Plastic packaging - what about recycling?

What is plastic?

Plastics are polymers of versatile origin, application, manufacture and properties. You are u.a. Tensile, temperature resistant and elastic. There are many different plastics which e.g. serve as building materials, consumables, or packaging. A life without plastics is almost impossible since they can be found everywhere, in house building, in mobile phones, in kitchen utensils, as a décor, or as a carrying bag. In addition, they find an important application, as packaging material in the food, and consumables industry. [1]

Why plastic?

Plastics have many properties, which materials do not include metals or better recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard or wood. Our comfort today is based on plastic. If you look around, there is plastic everywhere. Today's world is unimaginable without plastic. [2]

What is there for plastic packaging?

Plastic packaging can consist of a variety of different plastics, each with its own individual advantages and disadvantages.

Common plastics are PET, PE, PP, PS, PVC, PC and PA [3]

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is mainly used for drinking bottles and outer packaging such as Used shells. It is chemically resistant, only stronger acids are a bit problematic. PET is highly recyclable, and due to the German pledge law, about 97% of PET bottles are recycled. Apart from the bottles, PET is recycled to about 30% sorted. A reusable PET bottle can be refilled up to 16 times, after which they are shredded, melted and recycled like disposable PET bottles. At the moment, PET is the most environmentally friendly plastic, not least because of its cost-effectiveness. It is mainly made from fossil raw materials, but can also be produced as "bio-PET" partly from renewable raw materials. [4]

PE (polyethylene) is the most commonly used plastic for packaging, at around 30%. Different methods can be used to produce different types of PE. Primary LDPE and HDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) (High Density Poly Ethylene). PE is 100% recyclable, and can be sorted to approximately 98% sorted. PE is relatively gas permeable, which means that it can not be used alone for closed containers. It is mainly made from fossil raw materials. [5]

PP (polypropylene) is similar to PP, but more stable. It also has good barrier properties to water vapor and fats. It can be quite well recycled, but as it is a fairly new plastic, it will not do so much. It is mainly made from fossil raw materials. [6]

PS (polystyrene) is moderately easy to recycle, but due to the rather high density and the resulting weight, it has high transport costs and CO2 emissions. In addition, polystyrene can not be recycled for food use because it may be left with contaminants. It is mainly used for disposable tableware, it is also cheap and permeable to water vapor. It is mainly made from fossil raw materials. [7]

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is the most important plastic after PP and PE. It is very resistant to UV, alkalis, acids, fats and alcohol. Its use, however, has declined sharply as it often contains plasticizers. The recycling rate is low so far, as the PVC is difficult to recycle, and its quality decreases with each time it is recycled. It is mainly made from fossil raw materials. [8]

PC (polycarbonates) are very hard, transparent and colorless plastics found in reusable hard plastic bottles and in CD blanks. It is hardly recycled, and also less and less used in food packaging, since it consists mainly of bisphenol A. It is mainly made from fossil raw materials. [9]

PA (polyamides) are tough, impact-resistant plastics, usually with a low melting point. They are moderately easy to recycle, but the process is so uneconomical that few people run PA recycling facilities. [10]

Are organic plastics an alternative?

Bio-plastic "is a misguided word. Many plastics are made from fossil fuels, and oil reserves must be used. In addition, tons of CO2 are released. So-called bio-plastics are often partly or even entirely made from renewable raw materials, which reduces CO2 emissions and makes them independent of crude oil, but this only changes very little in the end result of the environmental balance since non-biodegradable plastic is still produced. Even really biodegradable plastics are often praised by misinformation. The PLA (polylactide) e.g. is a 100% biodegradable plastic, which consists of lactic acid, which in turn is obtained from fermentation. However, it is degradable only at temperatures above 60 ° C, a temperature which is not present in the house compost. Thus, the PLA is degradable only in Kompostieranlagen. Now the big problem, such PLA Kompostieranlagen there are hardly. The PHA (polyhydroxyalkanolates) are an interesting new type of bio-plastic. They are biologic in origin because some bacteria use them as energy stores and have perfect properties for use as packaging. [11]

What are the problems with recycling?

Mainly the problem is "human". Many people do not care about the environment and therefore do not act properly. And even people who care about the environment often can not properly separate, not because of malice, or ignorance, but are many packaging blends, layers of different packaging materials, which you can not separate yourself. All in all, recycling is far from perfect, not even a good system, as it is now. It would have something to change the attitude of many people, the priority of the countries, and the implementation within this, so that recycling unfolds its full potential. [12]

Sources and information to read:


Consumer Center article on plastics[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Consumer Center article on bioplastics[11]

Aluminum packaging - How do you influence the environment?

What are the positive aspects of aluminum?

Aluminum is the third most common element of the earth's crust, at 7.57 mass%. Here it is extracted from the mineral bauxite. Aluminum is a light metal with a density of about 2.2g / cm3, it is tensile, quite tough, and melts at 660.2 ° C. Aluminum has good electrical and good thermal conductivity, surpassed only by copper, gold and silver. It is a fairly reactive element, but forms an oxide layer in the air, which makes it largely inert, in a process which is called passivation. Aluminum can be recycled to a very large extent, requiring only 5% of the original energy input. Throughout Europe, the recycling rate of aluminum is about 67% (however, the actual amount of recycled aluminum is lower). Due to passivation aluminium requires less corrosion protection then e.g. iron does, and it also saves weight, and thus CO2 emissions in cars.[1]

What are the negative aspects of aluminum?

The extraction of aluminum requires a lot of energy, it needs 13-18 khw per kg of aluminum, which is about 4 times the annual power consumption of a family of 4 people. In addition, about 10 kg of CO2 are produced during production of a Kg aluminum, in the whole process from bauxite to the final product about 16.5 kg of CO2 per kg of aluminum. In addition, the production of aluminum using the Bayer process produces 1-1.5 tonnes of so-called red mud per ton of aluminum. Red mud is a mixture of caustic soda, aluminum, sodium and aluminosilicates, as well as some heavy metals. This bauxite waste is acutely poisonous, due to the caustic soda, but also chronically poisonous due to the heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead, chromium, cadmium and nickel. In 2015, 115 million tonnes of aluminum produced 150 million tonnes of red mud.[2]

Where is aluminum used?

Due to its physical and chemical properties, aluminum is the most important metallic material after steel. It is u.a. in lightweight construction, for example locomotion means, or used in the household as aluminum foil or aluminum containers, such as drinks and cans. Preserved is usually still a layer of plastic, which should protect the product.[3]

What problems arise with aluminum containers?

Aluminum containers are quite inert through the oxide layer, but at pH values ​​below 4 or above 9, or for very salty foods, aluminum begins to diffuse into the product. 60mg per person in one week is considered tolerable. High salt foods, e.g. pickled fish, or acidic foods with lemon or acetic acid should therefore not be wrapped in aluminum foil. In addition, the plastic coatings in cans can contain plasticizers, such as bisphenol A, which can enter the product.[4]

Are aluminum packaging used in cosmetics?

In cosmetics, aluminum is also used as packaging material, mainly in the form of tubes. These have an epoxy-phenolic-based inner paint. This type of paint prevents aluminum from diffusing into the contents, and also protects it from environmental influences such as atmospheric oxygen. The recycling of epoxies, however, presents a great challenge as they are thermally and chemically stable and resistant. It is possible to recycle them, but the process is laborious and relatively expensive, and it is almost never used. Also, the separation of the epoxy paint from the aluminum tube poses another difficulty for complete recycling.[5]

Is aluminum good or bad?

There is no perfect substitute for packaging materials, and the aluminum is not perfect either. Aluminum will probably remain one of the most important materials in the world for a very long time to come. Its production is laborious and far from being environmentally friendly, but its recycling is simple, cheap and economical. If the global share of aluminum recycling rose by a good deal over the current scarce 40%, the need for production would be reduced and the environmental impact would be greatly reduced. Aluminum, if used properly, poses no health risk and is a great way to pack food and cosmetics. In the world events you can change even little, but properly separating the waste is a good place to start.[6]

Sources and information to read:


MZ article on aluminum packaging[4][5][6]