Chemical Recycle is Effective. Or not?

A new study shows that chemical recycling has a high risk to the environment. Ironically, recycling using chemicals won’t solve the plastic crisis. This is because half of the carbon present on plastic will disappear in the process

A study about environmental effect, The technical assessment Chemical Recycling: Status, Sustainability and Environmental Impacts, found that chemical recycling so far has more negatives than positives.

Even with the most advance plastic to plastic technology, only very little plastic waste is being turned into new and clean plastic. A majority of the plastic is gone in the recycling proses, thus unable to qualify to be a part of the economic circle. The term “chemical recycling” includes various technologies that break down the used plastic with some combination of heat, pressure, depleted oxygen, catalyst, and/or solvents into either fuel or building blocks for new plastic. 

For instance, pyrolysis and gasification uses heat to break down plasic, with limited oxygen to prevent combustion. Other techniques are solvent based like solvolysis.

The report shows that pyrolysis and gasification, in particular release toxic substances such as bisphenol-A, cadmium, benzene, brominated compounds, phthalates, lead, tin, antimony, and other volatile organic compounds.

Other issues arose from the market competition. Critics are concerned because they can’t deal with mixed polymers or black plastic and current market conditions makes it harder to compete using virgin plastic. Sometimes new plastic can’t compete with recycled plastic. Other than that, chemical recycling is more harmful to the environment than making new plastic.

Mechanically recycling plastic is proven to be more efficient and more effective than chemical recycling. This proses includes melting and reshaping. This is the best recycling option as it results in less toxin and a smaller carbon foot print.

The best and most efficient option is limiting plastic usage. Sometimes technology can’t always provide solutions. But our own outlook that wants a clean earth is maybe the solution.

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