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Plastic waste, or plastic pollution, is 'the accumulation of plastic objects (e.g.: plastic bottles and much more) in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been mandated to formulate the guidelines for thermoset plastic (plastic difficult to recycle). In the earlier Rules, there was no specific provision for such type of plastic. Manufacturing and use of non-recyclable multi-layered plastic to be phased in two years.

As per the CPCB's report, India generates 56 lakh tones of plastic waste annually, out of which total plastic waste, which is collected and recycled in the country is estimated to be 9,205 tons per day (approximately 60% of total plastic waste), and 6,137 tones remain uncollected and littered. With an estimated packaging recycling rate of 30% - India lags many other developed countries in the recycling of these wastes. This leads to burden on the landfills and poor socio-economic conditions of the waste pickers.

Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules in India has been introduced with the primary objective to channelize the Plastic waste generated in the country for the environmentally sound recycling/processing and disposal, the major portion of which in the current scenario ends in the landfils, the open-air burning of which results in the higher pollution and less recovery, thereby causing damage to the environment.

In India, over the last few decades, the packaging industry in India has grown exponentially. If packaging materials are not disposed of correctly it ends up as a litter. (Source-CPCB). To develop a sustainable supply chain, strengthen the segregation and collection of plastic waste, lots of serious efforts are required at the ground with the collaboration of various stakeholders

Plastic Waste Recycle Process

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Collection of Waste Plastic

The first step to plastic recycling is gathering waste plastic products. While this process may seem like an easy task, it is not entirely so.

At this stage, employees or volunteers go around collecting waste plastic from homes, offices, and public places. Certain areas have collection sites where people can dispose of their plastics.

Some recyclers put recycling bin around public locations, residential areas, and industrial zones to ease collection. People can dump their plastic waste into these bins. These bins are separate from regular refuse bins. The recycle bins then get collected and transferred to recyclers to continue the process.

Many times, manually gathering plastics or dropping plastic waste into recycling bins may come with rewards. Recyclers retrieve all types of plastic at this stage and send them to a collecting yard.

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Sorting of Plastics into Categories

After collection, recyclers send the plastic they have gathered to facilities where they separate the plastics according to types. As you must already know, plastics differ in size, color, thickness, and use. In this process, recycling machines sort plastics based on the properties of the material.

Often, color and the resin content in the plastic are the basis by which recyclers sort plastics. Sorting is essential because it allows recyclers to know which material is involved and how it gets recycled.

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Washing to Remove Impurities

After sorting plastics, recyclers wash the materials to remove impurities. These impurities in plastic include paper labels, dirt, and particles. Washing plastic also removes glue and additional chemicals that plastic materials may contain.

Washing is essential because failure to remove impurities may damage the new product. Moreover, the contaminants contained in plastic products are not plastic materials and may not be recyclable.

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Shredding and Resizing

This process comes immediately after washing plastics. It is impossible to recycle plastic in its already developed state. There is a need to resize the plastic material to a form that can be recycled. In this fourth process, materials will be put into shredders to reduce the plastic into fragments.

A plastic material cut into tiny pieces is more comfortable to process than when it is in its original form. Shredding also makes it possible to reprocess plastic to other materials aside from plastic products. Resizing also makes it easier to identify elements like metal that recyclers failed to discover during washing.

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Identification and Separation of Plastics

After resizing has been completed, the next process is to identify and separate plastic materials. In this process, plastic particles undergo testing procedures.

The reason for testing plastics is to identify the class and quality of the plastic. The plastic materials are then separated based on their features for further processing.

This step also identifies other qualities like color and melting point of plastic. Recyclers test samples of plastic materials to determine the melting point and color of each material. After the identification process, they separate the plastic particles and send them for further processing.

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Compounding is the final process in plastic recycling. This step is where recyclers transform plastic particles into materials that manufacturers can reproduce. Compounding involves smashing and melting plastic particles to create pellets. This process is also called extrusion.

At the end of this stage, new plastic and non-plastic products originate from the pellets’ processing.

After all this, new plastic materials then emerge. Or other materials that the recycler intended to create.

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Benefits of Plastic Recycling

  • Plastic recycling reduces the amount of trash that ends up in the oceans.
  • Plastic recycling creates new jobs.
  • Plastic recycling creates additional revenue for the government and private organizations.
  • Recycling plastic reduces the release of carbon dioxide and harmful gases into the environment.
  • Plastic recycling conserves the space used as landfills. It makes it possible to use those landfills for other purposes.
  • Recycling saves petroleum that producers may use to make new plastics.
  • Plastic recycling lessens the energy that manufacturers consume in creating new products.
  • Plastic recycling prevents global warming
  • Plastic recycling reduces the emergence of all forms of pollution.
  • Plastic recycling provides income for volunteers who collect plastic waste.
  • Plastic recycling helps reduce activities like deforestation that happen when making new plastic.
  • Encourages a Sustainable Lifestyle among People