Environmental Science, plastic recycling
The objective of this paper is to explore the notion of plastic recycling as waste management1 to combat the problem of human-induced climate change(C.C). It is aimed to analyze its effectivenesses and limitations in the developed countries, which is the main focus of the paper. Climate change was not immediately prioritized on the world’s political agenda until a century later, in the 1990s. Only then, an increasing number of concerns began to respond to and acknowledge the problem. During the several climate change conferences, numerous strategies had been suggested such as mitigation, one of which suggested is the intervention of plastic recycling2.3 It is believed that plastic recycling decreases the emission of greenhouses gases(GHG) as it reduces the use of raw materials and energy.4 While plastic recycling may be effective through stringent plastic waste management, it challenges the collaboration on an international level and the need for human behavioral changes5.
The increasing of GHG emission is reflected in the quantum of plastic production and disposal, and as a result, plastic recycling is adopted through climate change mitigation. Plastics are made of polymers derived from fossil hydrocarbons. Plastics are known for their advantageous applications respect to stability, low cost, and durability 6. This versatility and easier accessibility lifestyle 7 has lead to an acceleration in the manufacturing of plastic. Moreover, arguably plastic is the major source of packaging, generating from 2x106 metric tonnes(Mt) per year in 1950 to 381x106 Mt per year in 20158. However, the vast majority of plastics are not biodegradable, which results in the accumulation of gases as they degrade over time and allow gases to be emitted into the environment. Polyethylene terephthalate plastics(PET), for example, while are the most synthesized and commonly used, PET is the highest emitters of ethylene(C2H 4) and methane(CH4) among other types of plastics; two most potent GHG that exacerbates climate change9. The process by which plastic emits GHG is through sunlight. According to the research paper by the University of Hawaii, the article experiment reveals that the effect of solar and ultraviolet radiation under a long period of time has on PET impacts the air negatively. It indicates that the emissions of from PET are two times higher for CH4 and 76 times for C2H 4. 10 than under normal condition. With such large quantity emissions from these gases, it increasing C.C by means of allowing the process of the “greenhouse effect”. Thus, this issue has raised a variety of mitigations through the implementation of one of the three R’s: Recycle. Essentially, its fundamental concept is to reduce the generation of plastic waste in the environment.
Despite plastic recycling has been adopted since the 1970s and there had been successful cases, but there are aslo failures in the rate of plastic recycling due to various factors. These factors include the socio-spatial and economic influence. In other words, the plastic recycling rate depends on participation within households and government contribution. In turn, this affects the amount of methane and ethylene released to the attribution of climate change.
Through the partnerships between the government and citizen sectors, it has allowed plastic recycling programs to achieve its maximum goal towards the reduction of GHG emissions. Plastic recycling is one of the methods for reducing GHG emissions and other environmental impacts. It is a process involves minimal combustion and allow lower material inputs would otherwise be required, which prevents a vast GHG emitted in the contribution to climate change. Government and citizen sectors are shown to be the key players to an increased plastic recycling rate. Victoria in Australia, as an example, is a relevant case study that illustrates plastic recycling is achieved through incentive and stringent policies imposed by the governments. Nevertheless, Australian11 citizens also play a role in this program as they are the ones help to move the plan forward. Since the Environment Protection Act 1970, the regulatory framework in Victoria for waste management has seen to be the first long-term planning and continuous improvement. One of the specific issues that its government respond to is to reduce plastic pollution and that includes to ban single-use plastics, which PET is under this single-use category.
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