The plastic “PROBLEM”
Materials recycling, a theme that will be a kind of Leitmotif of Plastlab during this year and for years to come; the plastic “problem.”
Today we will delve into a small niche of materials recycling, namely that of plastic; the basics of the material will not be addressed, which we will surely talk about in the next #pilloledilaboratory.
We can define though, a meaning that will serve us in the end, plastics are organic materials, consisting of molecules with a very long chain and can consist of pure polymers or mixed with additives or various fillers.
CLASSIFICATION OF POLYMERIC MATERIALS
THERMOPLASTICS: they gain malleability (i.e., soften) under the action of heat; they can be molded or formed into finished objects and on cooling become rigid again; this process can be repeated many times;
THERMOINDURANTS: after an initial phase of softening by heating, they harden by cross-linking; in the softening phase by the combined effect of heat and pressure they are formable; if they are heated after hardening they no longer return to softness, but decompose by carbonizing;
ELASTOMERS: they have high deformability and elasticity.
From a practical point of view, appropriate compounds, consisting of one or more polymeric materials with the addition of additives, are generally exploited. For this reason, the standard classification of polymeric materials is complemented by a “commercial” classification, according to which polymeric materials are divided into:
FIBERS: they have considerable mechanical strength and have low ductility compared to other polymeric materials; it means that they elongate little when subjected to tensile stress and can withstand high breaking loads;
RESINS: special plastics formulated from thermosets;
RUBES: formulated from elastomers.
It is now well established that plastics are not a problem, but THE problem.
Not a day goes by that there is not a mention of some fish species suffocated by a bag or a few bottles, as well as microplastics being found in the most unlikely places on the globe or its flora and fauna.
Some time ago a European researcher during one of her reports asked a trivia question: “You are running very late to a meeting and in a queue on a city street because a car is parked in such a way as to obstruct the passage…who would you like to cane at that moment? The car or the imbecile who parked it in such a stupid way?”
BUT WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
The provocation aims to ask whether it is permissible to pick on plastic and not on the total lack of civic sense that now reigns in our society.
The not-so-young will remember that in the evening Carousel, Gino Bramieri’s peaceful big face presented the newborn Italian polypropylene with the slogan “…e mò e mò…Moplen.”
Not even too thinly veiled, these commercials proposed a material as “disposable.”
Is that where the initial point of the problem lies? That since its inception the concept of plastic has been linked to a consumer product?
But even so! We had the Stone Age, the Iron Age, the development of movable type printing, and paper invaded the world…but all these materials we have learned to collect and recycle…why not plastic?
Recycling supply chains exist, but they are limited to certain products and there is zero market awareness.
The assumption is “If a product comes from a recycle/waste it must cost less than the material of first choice” …but, good heavens, going to the waste, sorting it, cleaning it up, reprocessing it, ennobling it…will all this have costs? Is it so difficult to understand?
It seems so, it’s interest in the environment wanes or rises proportionally to whether or not a Plastic Tax linked to production with percentages of recycled material is announced.
The target of these #pilloledilaboratory is brevity, so we conclude by mentioning that plastic, particularly thermoplastic, is probably the product with the most technical content after its first use.
SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
For the plastic “problem,” we can immediately say: It can be recast and reused, as is or in combination with other products still offering worthy performance…and we throw it away!
Plastlab has decided to focus attention on these issues and develop during 2023 courses, meetings and conferences to raise awareness, but above all to propose solutions, to the “Problem” …to make sure that, after each meeting, it is a little less so.
A special thanks, goes to Fulvio Caon, a great expert in materials recycling as well as a lecturer and a great supporter of Plastlab, who raised our awareness on this topic so as to provide us with the contents for this #pilloladilaboratory, which, we hope, will keep you company and interesting during this 2023 and, why not, in the years to come.