Tackling the Problem of Plastic Waste
November 16, 2011
School of Engineering, Coimbatore
Do we know the different types of plastics that are used in our day-to-day lives? How does it even matter?
Polyolefins are manmade synthetic polymers. They are used to make plastic containers, automotive components, housewares and packaging films.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is used to make the ubiquitous plastic bottles we drink from; empty PET bottles sometimes get reused and very often get thrown out.
As we know only too well, plastic waste ends up littering our streets and polluting water bodies. When burned, it poisons the air, soil and groundwater.
Recycling offers some hope.
For, polyolefins and PET plastics that make up a major chunk of the plastic waste stream, MFC technology is now offering an effective way to recycle.
“Microfibrillar Composites (MFCs) can be thought of as green materials that are produced from plastic waste which would otherwise go into landfills,” explained Dr. K. Jayanarayanan, Associate Professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Sciences at Coimbatore campus.
“These green materials can be used to produce durable second-generation plastic products like car bumpers which may be of great value in the European auto industry, where ecological restrictions are very stringent,” he added.
Dr. Jayanarayanan’s new book titled Studies on In-Situ Microfibrillar Composites: Based on Blends of Polyolefins and Polyester was recently published by Lambert Academic Publishing in Germany.
Dr. Jayanarayanan asserted that MFC’s have a bright future and the technology will be most sought after as a medium to create new products from recycled plastic waste.
“MFC technology has been proven to be an effective method for polyolefins and PET recycling, as it is capable of delivering products with properties superior to those of the virgin compatibilized blends,” he noted.
Explaining the technology further, he said, “MFCs are a new class of fiber reinforced composites prepared from two fiber forming thermoplastic polymers. They are blended or engineered in such a way that the result has desirable properties which none of the constituents individually possess.
“When using MFC technology both low melting temperature general plastics and high melting temperature engineering plastics can co-exist.”
The book also investigates the properties of MFCs prepared from blends of polypropylene / low density polyethylene with PET.
Plastics are super strong, flexible, lightweight, moisture resistant and inexpensive. Maybe that’s why they are used to package just about everything today: water, food, soft drinks, shampoos and much, much more.
Every day tons of plastic waste washes up on Indian shores. As this manufacturer’s dream morphs into humanity’s nightmare, MFCs may well turn out to be the answer mankind needs.