Abstract Each year, there is enough plastic that is thrown away to circle the Earth four times. This overwhelming accumulation of plastic products greatly impacts the environment and the only present technology to address this negative environmental footprint is recycling. However, this process is costly and unhygienic. In contrast, the invention of Plastic8 would not only provide an alternative for this flawed system, but also cut down a substantial amount of human labor and pollution that comes with the recycling and factory process of plastics.
The “8” in Plastic8 represents the infinity symbol when turned on its side because the machine is able to recreate plastic an infinite amount of times when functional. It would remake new products, as a modern 3D printer would do, by melting and sculpting products with second hand plastic material. The excess plastic from homes can be donated to a greater organization that specializes in creating certain products. Our goal is to eventually reach a point where the plastic production is rarely necessary due to the convenience and efficiency of Plastic8. Present Technology According to the EPA, recycling is “the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.
” Recycling is important for the environment because it conserves materials and reduces waste. However, the recycling process is very complicated. First, the recycling trucks dumps the materials onto a larger transfer truck.
The transfer truck brings the materials to the materials recovery facility where they are unloaded onto the “tipping floor.” The “tipping floor” is a room filled with tons recyclable items. A large crane will pick up the recyclables and put it onto a drum feeder which will distribute the materials evenly onto the conveyor belt.
Then, the workers go through a first sort. In the first sort, they remove the non recyclable items, plastic bags and big, bulky items that won’t go through the conveyor belt into large bins. The trash will be brought to the landfills. The first thing that is sorted is the corrugated cardboard. The star screen is a large sorting disks with turning axles. It pushes the cardboard on top while the rest of the material falls though the screens and continue on the conveyor belt. As the materials travel away from the star screen, workers will remove small contaminants.
Medium star screens will separate different types of paper. According to Popular Science, paper makes up ? of the recycled material at Willimantic Waste Paper. Plastic, glass and aluminum will fall through onto the conveyor belt.The first 3D object to be separated are anything magnetic. Usually about 4% of the recyclable material is magnetic. They are separated by a 3,900-gauss magnet that goes above the conveyor belt. The Eddy Current Separator is a magnetic field that “induces electrons in aluminum to create magnetic field of their own.” Aluminum will be pushed off the Eddy field when it interacts with the magnetic field of the machine and go from the main conveyor to a separate one.
A density blower separates glass from plastic containers and they are already crushed by the time they get separated. But according to Popular Science, glass will be sorted before the magnetic because it is heavier than plastic and aluminum it falls through star screens and end up in bins. The glass will be moved to a different area and grounded.
Plastic is the last thing to be separated because it is much more complex. They are separated by the different types or resin codes. They may be hand sorted by workers, a optical sorter which uses cameras, infrared lasers and sensors to sort the different plastics by the different resin codes and colors. After everything is completely separated, the remaining things that were not seen by workers go to the landfills. According to Willimantic Waste Paper, around 5% of the materials is waste. Although there are many machines that make the recycling process a lot quicker, it still requires a lot of labor because the workers will need to check through each machine to make sure that materials don’t get sorted into the wrong place.
HistoryAlthough recycling may have taken place as early as the formation of the first civilizations, the first recorded use of recycling was in Japan in the 9th century. The ancient Japanese people began recycling paper almost as soon as it was in use. It quickly became a normal process of production and consumption. Many years later, in 1690, recycling reached the New World. The Rittenhouse Mill in Philadelphia was founded and began recycling fabric such as linen and cotton rags. Soon, recycling also began to be useful for times of war.
When America declared its independence from the English, rebels attempted to recycle to provide materials to fight for the War of Independence. Since more people became accustomed to the idea of recycling, in 1865, the Salvation Army was founded in London, England and began collecting, sorting, and recycling unwanted goods. This organization even reached the United States in the 1890s.
Not long after, in 1897, New York City created a material recovery facility where waste was sorted and separated into different categories such as paper, metals, and carpet for recycling and reuse.In the 1900’s recycling had a gradual yet visible increase in the United States. In 1904, the first recycling plants for American aluminum cans opened in Chicago and Cleveland. Around 1917, due to a massive shortage of raw materials during the desperate times of World War I, the Federal government created the Waste Reclamation Service. Similar situations came again during World War II where many were forced to peddle scraps of metal, rags, and other items to survive the Great Depression.
During this period, more than 400,000 contributed to recycling to save money for the war efforts. After the war ended, people slowly turned away from recycling without taking into consideration of how it was affecting the world and its environment. Therefore, in 1970, to encourage the act of recycling, the first Earth Day brought national attention to the problem of increasing waste on the Earth and its importance.
Soon after, in 1976, the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was enacted to close open dumps, create standards for landfills, and to create standards for landfills, incinerators, and the disposal of hazardous waste. Ten years later, a second recycling program started in Mississauga, Ontario’s and was considered to be the largest recycling initiative in North America. A growing concern for the need of recycling greatly increased in 1987, when a garbage-laden barge called the Mobro couldn’t find a place to unload. This sparked a public discussion about waste management and served as a realization or reminder to the people, of the insignificant amount of care being given to the environment. Since then, many have been giving attention to waste management, leading to changes throughout the years. For example, in 1995, there were more than 10,000 recycling centers nationwide and at least 4,000 curbside collection programs. However, even with these gradual changes, the problem of increasing plastic is growing. People have become apathetic in keeping the world clean because of the long process it takes and because they can’t see a visible and immediate benefit to recycling.
Future Technology: (WE HAVE TO INCLUDE SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES)This team envisions the future of Plastic8 as a beneficial factor to the environment, economy, and human society. The Plastic8 would recreate new products, as a modern 3D printer would do, by melting and sculpting products with second hand plastic material. In twenty years, the affordable Plastic8 will be in almost every home, recycling used plastic and creating needed objects. Therefore, less plastic will be created from natural resources and less plastic will enter the environment (for example, the ocean) because used plastic will not be considered trash, but a possible new object. The excess plastic products that owners make with the Plastic8 but don’t need can be donated to families who are not able to afford certain supplies. Furthermore, excess plastic from homes can be donated to a greater organization that specializes in creating certain products with the Plastic8.
The Plastic8 will take plastic products, melt them down, and reshape them into new, reusable products. When a plastic material/product (like a plastics water bottle) is thrown into the Plastic8, the machine will start melting the plastic in a microwave-like container. This will heat up the plastic by channeling heat energy directly to the molecules, similar to how a microwave works. Afterwards, the melted plastic will go through a tube until it reaches a machine similar to a 3D printer.
This machine will be able cool and use the melted plastic and build a whole new product, depending on what the user chooses. After finishing the new product, the user can use it, or donate it to families in need.Breakthroughs Plastic8 is not a reality today because the technology needed to create it does not yet exist. In order to build the Plastic8, the fumes created from melting plastic need to be filtered out effectively because they are harmful to humans. Melting plastic releases dioxins and furans into the environment which have been linked to causing cancer and respiratory disease. So far, some filters have been created for large factories, however in order to be implemented in the Plastic8 they will need to be considerably smaller in size.
Furthermore, these filters may not be 100% effective, and we cannot risk these chemicals harming everyday people. Part of Plastic8 includes a 3D-printer mechanism that will form the melted plastic into other items that can be reused. One issue with this is that 3D printing is very time-consuming and costly. 3D printing a big object with high quality can take several hours, and having to wait a few hours every time you want to throw something away is time-wasting an not very effective. In order to overcome this problem, a faster 3D printer will have to be created.
3D printers are also very expensive because of the materials used to make them. In order to make the Plastic8 a more practical, everyday item, 3D printers need to be made cheaper. 3D printers nowadays are at least $500, which is far too expensive to be implemented into a recycling bin. Also, we will also need a material that can absorb up to 250° Celsius, about the melting point of plastic. Because Plastic8 needs to be safe for a home environment, a material needs to be present to ensure the bin stays at a safe temperature.
Design ProcessThroughout the design process we came up with certain functions that Plastic8 would need to perform and found correlating machine parts that could carry out those functions. Some factors that were taken into consideration were the size, expenses, complexity, and health factors. It had to be suitable, in terms of living conditions so that this technology could be part of every home in an attempt to reduce plastic around the world. We split Plastic8 into four parts: entering in the plastic, making the plastic usable with methods such as melting or shredding the plastic, calculating the shape that the owner wants to make, and actually creating it. First, the plastic would need to be placed into a compartment within Plastic8. After placing the used plastic into Plastic8, the machine would need to melt or shred the plastic in order to shape it into certain products.
We came up with many different ideas on how to melt or shred the plastic most effectively. The options consisted of several different machines such as a microwave, a glue gun, or a shredder. The first option, the microwave, would melt the plastic in a container until it’s ready to be reformed. The second option, the glue gun, would take the plastic and perform like a glue gun so that the plastic would melt and be released at the same time. The third option, the shredder, would shred the plastic into smaller pieces to effectively melt the plastic. However, the glue gun would require the plastic to come in a wire-like form beforehand, and the shredder would take up too much space in the design so the best final invention was most similar to the microwave, although not the exact same.
Our final invention consists of three modern day technology: a microwave, computer, and 3D printer. An important health caution that comes with every listed option is the release of toxic fumes due to burning plastic. Therefore, each option would require a fume hood. After the microwave-like machine melts the plastic, the machine will transfer it through a tube, where it is cooled down enough to sculpt. We had two options – to hook up a separate computer to the machine or to make the computer part of Plastic8. However, taking into consideration that not everyone has a computer or is able to afford one, we made the computer a part of Plastic8. Therefore, Plastic8 would take the inputted form that the owner had selected or created through the computer and send it to the final machine that would form the object.
The final machine would perform like a 3D printer. The malleable wire form would be laid down by the nozzle to form the shapes and create the final product. Consequences Although the future of Plastic8 was to benefit the world, there may be some negative consequences without the proper precautions. For instance, unhealthy and toxic fumes may come from the burning plastic, and it may be dangerous to reuse certain plastics. When incinerating the plastic, toxic chemicals such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic chemicals, polycyclic organic matter, heavy metals, and dioxin may be released. In order to avoid these toxins, plastic types should be taken into consideration.
Plastic #3, polyvinyl chloride/PVC, and Plastic #6, polystyrene/PS, have shown to release synthetic carcinogens, styrene, and hormone-disrupting chemicals when used or burned. Similarly, reused plastic, such as Plastic #1, polyethrylene terephthalate, are safe if used once, but reuse may cause the plastics to release toxic chemicals. In addition, consumers must be aware of other health risks of using plastics with BPA, a synthetic chemical that could interfere with the body’s hormones. Health advocates recommend using Plastic #2, Plastic #4, or Plastic #5 in place of the other plastics.
Therefore, consumers of Plastic8 must be aware of the type of plastic they are using, and if it contains BPA.On the contrary, in using the Plastic8, there are many positive consequences as well. The Plastic8 will leave a beneficial impact on the environment and maybe even lead to a better society. With the use of the Plastic8, recycling of plastic would increase, so the need to manufacture more new plastic would decrease and natural resources, such as oil, wouldn’t be wasted. In fact, according to the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, “recycling one ton of plastic conserves approximately 3.8 barrels of crude oil. In 2008, 2.
12 millions of plastic were recovered for recycling, the equivalent of roughly 7.6 million barrels of oil.” The reduced manufacturing of plastic due to the Plastic8 would also mean reduced greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, carbon dioxide is thought to significantly contribute to global warming but according to the EPA, “the average family can reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by up to 340 pounds annually simply by recycling their plastic waste” and the Plastic8 would definitely aid in that process.In addition, the minimal input of new plastic into the system would mean that less plastic is thrown away, trash is reduced, and pollution decreases. Today, plastic trash either becomes unwanted litter in the natural environment, or becomes unnecessary waste that takes up the limited space of landfills. In order to save space, landfills would often incinerate plastic to save space, increasing the amount of pollution in the environment and emitting toxic pollutants or irritants that come from the burned plastic. If they are not burned, the toxic plastic resin often seeps in the soil or groundwater if they break down in landfills.
All of these benefits of the Plastic8 would allow for energy conservation. Rather than creating new materials from raw materials, significantly less energy is used when creating new materials from used materials. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “the recycling process uses up to two-thirds less energy than traditional manufacturing, significantly reducing power use, which is based on the burning of fossil fuels.” With these positive benefits of the Plastic8 and some possible breakthroughs, we get closer to our goal of repurposing used plastic to minimize waste in safe methods. BibliographyA Brief Timeline of the History of Recycling. (2016, April 14).
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