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Chemical Makeup of Plastic

There are several chemical makeup of plastic. Some plastic are recyclable, others are not. Plastics are chemical products derived from petroleum. Those used for bottles and flasks are mainly of 3 kinds. The plastics industry has created a system of 7 codes. You can find them by looking generally below the product.

Chemical makeup of plastic for bottles and flasks are mainly of 3 kinds

  • PET or PETE | Polyethylene Terephthalate

    It can be transparent or tinted. It is used for sodas, fruit drinks and mineral waters.
    The PET is ground and then melted and made into fibers by stretching. This fiber is used to stuff anoraks, stuffed animals or duvets … and to make clothes.

  • HDPE or HDPE | High density polyethylene

    It is an often opaque material that is used to make household products (detergents, detergents …), food liquids (bottles of milk, soup …) and toiletries (shampoo, shower gel …).
    HDPE is crushed and pelletized. These granules are melted and used for the manufacture of tubes, non-food flasks and … garbage collection bins.

  • The PP | polypropylene

    It is mainly used in thinner objects such as plastic tableware, reusable food containers, yogurt or cream jars, flexible plastic packaging, margarine packaging …
    Low density, it is currently not recyclable outside the industry.

Chemical Makeup of Plastic: The EP

The most widely used plastic in the world (about 29% of all plastics) is polyethylene (generic formula: – (CH2-CH2) n-), better known by the abbreviation PE. It is a polymer obtained by polymerization of the ethylene monomers. Depending on the density, low density PE is distinguished from high density PE , the former being more flexible. On a daily basis, the EP is found in particular in the form of plastic packaging. Unlike PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PE is simply carbon and hydrogen. When it burns completely, it is transformed into CO2 and water vapor. Its energy balance is good: the polymerization of HDPE using catalysts is low temperature (20 to 150 ° C) and low pressure (1 to 50 bar). Unmixed, high density PE is recyclable . Translucent, inert, easy to handle and resistant to cold, this material is also an excellent electrical insulator, which is why it is used for the manufacture of ducts. One of its disadvantages: it does not withstand temperatures above 80 ° C. Some plastics are not recyclable why?

Plastic bags, plastic films wrapping magazines, packaging or water bottles, jars of yogurt or cream or trays are not recyclable. They are indeed too light and do not contain enough material and recycling is not profitable.

  • Only bottles and bottles are recycled. The necessary labor, trucks essential for collection and transportation to the sorting center, then to the recycling plant, all these elements are taken into account to judge the ecological and economic benefit of recycling. packaging.
  • Today, the best way to value yoghurt pots or plastic films surrounding water bottles is to throw them in the usual trash. Incinerated, they help the combustion of other waste by saving fuel or gas. They contribute to producing energy, used to heat housing or community amenities.
  • Thus, non-recyclable does not necessarily mean non-recoverable.

Look for the triangle …

Look under a bottle of plastic mineral water. You will probably find the following logo:

 Chemical Makeup of Plastic This logo means that the plastic in the bottle has level 1 recycling.

Look under a plastic tray of frozen food to be heated in the microwave. You will probably find the following logos:

Chemical Makeup of Plastic This logo means that the plastic forming the tray has level 5 recycling.

 

Chemical Makeup of Plastic This logo means that the plastic tray can be placed in the dishwasher.

Depending on the manufacturer, the logos may vary.
The following four indications correspond to the same plastic material.

Chemical Makeup of Plastic Chemical Makeup of Plastic  Chemical Makeup of Plastic  Chemical Makeup of Plastic

Does this mean that there are recycling levels?
Yes there are several levels of recycling.
In France, at present, only level 1 and 2 plastics (and 5 for corks) are recyclable at the individual level.

What should be done at higher levels and what happens to them?
You have to throw them with the garbage in the traditional trash.
We know how to value these plastic packaging without having to separate it from other waste by taking advantage of their energy potential, since they are made from petroleum, coal or natural gas. When burned in incinerators that meet current standards, plastics provide almost half of the energy contained in household waste. They help the combustion of other waste by saving fuel or gas. They contribute to producing energy, used to heat housing or community amenities.

Does this mean that it will – later – be possible to recycle plastic trays?
Yes, other countries in the world do it. Recycling techniques are evolving and it can be estimated that sorting centers will be able – in the future – to recycle level 4 and 5 plastics.

Under the packaging there is only the indication PE?

The packaging is made of polyethylene. Depending on the density, high density PE is distinguished from low density PE. The first is opaque or translucent, rigid, and impact resistant. It has classification 2 of the 7-system plastic industry system (see below) and is recyclable. The second is more flexible and is used for some bags, packaging or soft trays. It has classification 4 of the 7-code system of the plastic industry (see below) and is not recyclable.

In this case, how do you know if it is high density PE or low density PE?

The first is to be placed in the container “packaging” to be recycled, the second being placed in the trash usual.
A very simple test, it is related to the density and flexibility of the plastic material. If you are able to tear the packaging with your hands or cut it very easily with a child’s chisel, it is low density PE . In this case, no hesitation, he goes in the usual trash. It will not be recycled but recovered by combustion.

A system with 7 codes

Plastic must be sorted by type for recycling because each type of plastic has different properties. The plastics industry has created a system of 7 codes . You can find them by looking generally below the product.

Recyclable plastics are PET, HDPE and PP (but only at the industry level)

Chemical Makeup of Plastic We can also find: PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate. It is used for bottles of soft drinks, mineral water, cooking oil, for its transparency, its resistance to shocks, its low weight and its impermeability to water. It is currently the most recyclable plastic . A recent study has shown that beyond a certain time of storage of water in a PET bottle, a phthalate probably carcinogenic could develop there. It is therefore not recommended to reuse a PET bottle.

 

Chemical Makeup of Plastic We can also find: HD-PE – High density polyethylene, which represents 50% of the market and is found in the bottles of fruit juice, detergents. It is opaque or translucent, rigid, shockproof, waterproof, and impervious to greasy substances. This plastic is recyclable.

 

 Chemical Makeup of Plastic We can also find: PVC – Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The manufacture and incineration of this plastic releases dioxins, carcinogens and hormonal disruptors. This plastic is not recyclable . It is the second plastic used in the world (20% of all plastics) after polyethylenes (32%). PVC packaging is used in most supermarkets and grocery stores to pack cheese and meat.

 

Chemical Makeup of Plastic We can also find: LD-PE or BD-PE or PE-BD – Low density polyethylene. This plastic is not recyclable . It is used for some flexible food bags, packaging or trays.

 

 Chemical Makeup of Plastic Polypropylene Low density, it combines chemical, thermal and electrical properties. It is currently not recyclable outside the industry. Only PP caps for packaging are recyclable. It is also present mainly in objects such as plastic dishes, reusable food containers, jars of yogurt or cream, margarine packaging …

 

 Chemical Makeup of Plastic Polystyrene (PS). Polystyrene can leak styrene, a potential carcinogen that can also be a hormonal disruptor. It is easy to avoid by using glass or porcelain cups instead of plastic cups, avoiding plastic cutlery. Never heat food in polystyrene containers. They would melt in your food and release toxic gases).

 

Chemical Makeup of Plastic Polycarbonate: Most baby bottles and some baby cups are made of translucent and rigid polycarbonate, as are 20-liter and some 3.5-liter water bottles. The problem: polycarbonate contains bisphenol-A, an estrogenic chemical and a hormonal disruptor in laboratory animals. Studies have shown that bisphenol-A in plastic can be exfiltrated if heated or after prolonged use. This possibility of infiltration is another reason to choose breastfeeding. When using a bottle, choose a safety glass or opaque plastic.

Some plastics would be “ecologically correct”?

A plastic material can be considered “clean” if:

  • asily recyclable
  • not producing toxic waste
  • presents a good ecobalance.

Chemical Makeup of Plastic:The PP

Another “clean” plastic is polypropylene or polypropene, abbreviated PP (chemical formula: – (CH2-CH-CH3) n-). It is obtained by polymerization of propene using catalysts. Thanks to its molecular structure, it is declined in a large number of PP with variable properties. Polypropylene is stiffer, harder and stronger than PE, but less so than other more harmful plastics. PP becomes brittle at low temperatures (below 0 ° C), but can be used up to about 160 ° C. Odorless and health-friendly, it is ideally suited for use in the food industry. In constructions, it takes for example the form of pipes (pipes and fittings). PP is recyclable only within the industry .

Towards a re-design of plastic products

Manufacturers should re-design their products, including packaging to make them recyclable.
Be careful, you have to be aware that plastic products sooner or later become waste.
Recycling only delays the inevitable incineration or landfill. It leaves the door open for increased production instead of truly replacing primary production.
Only paper / cardboard, glass and metal are infinitely recyclable.

Towards a reduction of plastic at the source
The best solution to fight against plastic is to produce as little as possible therefore to consume as little as possible:

  • Don’t use unnecessary or non-recyclable packaging: Tell the seller or manufacturer
  • Minimize plastic bags: use your own shopping bag or caddy
  • Refuse disposable: choose durable, reusable, repairable products
  • Use recycled or non-toxic products
  • Instead, focus on products in glass, paper and not plastic
  • Avoid products made of PVC plastic (triangle 3), opt for another brand. The manufacture and incineration of this plastic releases dioxins, carcinogens and hormonal disruptors.
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