zones around the landfill(Lee Fred G.). These layers are stated to ‘ultimately fall’ by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, meaning despite their high durability, they will make landfill sites always a threat to human societies. Despite being a rather safe method of disposing waste, most landfills are opened, therefore making them highly vulnerable to rain, snow and many natural weather phenomenon, after exposure to these weather phenomenon, toxins and heavy metals will have a possibility to pollute nearby water sources and soil, making landfills ultimately unsafe(7 Pros and Cons…). Landfills also have a tendency to rely on degrading waste materials, however, does not account for non-degradable materials such as plastic, which is highly common in modern products. The most common form of plastic, polyethylene plastic is made from modifying natural gases. This gives plastics a tendency to not biodegrade as the carbon-carbon bonds of the plastic’s atomic structure requires an immense amount of energy to create, therefore nature cannot biodegrade plastic like many other materials. Due to the nature of plastic, dumping them into a landfill would only build up waste matter and toxin within the landfill, so a lot of plastic is also dumped into the ocean, but this method proves to be also highly environmentally unfriendly(Kinnon Stephanie). Due to their non-degradable nature, plastic basically stays in the ocean forever, this causes sea creatures to either consume or swim into them, both will harm the food chain and endanger the unfortunate species. Plastic dumped into the sea has already endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seals and the Pacific loggerhead sea turtles(Johnson Chris), and countless more. Plastic dumped into the sea doesn’t just harm sea creatures, it’s also detrimental to humans. Being at the top of the food chain, humans consume all kinds of meat, including seafood. Since the fishes in the sea are likely to consume plastic, which is toxic to the human body when humans consume fishes such as salmon and sardine, the microplastics consumed by them are passed into the human body, ultimately damaging a person’s health. These all add to the fact that recycling is a necessity in order to create a sustainable environment for future generations. Plastic accounts for 10% of the waste we throw away(How much plastic…), and currently, plastic is recycled through the process of sorting the plastics into different types of polymers, chipping the plastic, then ultimately melting them down for reuse purposes.  Despite all plastics being able to be recycled, not all of them can be reused. For example, one of the most common plastics in production, the Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) are commonly recycled, but cannot be reused due to their increased toxicity over use. On the other hand, the Polypropylene (PP), is both recyclable and safe to reuse(Cook Bradley). This creates an inconsistency in the process of recycling and reusing different types of plastics, therefore decreasing the number of companies actually recycling plastic as they are unprofitable. A way to decrease the detrimental effects of plastic is to implement the process of Selective Dissolution(Huyhua Samantha), a complex process that effectively removes the process of sorting plastics into different types before they are recycled. Developed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a complex technology exploits the advantage of the chemical properties of polymers through multiple complex processes. It first starts off with shredding the mixed types of plastic, washing them and drying them, next, placed in a dissolver where xylene solvent (a mixture of hydrocarbons) is added. Then, at a temperature of 15°C, code 5 plastic (Polystyrene) is then dissolved and drained through a filter, placed in a holding tank. The procedure is repeated with increasing temperatures until PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) are left, these plastic will be moved to a smaller dissolver for improved mixing and a different solvent at a higher temperature than the other types of plastics. All the dissolved plastic will then be put into different holding tanks, ready for reusing purposes(See fig. 2). This solution is extremely effective economically, its production cost is comparable to virgin plastics (newly manufactured plastics), ultimately creating incentives for recycling more plastic in the manufacturing industry. It also does not create any environmental detriments as the entire process is indoors and no toxic gas is released during the process. Comparing this solution to producing plastic from raw materials, even though their value ends up to be similar, Selective Dissolution still requires a great amount of energy and the use of other chemical solvents. Effectively rendering this solution to be ultimately short-termed. As the implication of plastic in modern consumer products is too prominent to be removed, a long-term solution will become a necessity soon. Widely implementing Selective Dissolution will impact the world’s environment drastically. It will dramatically reduce the number of plastic disposed both in landfills and oceans, creating a more sustainable environment for the world. Its advantages include the cheap cost of the process and the reduction of plastic that would have been disposed in numerous ways. The solution also comes with numerous disadvantages, including the high amount of energy and other chemical solvents required for the process, and its lacklusterness as a long-term solution due to its high energy cost. Recycling with this method will be environmentally friendly, however, multiple designated facilities are required to be set up in order to effectively recycle plastic in large quantities. Overall, this solution will be highly difficult to set up due to geographical and financial limitations but will improve the world’s overall environmental sustainability after sufficient implementations of the solution.

Categories: Industry


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