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Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Is recycling the “right” choice? Or is it simply overrated? From kindergarten on, we are taught to.

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Presentation on theme: "Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Is recycling the “right” choice? Or is it simply overrated? From kindergarten on, we are taught to."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Is recycling the “right” choice? Or is it simply overrated? From kindergarten on, we are taught to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” However, recycling can be expensive, especially in the case of plastic. Expenses have led to only 1-3 percent of plastic bags being recycled, and many places banning the use of plastic bags. So should these bags be reused and recycled, or just sent to landfills, where they take centuries to break down?

2 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Only two of the major six types of plastic are recycled. The majority of these are beverage bottles. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), is also used to make grocery bags, however, only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled. Only two of the major six types of plastic are recycled. The majority of these are beverage bottles. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), is also used to make grocery bags, however, only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled. Plastic bags make up 4.5 percent of landfills, but take centuries to break down. They cause outdoor pollution, where they end up in trees, and even choke animals. These plastic bags are sometimes referred to as the “national flower” in South Africa! Picture courtesy of bags400a jpg

3 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. The majority of trash is discarded. Experts want to find alternatives for these hard to recycle items. One method is combustion for energy. However, only one eighth of trash is burned for energy, one third is recycled, and over half is still discarded in landfills where it creates methane gas. Picture courtesy of agency.gov.uk/commondata/103196/281706? referrer=/regions/southern/202145/294984/ Picture courtesy of CQ Researcher.

4 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Environmentalists Fight Back Bag manufactures say to create a larger support for recycling. It only costs 10 percent as much energy to recycle these bags now, but they are currently being banned, or sent to landfills. Instead, they could be recycled to make: bottles bottles crates crates recycling bins recycling bins and other containers. and other containers. Picture courtesy of lib/images/blue bin/bluebin Picture courtesy of ottles.jpg

5 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Banning the Bags Large cities such as San Francisco, are banning plastic shopping bags at large grocery and drug stores. Many other cities such as Oakland are looking at heading in this direction. Instead of finding ways to reuse this “problem child”, they are getting rid of them all together. However, some states, like New York and New Jersey, require recycling of the plastic bags. It keeps the bags out of the landfills, where they are sitting for years before biodegrading. Picture courtesy of arth/images/85_1.jpg

6 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. No more “Paper or Plastic?” Whole Foods grocery store is also banning the use of plastic bags. They believe it will force users to find more friendly substitutes that are easier to recycle or dispose of. Worldwatch, and environmental research group, says Americans discard 100 billion plastic bags a year, and it takes more than a century to break down in a landfill. However, some people protest the ban. 92% of people re-use these plastic bags, states the American Chemistry Council.

7 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Lower Cost or Lower Energy? By recycling plastics, resources can be concentrated in other areas instead of manufacturing new products. Less energy is used to recycle plastics than to create a new plastic; however, manufacturers are driven by cost, and so choose the cheaper option of producing new materials.

8 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Cost Factors There are more than 2,500 types of plastic. The Environmental Defense Fund says that “The diversity of plastic is really defeating its ability to be recycled.” Separation of the types of plastic “requires complex techniques such as centrifugal force and electrostatic charge.” The plastics must be separated before they can be recycled.

9 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Cost Factors (cont.) Also, for the most part, these recycled plastics can only be made into low-quality products with small market worth. They are recycled into items such as carpet fiber and supermarket carrier bags. Plastics degrade so much during the recycling process that they can only be recycled once! These factors have caused the cost recycling of plastic to outweigh the benefit of the recycled products, if measured by market value.

10 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Benefits of Recycling Although the recycling of plastic can be expensive, benefits are simply more than what the recycled products can be sold for. It keeps the plastic bags out of landfills, where they take up space and are virtually biodegradable. It uses less energy to recycle products than to make virgin products, regardless of the cost of recycling.

11 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Benefits of Recycling (cont.) Remember: PET and HDPE bottles are made of types of plastic. Picture courtesy of CQ Researcher.

12 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. So why aren’t more plastic bags recycled? Most curbside recycling bins won’t recycle the plastic bags because they clog the sorting machinery. Also, low support for recycling means items to be recycled must travel long distances to find recycling locations. This long transportation increases the cost of recycling, driving support back down. Picture courtesy of content/uploads/2007/08/containers. jpg

13 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Ideas for the Future In conclusion, recycling, especially of plastic bags is expensive for several reasons. Transportation due to low support Transportation due to low support Separation of Plastics because of diversity Separation of Plastics because of diversity A low percentage of plastic bags are currently being recycled, driving up costs. A low percentage of plastic bags are currently being recycled, driving up costs. Rather than banning plastic bags, or sending them to landfills, support for recycling must increase to drive down costs. More efforts are being made to make plastic bags lighter and easier to recycle. Current bags will take over a century to break down if they are not recycled. In the future, these bags must either gain more support for recycling, or be banned altogether.

14 Mercer University School of Engineering, Courtney C. Annotated Bibliography (2005, September). The cost of recycling. Geographical, 77(9), Retrieved March 18, 2008 from Academic Search Complete database, Geographical explains why recycling is not cost efficient. It explains some basic reasons why recycling is so expensive compared to the use of landfills. It also addresses factors affecting the cost of recycling plastics. Griffin, R. D. (1992, March 20). Garbage crisis. CQ Researcher, 2(11), Retrieved March 18, 2008 from CQ Researcher Online, Horovitz, B. (2008, January 21). Whole Foods sacks plastic bags. USA TODAY. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from bags_N.htm. Smith, C. E. (2007, October 22). A propensity to recycle. Oil and Gas Journal, 105(40), 17. Retrieved March 18, 2008 from Research Library at ProQuest, 9&VName=PQD. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1991). Plastic Wastes (Pollution Technology Review No. 201). Park Ridge, New Jersey: Noyes Data Corporation. Weeks, J. (2007, December 14). Future of recycling. CQ Researcher, 17(44), Retrieved March 18, 2008 from CQ Researcher Online,


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