Environmental Hazards of Polymers
“In today's world, life without plastics is incomprehensible”. That is very true, plastics are
extremely necessary in our modern society, but some of the current use and misuse is notsustainable. A more sustainable use of plastics can be achieved by many measures. There is alarge potential for reducing the per capita use in the industrialized world, for instance byeliminating excessive packaging material and practicing material reduction whenever possible.By developing more plastics based on bio-based raw materials, the great dependence on non-renewable crude oil and the environmental consequences of crude oil extraction and refining, aswell as the contribution to global warming during the end of life phase, can be decreased.Persistence is desired in many applications for long term use, but for short term and single useapplications, especially in the packaging sector, the use and further development of biodegradable plastic materials that are fully degradable in the natural environment, areimportant. Recycling of plastics involve problems since a homogeneous fraction is needed for asimilar grade end-product, but the recycling could be facilitated by practicing Eco design for recyclability and systems for collecting recyclable fractions. Increased recovery (mechanical,chemical or energy recovery) when possible, saves resources and decreases the area needed for landfill. Global action and strong measures to reduce littering are essential to protect our oceans,coastlines, fresh water ecosystems and also our terrestrial environment.
Polymers are substances whose molecules have high molar masses and are composed of a largenumber of repeating units. There are both naturally occurring and synthetic polymers. Amongnaturally occurring polymers are proteins, starches, cellulose, and latex. Synthetic polymers are produced commercially on a very large scale and have a wide range of properties and uses. Thematerials commonly called plastics are all synthetic polymers.
Polymers are formed by chemicalreactions in which a large number of molecules called monomers are joined sequentially,forming a chain. In many polymers, only one monomer is used. In others, two or three differentmonomers may be combined.
There are different types of polymers but generally polymers are classified into two types thatare:
Synthetic PolymersSynthetic polymers are further classified into three main classes that are: