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Refuse or Resource?

Posted January 01, 2010 8:14 AM

Researchers are creating carbon nanotubes and other useful products from waste plastic bags. Will a shift from refuse to resource improve the plastic grocery bag's bad reputation?

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#1

Re: Refuse or Resource?

01/01/2010 6:54 PM

This innovation would have been more timely before the majority of people have switched to using cloth shopping bags.

Will it improve the plastic bag's reputation? Depends on whether the use of the material can be demonstrated efficient and economically viable, which depends on several factors.

- Is the process capable of using all types of plastic bags? There are so many, and at present afaik they must be sorted before recycling, and there are a number of types of packaging plastic that are just not recyclable or not feasible to recycle. If the process can be inclusive of different plastic types, it would fill a niche in the recycling scene and it would not be short of material.

- Is the process capable of dealing with contaminants? Will a spot of gravy mean spotty performance in the batch of batteries? The issue of contaminant risk has to be addressed for any product involving recycled materials. The ideal process is one that includes some step to eliminate contaminants, and produce a uniform quality product.

- Does the patent holder have the foresight and deep pockets to locate manufacturing and distribution of the new products at dispersed locations near the sources of the waste plastic? Or will the plastic be shipped long distances to a central facility, adding to cost and increasing the carbon footprint.

The "made from recycled" label has automatic eco-chic or marketing value in the short term, but if the product doesn't live up to a real standard of sustainability and fill a real niche in the waste-recycling economy, it won't save face for plastic packaging (at least, not for long).

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#2

Re: Refuse or Resource?

01/02/2010 8:51 AM

Good answer! Unfortunately, it fails to take into account that the Green Meanies have already declared plastic bags an Evil Incarnate, and a full generation of time will need to pass before this can be reversed; like the 1970's impending man-made ice age vs today's man-made global warming.

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Re: Refuse or Resource?

01/14/2010 8:26 AM

like the 1970's impending man-made ice age vs today's man-made global warming.

I have been advised that there never was significant discussion of "man made ice age" in the '70's, that a count of papers published on the subject showed very few.

Not what I remember from the uni staff room discussions at the time and the papers I read in "New Scientist", "Nature" etc.

Seems my memory must be defective, as this subject has been (peer reviewed) shown not to have been a concern!

Amazing how history can be revised to suit the current agenda.

Next thing we will be told that the Club of Rome didn't predict world wide famine in their 1972(?) paper "Limits to Growth". After this was published the "green revolution" took place and the world was better fed than ever before.

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#4

Re: Refuse or Resource?

01/14/2010 8:36 AM

My general view of all waste and pollution is that it is basically a wasted resource which we haven't yet learned to economically utilize.

With respect to waste plastic being made into nanotubes, the idea is interesting and the research looks promising, but the energy involved would be large. This is offset by the commercial value of the product, but energy requirements will probably boost the "carbon footprint".

Strikes me that this concept of carbon footprint is rapidly becoming one more hurdle to overcome as we try to use our resources better and reduce pollution.

If carbon trading comes in it will kill many such environmentally desirable schemes, all to bolster the dubious notion that global warming is anthropogenic, despite the rise being right when it would be expected, and of the right magnitude, to be a recovery from the "little ice age".

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