Plastic is currently "public enemy No. 1" in nearly every country in the world. It pollutes our sees, lands and causes animals to lose their habitats.
People around the world are being encouraged to quit using single use plastics, mainly plastic bags and bottles. However, in a time of fast consumption, it is not an easy task to do. Do you ever think about what happens to a plastic bottle when you throw it away? Do you know that waste plastic bottles can return to life if they are treated right?
Unfortunately, more than half of the plastic produced in the world becomes waste in less than a year, ending up in landfills and incinerators, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
So, what can be done to extend the life cycle of plastic? We asked the experts.
Uğur Bilgiç, the head of Cevnak, a waste-sorting facility in Ankara, explained what he does at his end.
"Our workers and garbage collectors separate packaging waste from domestic waste. The sorted-out waste is then transferred to recycling facilities to produce raw material. Each type of plastic has a different value," he said but also warned, "Plastic mixed with garbage can't be recycled."
The sorted-out plastic is sent to a recycling facility where employees separate plastics into the correct containers. Plastics are collected in large tanks according to their quality and type and then transferred to the shredding machine. Shredded plastics, also called granules, are washed. The granules which float on the surface are first-class materials, while those that sink to the bottom are classified as second-class. The used water is filtered in a machine.
The granules are dried and sent to machines to be melted at 200-220 degrees Celsius (392-428 F). At this stage, pigments are added to color first-class granules, while second-class granules naturally come out black. It takes an hour to separate plastic waste, break them into granules, wash and melt the granules, and turn them into raw materials. The raw material can be used to produce anything under the sun, from chairs to pillows and from jackets to computer parts. However, recycled plastic cannot be used for food as it may be contaminated.
Plastics that pollute
Single use plastics, mainly plastic bags and bottles are the main polluters in the world. The trick is to know how to manage this waste. However, the ideal solution to the plastic problem is not using at all.
According to the U.N., a reduction of 15-20% in worldwide greenhouse gases emissions could be achieved through sustainable waste management. The law binds EU members to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029. Plastic bottles will also have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
Turkey's Zero Waste Management System regulation, which is championed by first lady Emine Erdoğan, aims to reduce the volume of non-recyclable waste as well as hold public institutions, organizations, and city governments with populations of more than 250,000 responsible for waste management by 2020.