plastics' environmental impacts

Category: Education

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Presented by Ecozuri Inc. (, a California-based retail and custom-made green product company. 10% of retail sales donate to school projects in rural Africa.


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Slide 1: Plastics & Environmental Impacts Ecozuri Inc. promotes reusable shopping bags made from 100% recycled plastics. To learn more about our products and offerings, please visit

Slide 2: Part One: Plastics 101 Ecozuri Inc. promotes reusable shopping bags made from 100% recycled plastics. To learn more about our products and offerings, please visit

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----- PLASTIC 101------ Definition: Any of various complex organic compounds produced by polymerization, capable of being molded, extruded, cast into various shapes and films, or drawn into filaments, and then used as textile fibers. History: Alexander Parkes unveiled the first man-made plastic at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. This material -- which was dubbed Parkesine, now called celluloid -- was an organic material derived from cellulose that, once heated, could be molded but retained its shape when cooled. In 1907, chemist Leo Hendrik Baekland, while striving to produce a synthetic varnish, stumbled upon the formula for a new synthetic polymer originating from coal tar. He subsequently named the new substance "Bakelite."  Bakelite, once formed, could not be melted.  Because of its properties as an electrical insulator, Bakelite was used in the production of high-tech objects including cameras and telephones. It was also used in the production of ashtrays, and as a substitute for jade, marble, and amber. By 1909, Baekland had coined "plastics" as the term to describe this completely new category of materials. The first patent for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a substance now used widely in vinyl siding and water pipes, was registered in 1914. Cellophane was also discovered during this period. Plastics did not really take off until after the First World War with the use of petroleum, a substance easier to process than coal into raw materials. Plastics served as substitutes for wood, glass, and metal during the hardship times of World War's I & II.  After World War II, newer plastics, such as polyurethane, polyester, silicones, polypropylene, and polycarbonate joined polymethyl methacrylate and polystyrene and PVC in widespread applications. Many more would follow and, by the 1960s, plastics were within everyone's reach due to their inexpensive cost. Plastics had thus come to be considered “common,” a symbol of our consumer society. Since the 1970s, we have witnessed the advent of 'high-tech' plastics used in demanding fields such as health and technology. New types and forms of plastics, with new or improved performance characteristics, continue to be developed. Source: American Chemical Council, Literature research

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----- PLASTIC 101------ Types: Plastics are divided into three distinct groups: thermoplastics , thermosets and bio-plastics. Thermoplastics soften when heated and harden on cooling. More than 80 percent of plastics are thermoplastics, examples of which include: High density polyethylene (HDPE) - used for bottles for detergents, food products and toys Low density polyethylene (LDPE) - for products such as (bin liners, and flexible containers Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - used in bottles, carpets & food packaging Polypropylene (PP) - used in yogurt and margarine pots, automotive parts, fibers, and milk crates Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - is made from oil and salt and is used for window frames, flooring, wallpaper, bottles, and medical products Thermosets are hardened by a curing process and cannot be re-melted or re-molded. Examples of thermosets include: Polyurethane (PU) - used in coatings, finishes, mattresses, vehicle seating, and building insulation Epoxy - adhesives, boats, sporting equipment, electrical and automotive components Phenolics - used in ovens and circuit boards Unsaturated polyesters – used for windmills, car body parts, and boats Bio-plastics, which are bio-degradable, are developed from plant materials and bacteria. There are three techniques used to produce bio-plastics: Converting plant sugars into plastic Producing plastics inside micro-organisms Growing plastics in corn and other crops Characteristics Can be very resistant to chemicals Can be both thermal and electrical insulators Are generally very light in weight with varying degrees of strength Can be processed in various ways to produce thin fibers or very intricate parts Are materials with a seemingly limitless range of characteristics Are usually made from petroleum, but not always Source: American Chemical Council, Literature research

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----- PLASTIC USAGE ---- 80,270 86,101 83,231 83,970 82,354 CAGR (2003-2007) 0.5% 6.5% -0.3% -0.4% 1.9% Total sales & captive use of selected thermoplastic resins* by major market, 2003-2007 (millions of pounds, dry weight basis) * Include LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, PP, Nylon, PVC, PS, Engineering Resins, ABS, SAN, Other Styrene Butadiene Latexes, Styrene Butadiene Latexes Source: American Chemical Council

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----- PLASTIC LIFE CYCLE----- Petroleum Natural gas Coal Monomers Polymers Additives Cracking Biogeochemically manipulated Example products: Plastic films and bags Manufacturing Example products: Yogurt containers, closures Example products: Soft drink bottles Example products: Toys or kayaks Extrusion Injection molding Blow molding Rotational molding (Part 1: Resin production, product manufacturing stage) Energy issues Plastics consume 4% of the world’s oil stock as feedstock. Although, in many cases, the use of plastics actually saves more oil than alternatives, opportunities for energy preservation do exit. Pollution and toxic materials Industrial practices in plastic manufacture can lead to polluting effluents. The exposure to toxic intermediates used can be hazardous. Significant process improvements are employed to avoid the above. Environmental concerns

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----- PLASTIC LIFE CYCLE----- Consumer plastic waste Industrial plastic waste Discarding (Part 2: Waste, landfill , incineration and recycle stage) Recycled plastic flakes for new end product Monomers for new polymers Plastic waste in landfill Reduced volume waste in landfill Mechanical recycling (collection, sorting, reclamation) Feedstock recycling(heating, gasification, chemical) Recycling Land filling Incineration Processing Capacity issues Majority of the plastic waste ends up in landfill, where they take more than 1,000 years to decompose. Not recycling Toxic emission Burning plastic releases dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical Oceans and wild life Over a billion seabirds and mammals die annually from ingestion of plastics Environmental concerns

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----- PLASTIC USAGE ---- 80,270 86,101 83,231 83,970 82,354 CAGR (2003-2007) 0.5% 6.5% -0.3% -0.4% 1.9% Total sales & captive use of selected thermoplastic resins* by major market, 2003-2007 (millions of pounds, dry weight basis) * Include LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, PP, Nylon, PVC, PS, Engineering Resins, ABS, SAN, Other Styrene Butadiene Latexes, Styrene Butadiene Latexes Source: American Chemical Council

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----- PLASTIC SALES VOLUME BY TYPE ---- CAGR (2003-2007) 4.0% Total sales & captive use of selected thermoplastic resins* by resin type, 2006-2007 (millions of pounds, dry weight basis) (1) Except Phenolic resins, (2) Sales & Captive Use Data Include Imports, (3) Canadian production and sales data included, (4) Canadian and Mexican production and sales data included, (5) Includes: engineering resins, polyurethanes (TDI, MDI and polyols), unsaturated (thermoset) polyester, and other resins. Source: American Chemical Council 4.6% -1.8% 2.5% 92,347 94,350 2.2%

Slide 16: Part Two: Plastic Bags Ecozuri Inc. promotes reusable shopping bags made from 100% recycled plastics. To learn more about our products and offerings, please visit

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----- PLASTIC BAG 101 --- Definition: Bags that are made out of "film", or thin flexible sheets of plastic. Plastic film is typically defined as any plastic less than 10 mm thick. The majority of plastic films are made from polyethylene resin and are readily recyclable if the material is clean, dry, and not pigmented black. History: 1957 The first baggies and sandwich bags on rolls are introduced. 1958 Poly dry cleaning bags compete with traditional brown paper. 1966 Between 25 and 30 percent of packaging for bread is plastic.1966 Plastic produce bags on rolls are introduced in grocery stores. 1969 The New York City Sanitation Department's "New York City Experiment" demonstrates that using plastic bags for refuse curbside pickup is cleaner, safer, and quieter than metal trash can pick-up. This began a shift to plastic can liners among consumers. 1974/75 Retailing giants such as Sears, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Jordan Marsh, Allied, Federated, and Hills make the switch to plastic merchandise bags. 1973 The first commercial system for manufacturing plastic grocery bags becomes operational 1977 The plastic grocery bag is introduced to the supermarket industry as an alternative to paper sacks. 1982 Kroger and Safeway start to replace traditional craft sacks with polyethylene "t-shirt" bags. 1990 The first blue bag recycling program begins with curbside collection. 1990 Consumer plastic bag recycling begins through a supermarket collection-site network. 1992 Nearly half of U.S. supermarkets have recycling available for plastic bags. 1994 Denmark creates first plastic bag tax. 1996 Over 80% grocery bags used are plastic. 2002 Ireland introduces the worlds first consumer paid plastic bag tax.

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----- PLASTIC BAG 101------ Types:

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----- THE ALTERNATIVES FOR PLASTIC BAGS---- Paper bags Biodegradable bags Reusable bags Pros Cons Degradable in well-run landfill Hold more stuff Higher percentage of recycling (10% -15% versus 1%-3% for plastics) Consume forests Take 4 times as much energy as needed to produce Generate 70% more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution in production Take 90% more energy to recycle when recycling rate is low 7 times heavier than plastic to transport Take up more space in landfill Light and convenient like plastic bags Biodegradable in certain conditions Highly confusing definition of bio-plastics. Many bio-based products are not necessarily biodegradable Many biodegradable bags require special processing and facilities. There are limited collection and processing platforms When mingled with traditional plastics, this causes contamination and make the product unrecyclable Reduce energy usage, landfill, and pollution due to its reusable nature If the bags are not reused a sufficient number of times, more energies are wasted as most reusable bags are made from materials that require more energy to produce Difficult to remember as it requires living habit changes Inconvenient since most products are bulky to carry NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER NOT AS GOOD AN ANSWER AS IT SOUNDS THE RIGHT ANSWER – BUT NEED INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS Source: Literature research

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----- THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF PLASTIC BAGS ---- Energy consumptions The energy used to make one high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bag is 0.48 megajoules (MJ). To give this figure perspective, a car driving one kilometre is the equivalent of manufacturing 8.7 plastic bags (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004). Air and Water Pollution Without enhanced processes, the manufacturing of two plastic bags produces 1.1 kg of atmospheric pollution, which contributes to acid rain and smog, and 0.1 g of waterborne waste, which has the capability of disrupting associated ecosystems, such as waterways and the life that they support. Following manufacturing, the plastic grocery bags are subsequently shipped all over the world. Container ships used to transport these bags to each consumer country use fuels which produce high levels of pollutants, such as sulfur. Health impacts Toxic emissions are produced during the extraction of materials for the production of plastic grocery bags. The manufacturing and transportation of such materials contribute to acid rain, smog, and numerous other harmful effects. Land Pollution Lightweight plastic grocery bags are additionally harmful due to their propensity to be carried away on a breeze and become attached to tree branches, fill roadside ditches, or end up in public waterways, rivers, or oceans. In one instance, Cape Town, South Africa, had more than 3000 plastic grocery bags that covered each kilometer of road. Impact on wildlife Most distressing, over a billion seabirds and mammals die annually from ingestion of plastics (Baker, 2002). In Newfoundland, 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year by ingesting plastic (Brown, 2003). However, the impact of plastic bags does not end with the death of one animal. When a bird or mammal dies in such a manner and subsequently decomposes, the plastic bag will again be released into the environment to be ingested by another animal. Marine Pollution The North Pacific Tropical Gyre, also known as the Garbage Patch, is seven million tons of floating plastic waste spanning an area twice the size of Texas. There is six times as much plastic in the gyre than there is plankton. Plankton is the area’s most abundant food source. Animals mistake this waste for food, dying either from plastic poisoning or blockage of their digestive system. This plastic absorbs, transports, and releases hydrophobic pollutants (PCB,DDE,DDT) not only harming the oceans food chain, but us as well. Production and distribution Disposal Source: Literature research

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----- PLASTIC SHOPPING BAG LIFE CYCLE----- Supermarket Other foods or liquid General merchandise and apparels Fast food convenient stores & service stations Other retails Home Public areas Garbage Litter Home garbage Home recycled Landfill disposal/waste treatment Litter Recycling Reuse Production Distribution Destination Disposal Maximally 1-2 times Only 2% recycled, still a very expensive process 96% goes to Landfill Take >1,000 yrs to breakdown Use large amount of natural gas or oil to produce and transport Pollute land and oceans 500-1,000 bags used per household per year Average usage time: 12 minutes Natural gas or oil extraction Ethylene manufacturing Ethylene Polymerization Bag production Up to 3-4 trillion a year worldwide, 100 billion in US alone Source: Nolan-ITU, Literature research

Slide 22: Part Two: Plastic Bottles Ecozuri Inc. promotes reusable shopping bags made from 100% recycled plastics. To learn more about our products and offerings, please visit

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----- PLASTIC BOTTLE 101 --- Definition: A plastic bottle is a container constructed of plastic with a neck that is narrower than its body and an opening at the top. The mouth of the bottle is normally sealed with a plastic bottle cap. Plastic bottles are typically used to store liquids such as water, soft drinks, cooking oil, medicine, shampoo, milk, and ink. History: Plastic bottles were first used commercially in 1947, but remained relatively expensive until the early 1960's when high-density polyethylene was introduced. They quickly became popular with both manufacturers and customers due to their lightweight nature, and relatively low production costs compared with glass bottles . The food industry has almost completely replaced glass in many cases with plastic bottles, but wine and beer are still commonly sold in glass bottles. Types

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----- THE INCONVENIENT FACTS OF BOTTLED WATER ----- 3 billion bottles 6 billion bottles 15 billion bottles 31 billion bottles US bottled water market (1997 – 2008) Million gallon/ billion bottles 18 million barrels of crude oil are requires to produce the 900,000 tons of plastics (PET) that bottle the water Only 24% of the plastic bottles are recycled – 76% end up as either garbage or liter The total amount of energy required to make the bottle, fill the bottle with water, transport, refrigerate the bottled water, and recover, recycle, or throw away the empty bottle is equivalent, on average, to filling a plastic bottle ¼ full with oil. Source: NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, Beverage Marketing Corporation, Literature Research

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----- PET BOTTLE LIFE CYCLE ----- Natural gas and petroleum are converted into polyethylene terephalate, a chemical compound known as PET PET pellets are melted and blown into bottle molds A beverage company fills and caps the bottles The bottled water is distributed to gas stations, vending machines, grocery and big box stores In the US, 76% of plastic bottles – about 7.1 billion pounds of them, wound up burned in incinerators or buried in landfills in 2006 At recycling centers, the bottles are sorted, washed, and stacked, then finally crushed, baled and sold (for 38-66 cents per pound) At a mill, the plastic is ground into shreds and melted. Used RPET is typically recycled into other products, often polyester fleece jackets, carpets, or plastic decking A consumer buys the water, drinks it and then chooses to Toss the bottle into the trash… (76%) … or tossing the bottle in a recycling bin Sources: The American Chemical Counsel, The Boston Globe Magazine

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----- PET BOTTLE RECYCLING PROCESS ----- Sources: CWC, WRAP Redemption programs for returned bottles Curbside collections of recycled bottles Drop-off recycling Buy-back center Debale Sorting (manual or automated to separate PVC and color bottles) Grind Air classification to remove labels Scrubber to remove drink residue, glue and dirt Float/sink or hydrocyclone classification to remove cap and ring made from HDPE or PP Metal detector to remove metal Other decontamination process Clean flake packer, storage and shipping Repelletizing Packaging applications Sheet and film applications Strapping Engineered resins applications Fiber applications

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----- US PET BOTTLE RECYCLING STATISTICS ----- Sources: NAPCOR 31.7% 27.1% 24.8% 23.7% 22.3% 22.1% 19.9% 19.6% 21.6% 23.1% 23.5% 24.6% Gross recycle statistics for US PET bottles (mmlbs, %)

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----- RYCYCLED PET MARKET STATISTICS ----- Sources: NAPCOR Market for US post consumer PET bottles (mmlbs) Top buyers: China Canada

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Slide 30: “Zuri” means “good and beautiful” in Swahili, a beautiful language spoken in East Africa. Ecozuri, Inc. offers environmentally conscious, habit changing products to help people embrace an more eco-friendly lifestyle. We also contribute up to 10% of our revenue to support education for children living in poverty in rural Africa. “Ecozuri” is a registered trademark of California based Ecozuri Inc. The company promotes Ecozuri line of reusable bags made from 100% recycled plastics and offers green custom-made promotional products OEM services for corporate clients. To learn about Ecozuri’s products and offerings, please visit www. or email

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