The plastics industry has long been involved in recycling, although it is well knownWhat it was a failure. Worldwide, only 9 percent of plastic waste is actually recycled. In the USA now the course 5 percent. Most of the plastic used ends up in landfills, incinerated or released into the environment.
Now the disturbing new study found that even when plastic ends up in a recycling center, it can still break into smaller pieces that pollute the air and water. This pilot study focused on one new facility where plastic is sorted, crushed and melted into pellets. Along the way, the plastic is washed several times, discarding microplastic particles – fragments less than 5 millimeters in size – into the wastewater of the plant.
Because there were multiple washes, the researchers were able to take water samples at four separate points on the production line. (They do not reveal the name of the facility operator who collaborated with their project.) This plan was actually in the process of installing filters that could trap particles larger than 50 microns (a micron is a millionth of a meter), so the team was able to calculate the concentration of microplastics in wet and filtered wastewater — essentially a before-and-after snapshot of how effective filtration is.
The amount of their microplastics was astronomical. They calculated that even with filtration included, the total discharge of the various washes could produce up to 75 billion particles per cubic meter of wastewater. Depending on the recycling facility, this liquid will eventually end up in city water systems or the environment. In other words, recyclers trying to solve the plastic crisis may actually be making things worse by accident. microplastic crisis that is covered every corner from V Wednesday with synthetic particles.
“It seems a bit backward that we’re recycling plastic to protect the environment, and then end up exacerbating another and potentially more dangerous problem,” says plastics scientist Erina Brown, who led the research at New York University. Strathclyde.
“This raises very serious concerns,” agrees Judith Enk, president of Beyond Plastics and former regional administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, who was not involved in the publication. “And I also think it points to the fact that plastics are fundamentally unstable.”