Using plastic has become incredibly common throughout the world in hundreds of uses. It is the most-used commodity and has replaced paper and other products throughout the years. Most people do not even think twice about how the environment and their own lives are being affected by the production and purchase of such compounds. This is the life cycle of plastic products and how they affect our lives.
The Birth of Plastic
Crude oil and gases are taken from the ground by a process called fracking, which is when liquid is forced deep into underground fissures or rocks to force those compounds out. Propylene and ethylene get broken down and become the building blocks of plastic.
Through a process known as catalyzed polymerization, those compounds are then formed into resins, which can then be hardened by other additives. As an example, by adding chlorine, we get polyvinyl chloride–otherwise called PVC pipe. The end products are hard pellets known as nurdles, which are what plastic is made from through heat treatment.
But why is all this important? Plastics are commonly known to not be biodegradable, which is a serious problem since they’re all over the place. Most plastics take hundreds of years to break down. However, in the current state that the world is in, waiting that amount of time would not be feasible in order to continue to sustain life.
Within the last few centuries, recycling has been on the rise to compete with the production of plastic and the effect it has had on the planet. The issue with recycling plastics is that it can only be done so many times before the plastics can no longer be reused and become unusable and unshapely.
The Plastic Codes
As was previously stated, not all plastics are made alike. For this reason, they’re all labeled with different codes.
It’s important that they remain with their code because they contain separate chemical compositions. For recycling reasons, this is ideal—until they can no longer be reused. Plastics are also subdivided into two different groups known as thermoplastics and thermostats. Thermoplastics are made to mold and shape due to their composition, where thermostats keep their shape throughout the course of their lifetime.
With the turn of the century, the planet is making huge strides to change its stance on plastics, how we use them, and their production. Recycling is visible in the public eye, and we are doing a much better job of using it—yet we still have a long way to go. This will require much due diligence in order to get it right and keep it up. Clearly, there’s still a bright side concerning the life cycle of plastic products. If we strive to improve our recycling, we can help make our plastic-clogged planet a better place.