Our Plastic Planet

Prof. Miles Meyer BLY125 – Jacksonville University

What Are Plastics?
• Plastics are polymers, long chains of repeating molecules (C, H, O, N, Cl, F, Si, S, and P). • Most plastics are derived from petrochemicals.

What Are Plastics?
• There are about 45 unique types of plastics. • The characteristics of plastics (density, melting points, moldability) can be modified by changing the chemical make-up of the material.

History of Plastics
• In 1869, John Wesley Hyatt, an American inventor, found that cellulose nitrate could be used as a cheap substitute for ivory.
▫ This material was called celluloid and for the next 30 years was used for eyeglass frames, combs, billiard balls, buttons, dentures, photographic film, and other materials.

History of Plastics
• In 1907, Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, developed Bakelite, one of the first synthetic plastics.
▫ This material had heat-resistant properties which made it useful as electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings, kitchenware, and children's toys.

History of Plastics
• In 1951, two chemists from Phillips Petroleum Co., discovered polypropylene and polyethylene, which make up the majority of plastics we use today.

How Are Plastics Made?
1. Petroleum is drilled and transported to a refinery. 2. Crude oil and natural gas are refined into ethane, propane, of other petrochemical products and, fuel for your car.

How Are Plastics Made?
3. Catalyst is combined with ethylene or propylene in a reactor, resulting in “fluff”, a powdered material (polymer) resembling laundry detergent. 4. Fluff is combined with additives in a continuous blender.

How Are Plastics Made?
5. Polymer is fed to an extruder where it is melted. 6. Melted plastic is cooled then fed to a pelletizer that cuts the product into small pellets.

How Are Plastics Made?
7. Pellets are shipped to customers. 8. Customers manufacture plastic products by using processes such as extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, etc.

Why Do We Use Plastics?
• Think about your home and daily life.
▫ How are plastics important to you? ▫ Could you live without plastics?

Benefits of Plastics
• Plastics are:
▫ versatile and can meet almost any design requirement; ▫ lightweight and durable.

Benefits of Plastics
• 8% of the world’s oil production is used for production and transportation of plastic.
▫ Plastic plays an important role in conserving energy.
 22% of an Airbus A380 is composed of plastic material, saving fuel and lowering operating cost by 15%.  10% of an average car’s weight is plastic, resulting in better gas mileage and reducing CO2 emissions.

Benefits of Plastics
• Use of alternate materials, (i.e., glass, metal, paper) could increase packing weight by as much as 400% resulting in production and energy cost increases.

Benefits of Plastics
• Renewable energy production relies on plastics (solar panels, wind turbines, rotors).

Benefits of Plastics
• PVC-U glazed windows are used in energy efficient homes. • Polystyrene insulation is important in heating and cooling buildings.

Benefits of Plastics
• Plastic water pipes replace metal pipes which corrode more easily reducing the amount of water lost to leaks.

Benefits of Plastics
• Plastics can be recycled up to 6 times. • Plastics can be burned in energy from waste facilities to provide additional power.

Recycling Plastics

Recycling Plastics
• Approximately 28% of plastic bottles are recycled in the US. • Approximately 12% of plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are recycled in the US.

Recycling Plastics
• Only 8% of the total plastic waste is recovered for recycling in the US. • 12.4% of the municipal solid waste in the US is plastic (31 million tons/year).

Hazards of Plastics
• Approximately 300 million tons of plastics are produced each year worldwide.
• Enough plastic is produced in the US each year to shrink wrap Texas.

• Each year, 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. • Enough plastic bottles are thrown away in the US each year to circle the Earth 4 times.

Hazards of Plastics
• About 10 million metric tons of plastics end up in the oceans each year –
▫ 20% comes from ships dumping at sea, ▫ the remaining 80% comes from land based activities.

Hazards of Plastics
• Plastics never actually ‘decompose’, they just break down into smaller pieces. Exposure to direct sunlight helps speed the process.

Hazards of Plastics
• How long does it take for various plastic items to break down?
 Plastic bags take 10-20 years in sunlight (200-1,000 years in landfill).  Plastic bottles take 100-450 years.  Plastic bottle caps take 400 years.

Hazards of Plastics
• Due to their slow rate of decomposition, plastics build up in the environment.
▫ Almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet.

Hazards of Plastics
• People and wildlife are exposed to chemicals from plastics through exposure to the air, water, food, and use of various products.

Hazards of Plastics
• Representatives of the plastic industry state:
▫ “Every additive that we use is very carefully evaluated, not just by the industry, but also independently by government agencies to look at all the materials we use in plastics.”

▫ “There is no reliable evidence that any phthalate has ever caused a health problem for a human from its intended use.”

Hazards of Plastics
• Phthalates have been detected in 8 out of 10 babies, and nearly 75% of adult in the US.
▫ Phthalates come from vinyl flooring, wall coverings, food packaging, and medical devices.
 Studies have found an association between pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates and altered genital development in their baby boys.

Hazards of Plastics
• Bisphenol A (BPA) can be detected in 93% of people in the US.
▫ BPA can be found in polycarbonate bottles and food/beverage can linings. This chemical can leach into the food and drink in the container.
 People with the highest exposure to BPA have an increased rate of heart disease and diabetes, according to one recent study.

Hazards of Plastics
• Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) is a flame retardant added to polyurethane foam furniture cushions, mattresses, carpet pads and automobile seats.
▫ Animal tests suggest that exposure to PDBEs can damage the developing brain and reproductive system.

Hazards of Plastics
• BPA, phthalates, and PBDE are known as “endocrine disruptors”.
▫ Endocrine disruptors can mimic hormones and trigger hormonal changes in humans and animals.

Hazards of Plastics
▫ Male fish exposed to endocrine disruptors have been found with immature eggs in their testes. ▫ Male rats exposed to phthalates in the womb have developed malformed genitalia. ▫ Other problems such as earlier maturation in females, increased rates of breast cancer, lowered sperm production, and increased prostate cancer have been found in humans exposed to BPA.

Hazards of Plastics
• Plastics can directly harm animals in a variety of ways.
▫ Animals can become entangles in plastic debris.

Hazards of Plastics
• Plastics can directly harm animals in a variety of ways.
▫ Animals may mistake plastic for food and consume it.

Hazards of Plastics
• Albatross in Midway
▫ http://youtu.be/YnQ52Z5BrqA ▫ http://youtu.be/Dc0a4uuI1gY

Hazards of Plastics
• It is estimated that 100,000 mammals and over 1 million birds die from plastic each year. The number of fish killed each year is unknown.
▫ In Australia, a 10’ long crocodile died with 25 plastic shopping bags in its stomach. ▫ A whale that died near Seattle had 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape, and a golf ball in its stomach. ▫ A turtle found dead in Hawaii had over 1,000 pieces of plastic in its stomach.

Hazards of Plastics
• Plastic pellets (“nurdles”) can absorb and concentrate toxins such as PCB & DDE up to 1,000,000x their level in ambient sea water.

Hazards of Plastics
• August 2012 – Hong Kong government estimated that 150 metric tons of nurdles may have spilled on its beaches during a typhoon.
▫ http://planetark.org/wen/66122

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• The “garbage patch” is an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean.
▫ http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/ca mpaigns/oceans/pollution/trash-vortex/#

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• In 1985 and 1988 scientists predicted they would find concentrations of debris, especially plastics, in the Pacific Gyre. • It was discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore while sailing through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the Transpac sailing race. • In 1999, researchers found 6x more plastic than zooplankton in water samples.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• Estimates of the size of the garbage patch range from 700,000 km2 to 15,000,000 km2. • Most of the debris consists of small bits of floatable plastic debris known as neustonic plastic suspended just below the surface.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• It is estimated that 2.5 million pieces of plastic enter the Pacific Ocean each hour. • Recent studies indicate that there are now 45x more plastic than zooplankton in the garbage patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• The floating plastics also effect marine ecosystems by providing surfaces for various species to grow.
▫ The organisms are then transported on the ocean currents to new habitats where they can become nuisance or invasive species.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• http://youtu.be/PIl7zl_9fTA • http://youtu.be/pEKohTXF4Xw

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