Literature Review On Plastic recycling in developing countries

Here’s the sample of literature review on plastic recycling in developing countries

1.1 Introduction

Plastics have a range of application owing to their lightweight, durable and low cost availability. However, plastic production, usage level and disposal lead to several environmental issues such as accumulation in landfills, soil and water pollution. The role of recycling as one of the waste-reduction strategies that comes into play to reduce the impact on environment from plastic industry. Despite several waste-reduction strategies, the management of plastic waste and disposal has been an ongoing major challenge in the developing countries (Guerrero et al., 2013).

This section provides review of several researchers about the topic of plastic recycling in the developing nations to gain better understanding of the research problem. The data and information for the review of existing literature is collected form journals, articles, eBooks and other online published data on websites. This section provides review of other researchers view and findings on similar studies to develop theoretical knowledge about plastic waste management in the developing countries by reviewing exiting researchers and published information about recycling plastics practices/methods, uses of recycled plastic materials, drivers to plastics recycling and challenges and opportunities in plastic recycling.

1.1.1 Recycling of Plastics   

Al-Maaded et al. (2012) define plastic recycling as the process of re-use of damages, unused or used plastic by transforming it into new useful products that are slightly or completely different from the original state. According to Al-Salem et al. (2009), the practice of plastic recycling has been since year 1970 which was more prominent seen in the recycling of packaging materials to convert the plastic waste materials into new materials/things. The majority of plastics products for recycling are polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) jugs (Sinha et al., 2010). At the same time, it can be stated that the recycling quantities of plastics vary from one geographical region to others and it is also dependent on the type of plastics and its application.

According to the Conversation (2018), the report findings of Chartered Institute of Waste Managers and WasteAid (UK-based NGO) state that waste from developing countries such as East Asia accounts for up to 70 percent of ocean plastic by weight. It can be said that management of plastic is a challenge in the developing countries which is being trying to be dealt with recycling and other waste reduction strategies. In this context, Mwanza and Mbohwa (2017) state that recycling is a feasible options in plastic waste management to reduce its impacts during its end of use (EoU) and end of life (EoL) and for the packaging plastic wastes after the post-consumer use. The study of Al-Salem et al. (2009) highlighted the advantages of plastic recycling. The authors state that it can help to reduce energy consumption, amount of solid waste in landfill, and carbon, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emission, lower environmental pollution, save marine flora and fauna and results in cleaner cities and healthier nations.

The study of Kumar et al. (2011) put forwards four approaches of plastic recycling which are primary recycling, secondary recycling, tertiary recycling and quaternary recycling. Primary recycling involves low cost recycling of clean and uncontaminated plastic waste whereas secondary recycling involves separation of plastic from contaminants, plastic segregation and its conversion into products with less performance requirement demands. Tertiary recycling comprises of chemical recycling processes such as chemolysis, partial oxidation, cracking, etc. and quaternary recycling focuses on the energy content recovery of plastic wastes.

1.2 Plastic recycling methods in the developing countries

There has been a boom in the plastic recycling in the developing countries as the plastic and its waste are reprocessed on a continuous level. Guerrero (2013) study reminds that various recycling methods have been employed in the developing countries to recycle different types of plastic  such as polyethylene (PE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) polystyrene (PS) and polypropylene (PP).

The study of Matter et al. (2013) discussed the plastic recycling methods in Bangladesh. The author states that there are more than 400 recycling units for plastic in and around Dhaka and the recycling methods include recovery of plastic cans, scavenge food products packaging, plastic beverage bottle packaging and edible oil packaging. The plastic recycling methods include range of activities like collection, cleaning, sorting, and size reduction of plastic waste. This is followed by traditional extrusion for tubes and pipes, moulding for bottles and similar item and film moulding for sheets and bags. In addition, Matter et al. (2015) mention that exporting of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste products backed up by cash incentives from Bangladesh government is encouraging plastic recycling in the country. It can be said that plastic recycling methods in this developing country focus on the garbage collection for plastic waste and export disposal systems to deal with environmental issue of plastic waste and to deal with unsustainable patterns of plastic production and consumption.

The study of Narayana (2009) analysed that the recycling methods in India is different from other developing countries. The study mentions highlight the waste buyers in India going to residential areas and house to house to buy products i.e. plastic waste, recycling process and also in terms of lack of state of art technologies in plastic recycling. The initial step is collection of plastic waste from grounds or buying form households. This is followed by sorting based on colour, hardness, opacity, etc. which is then sent to granulators using mechanical technology. The granules are obtained by grinding and extrusions process and this is reprocessed in the final stage to make useful plastic products through convertors. In similar context, Sikka, (2007) points the plastic recycling in India is done in an unorganised manner. The author claims that total plastic material waste collected such as PVC, PET bottles, PE and PS packaging and segregated for reprocessing, only 60 percent material recycles and get covered to customer products and 40 percent remain unutilised.  On the other hand, Awasthi et al. (2017) discuss the methods of mechanical recycling and chemical recycling for utilisation of plastics waste in India.

Chen et al. (2011) studied the plastic recycling in China and found that existing recycling methods include both mechanical recycling and tertiary recycling i.e. chemical reprocessing.

the tertiary recycling method is used to transform the plastic waste material through a chemical reaction to smaller molecules (monomers or oligomers) which can be suitable to be use as feedstock material with other monomers and oligomers and also with other hydrocarbon compounds mixtures to reprocess into similar or related polymeric product. This chemical reprocessing is also known as feedstock recycling.

Literature Review On Plastic Recycling Assignment Sample

The study of Wong et al. (2015) found about the plastic recycling in china in terms of technology process, pyrolysis for single type plastic wastes and pyrolysis-catalytic upgrade method for mixed plastic wastes have been assessed to convert these plastic wastes into fuel oil. On the other hand, Pacheco et al. (2012) describe recycling as an informal activity in Brazil which is only done by waste pickers/poor people to earn money. There are only few cities in Brazil that have proper system of recyclable material collection units for plastics wastes such as polyethylene terephthalate and polyolefins to recycle the waste. The method of plastic recycling method involves collection, sorting and melting of the waste plastics products to miscellaneous items. Another method is to cut into plastics strips and melting to process the waste material into granulates.

However, Corsten et al. (2012) argue that recycling of specific products such as PET bottles, PE and PP is high in Brazil where the recycling scenario involves collection of separate dry and wet plastic waste. The anaerobic digestion for wet waste is used to produce biogas which can be used for electricity generation with an efficiency of approximately 35%.

The study of Al-Salem et al. (2009) reviewed that in many developing countries the primary and secondary methods of recycling have been adopted successfully. The authors viewed that primary recycling or re-extrusion is adopted owing to the low cost and simplicity to reuse the plastic products. The secondary methods of mechanical recycling are also employed in countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia for thermoplastic polymers to reprocess the plastic waste into some useful products.  However, in fast developing countries like China the plastic recycling route follows from simple re-extrusion or closed loop recycling to mechanical recycling and chemical re processing i.e. from primary recycling to tertiary recycling.

Despite these recycling methods, the condition of management of plastic waste in the developing countries is not very much promising. The study of Mohammed and Afangide (2017) suggest quaternary or valorisation recycling method to produce energy from the waste to reduce plastic waste in the developing countries.

1.3 Uses of recycled plastic materials in the developing countries

1.3.1 Recycled plastic in road reconstruction 

According to Bale (2011), the use of plastic is increasing in the construction of roads across the globe. The reason behind this revolution in road construction is the physical characteristics of recycled plastic. The use of recycled plastic provides more durability than asphalt and cost effectiveness in construction and protects the environment also (Vegas et al., 2011). The road, Jambulingam Street in Chennai, Tamil Nadu has not shown any signs of wear and tear that are generally shown by typical roads such as cracks and potholes.

In relation to this, Gawande et al. (2012) state that the roads are built through the combination of shredded plastic waste and tar as this process helps to reduce the overall cost of the road construction. At the same time, Poweth et al. (2013) depict that the plastic waste technology is helpful to ensure the plastic-free environment. For instance, in India, corporations and municipalities have started to use this technology to build roads in environmentally friendly ways under the initiative namely “Clean India,” or Swachh Bharat, plan.  Even, approx 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) of road has been built up by using recycled plastic in India.

In the study of Vasudevan et al. (2012), it is recognized that recycled plastic is useful in road construction for making the construction and maintenance faster, simpler and more efficient in comparison of the traditional roads. Apart from this, plastic road provides strengths in flooding conditions due to having hollow spaces that can store the water on temporarily basis and prevent the excavation damages. Moreover, the study of Silva et al. (2014) illustrates that the longer lifespan and the reduction in transport movements are major advantages of plastic in road construction. It is crucial to reduce the cost of construction and improve the durability of the roads. On the other hand, as Jayaraman (2015) mentions that recycled plastics in road construction is considered as an end-of-pipe interventions which will continue the problem of pollution for its production, usage and disposal as plastic roads. Similarly, Ahluwalia and Patel (2018) point that plastic road-making is a source of pollution as the use of  PVC (polyvinyl chloride or flex) in laying road as it releases hydrochloric acid and other harmful gases in the process of thermal degradation thus, causes air pollution.

1.3.2 Recycled plastic in 3D printing

Nowadays, 3D printing is a growing market that has been an area for the investment of billions of dollars. This technique is being popular in different industries to make a physical object from a digital model but it also raises the sustainability concerns (Berman, 2012). For making 3D printing more sustainable, organizations turn plastic waste into filament for 3D printers. This filament is created from scrap by recycling plastic. For example, Protoprint, a social enterprise in India produces filament for 3D printers by recycling plastic (Hoy, 2013). Relating to this, Ventola (2014) argues that 3D printers made up of recycled plastic are high quality products due to use of good quality filament with environmentally friendly aspects and cost effectiveness.  The use of recycled plastic in 3D printing is crucial to reduce overall cost of printing and reduce environmental problems (Kreiger et al., 2014).  However, Tymrak et al. (2014) condemn that the use of plastic waste in filament can reduce its strength because it gets weaker with the each reuse.

1.3.3 Recycled plastic as a fuel        

In the views of Sarker and Rashid (2012), recycled plastics can be used for the production of fuel as well. It is because hydrocarbons presented in plastics are the sources of energy and can be converted into the liquid fuel source.  In relation to this, Patni et al. (2013) state that a process known as “plastics-to-fuel” is helpful to convert plastics into fuels. The production of this fuel trough recycled plastics is also an environmentally friendly process that is useful to reduce the carbon footprint of the oil production process. Apart from this, Hazrat et al. (2014) state that there is no need of huge investment in oil production through recycled plastics. It is because these technologies are scalable and can be customized to fulfil the needs. On the other hand, Wong et al. (2015) depict that plastic-derived fuels provide environmental advantage in terms of cleaner-burning.  The plastic is converted into the range of useful outputs like fuels, oil and other petro-based products that are significant in manufacturing and transportation. Supporting to this, Gug et al. (2015) affirm that the plastics-to-fuel technologies are useful to divert the valuable materials from landfill, transform waste into energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, Lopez et al. (2017) state that in converting the waste plastic into fuel many thermo-chemical reactions are involved which makes it an expensive process. Lopez et al. (2017) mentions another challenge that is associated with valorization which is related to residue features in this process which limit the processing of waste into fuel sources to a certain extent. Pieta et al. (2018) put forward that the plastic waste material with high purity is expensive in the plastic waste market which is mostly preferred by recyclers for valorization process to produce fuels for high yields.  As the plastic waste market has price volatility thus, not all the plastics or plastics with less purity forms the choice to be converted into fuels as it require more capacity for handling low grade in purity or quality of waste plastics. Thus, it can be said that type of plastic waste influences decision for processing into fuel source.

1.3.4 Best way to use recycled plastics

From the literature analysis of use of recycled plastics in road construction it was concluded that it is far from providing plastic waste solution as the road construction using plastic waste leads to pollution and emission of harmful gases in the environment. Also, use of recycled plastics as a fuel source is not found to be a feasible option owing to its high cost of process and its low suitability for treating all types of plastic which as valorization process depends on quality and purity level of plastics to produce fuels.  Thus, from the analysis of the literature, it can be said that plastics-to-3D printing serve as a best way to use recycled plastics.  Considering the level of plastic waste generation at global level the recycled plastic as 3D printer material/filament serve a best option to recycling of plastics waste in home and communities. As cited by Ventola (2014) this is an environmentally friendly process, cost effective and produces high quality 3D printing material. This method is also advantageous to lower the overall printing cost. The basic advantage from this is more efficiency in printing (Kreiger et al., 2014). Moreover, the recycling of plastic waste can be done at home level to get recycled 3D printer filament (Kreiger et al., 2014). At the same time, in support of recycled plastic as in 3D printing is an innovative approach is a sustainable and socially responsible way towards plastic waste management and create value from plastics waste by converting it into 3D printing material.

1.4 Drivers, challenges and opportunities in plastic recycling

There are several economic, environmental and social drivers for development of sustainable plastic recycling systems in particular for packaging plastic solid waste. According to Mwanza and Mbohwa (2017), sustainability aspect at the community and household level has been a major driver of the recycling system for packaging plastic wastes. Under the environmental drivers, Guerrero et al. (2013) found that global climate change, global warming issue and environment degradation and pollution are drivers of recycling system for plastics. It can be said that these drivers relates to the environmental sustainability aspects thus, sustainable development concept plays an important role in development of recycling system in the developing countries. Saeed et al. (2009) point to the social factors for development of plastic recycling system in developing countries like Malaysia owing to the increased urban solid waste due to urbanisation and increasing population, increasing level of public awareness and education regarding the impact of the plastic waste for human health and surroundings.

The study of Dhokhikah and Trihadiningrum (2012) underline the opportunities for recycling in terms of technologic advances, new and improved system for collection and sorting of plastic wastes in many Asian developing countries. It can be said that advance in technologies have brought new system reprocessing of recyclable plastics to reduce the generation of plastic wastes and in landfills. There is an opportunity for the developing countries for plastic recycling by diverting the waste going in to landfill to recycle products which can be used for another few years. Mwanza and Mbohwa (2017) mention the increase in awareness of public and combined action of household, community and government can be supportive to implement more recycling techniques over the next decades. On the other hand, Guerrero et al. (2013) viewed that lack of infrastructure and proper facilities for collection, sorting, and reprocessing of recyclable plastic products waste in many developing countries like presents a challenge in plastic recycling. Similarly, Mohammed and Afangide (2017) mentions insufficient budget for waste management is another challenge in recycling system in particular to product energy from waste.  Thus, it can be said that these challenges lead to improper plastic recycle management in the developing countries.

1.5 Conclusion and Gaps

From the review of existing literature, it can be said that there are different recycling strategies are adopted and employed for plastic waste reduction. The literature analyses the best way to use recycled plastics is as fuel. However, still the management of different forms of plastic products and their waste and disposal continue to be a major challenge in the developing countries. In developing countries like, India and Bangladesh there is not much technical or improved and advanced technologies employed in the recycling of plastic waste in the exiting literature. However, the literature highlight China has been at a step ahead in adopting primary to tertiary recycling methods. The literature in recycling majorly focuses on the solid waste management while some researchers have focused on the process of the plastics recycling. However, few studies focused on primary, secondary, tertiary or quaternary recycling methods for plastics. There is no proper literature that analyses this method of plastic recycling in the context of the developing countries.  Thus, there is need to consider different methods of recycling to deal with plastic waste impact on environment and society as few challenges and lack of proper recycling systems restricts the current waste recycling approaches in the developing countries to desired yield outcome for plastic waste reduction.


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