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Ecological disaster is near but we can avoid it

28 January 2020

Belarus is trying to keep up with environmental trends: paper bags appeared in hypermarkets, activists take to the streets following the example of Greta Tunberg, and manufacturers and suppliers are obliged to pay for organizing the collection of plastic packaging.

What is the main trouble of our country?

The biggest environmental problem is the disposability of things. The weight of the packages in the waste is less than 10 thousand tons per year. When choosing a product you need to understand that it can be used many times. And you will do it. Now there is an extremely large amount of packaging so it is important to reduce both its production and consumption. Various measures are applied for this. The deposit collateral system can really earn soon but before that they will hold a competition for the investor who will be engaged in its implementation. Most likely, he will be foreign. The result by the end should come out positive since, according to statistics, in the first year of the deposit mortgage system the return of containers exceeds 70%.

What about recycling?

Due to the fact that Belarus does not process all types of plastic it is necessary to take a more conscious approach to purchasing goods in packaging. For example, a plastic yogurt cup will be in a landfill.

Another problem is organics. 30-40% of household waste is organic and it would be advisable to compost it. Work on this is underway but today everything is rotting evaporating greenhouse gases.

The situation in numbers:

  • 3.795 million tons of MSW was formed in the Republic of Belarus in 2018 and for 7 years this amount has remained virtually unchanged;
  • the volume of harvested secondary resources from this garbage is growing: in 2017 it is 373 thousand tons (10% of the total), in 2018 – 714 thousand tons (18.8%), and the rest of the waste was simply buried;
  • according to the Operator of secondary material resources, in Belarus 95% of paper, 24% of plastic and 77% of glass are recycled from harvested secondary resources.

If we talk about plastic waste then in our country there is still an insufficient number of processing enterprises. For the most part, they are aimed at PET bottles, films, solid waste such as boxes, pots... With everything else things are much more complicated.

Take an example from Sweden

In 2017, 4.783 million tons of garbage was generated in Sweden but 33.8% of waste gives a second life. Of these, 82% of paper, 47% of plastic and 93% of glass are recycled.

What can be made of plastic waste?

Scientists who specialize in the chemical processes that underlie plastic processing are developing new ways to use discarded and recycled materials from the creation of useful airgels to the development of fuels. The idea of ​​turning garbage into airplane fuel doesn’t sound realistic but British Airways – one of Europe’s largest air carriers – has already thought about building refineries to clean-burn jet fuel.

Working with a low-density polyethylene structure obtained from plastic bottles and bags experts found a way to "crush" the material into small granules the size of a grain of rice. To carry out the procedure granules were placed on top of activated carbon in a tubular reactor, heating carbon and plastic to a temperature of 571 degrees Celsius. Experimental results: during the procedure a thermal decomposition reaction occurred which led to the evolution of hydrogen which was previously contained in plastic. Thus, scientists managed to turn plastic waste into jet fuel.

In addition, used plastic materials can be turned into special filters which are an expensive ceramic membrane. As it turned out, plastic waste is a good alternative for the production of the necessary material which was experimentally proved by specialists from Saudi Arabia who conducted a series of experiments using ordinary plastic bottles for water. The results showed that the needs of mankind in clean drinking water can be significantly reduced by using such technologies.

One of the new developments is the creation of useful types of airgel that can eliminate oil spills. PET-based fiber and silica. After the chemical treatment was carried out flexible air filters were obtained that can be used as acoustic insulation in buildings dust filters and even in the presence of the effects of oil spills. It is known that when applying a specific composition an airgel sponge is able to absorb spilled oil 7 times more efficiently than already known materials.