21st Century: The century of recycling and renaissance of raw materials

"... You need to do a conversion in your way of thinking in order to begin to love waste as a material ..." Taeke de Jong (Ed van Hinte, 2007, 78).

The increased acceptance of plastics by consumers and industry is due to their clear advantages over other materials. Their low weight and low material requirements are by far their most important asset. In comparison e.g. with a glass bottle, a plastic of the same volume has only one eighth of weight. They also have good mechanical strength, do not let the water pass and are very cheap, which has made them very popular with consumers.

Plastics are produced from petroleum refining by-products, which, instead of burning and polluting the environment, are converted into plastics. Plastics can be used for a long time, can be recycled or burned to produce energy. On the other hand, the low production costs, the equally small demands on raw materials and energy, the simple production processes and the wide variety of plastics have helped to develop a thriving industry around their production, which, with the science of plastics, finds constantly new uses and new materials to meet ever-increasing needs.

"... The remaining of the past are neither rejected nor left unused but should seriously take part in the formation of new ..." (Fayet R. 2003, 102)

Systematic studies in recent years have shown that plastics are the least energy-consuming in their production, the most advantageous in terms of weight and less polluting than other materials (paper, metal, etc.). Plastics used as packaging materials in addition to the significant advantages mentioned above also have a significant disadvantage. When (poorly) discarded in the environment, they pollute. Packaging materials made of polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene are ultimately biodegradable by naturally occurring microorganisms to carbon dioxide, water and biomass. At the same time, waterborne packaging materials are produced from starch-based materials (eg corn), which also contribute to sustainable development.

The great advantage of ALL of the plastics is that they: are recycled

Today, we as consumers, very easily throw our plastic materials (mainly packaging) into the rubbish, ignoring that they can cause serious environmental damage and that they are a useful raw material for the plastics industry. Plastic recycling is something we can very easily help with. All plastic packaging has a special label on it that shows what material is made of and helps the worker in the CCRMs (Collection Centers of Recyclable Materials) to separate them. This is very important because, unfortunately, different plastics rarely can be mixed with each other when recycled. Recycling is usually done by mechanical means and grinding to create new products after the impurities have been removed (labels, glasses, scraps). More efficient, but clearly more difficult, is chemical recycling, in which the polymer breaks down into its structural elements, the monomers, is separated and then used again to produce new polymers. This method is currently applied to a limited extent, such as at the PVC recycling plant in Ferrara, Italy.

"Instead of treating waste as a problem, consider it a potentially valuable resource."