With enormous amounts of plastic waste being piled up in landfills and scientists forecasting that by 2050 there will be more plastics by weight than fish in the ocean, the growing environmental danger presented to the world by plastics is well understood. What is less well understood by the scientific community is the lost energy opportunity.
Scientists at the Department of Energys (DOEs) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) calculated that landfilled plastic waste''s energy value was sufficient to provide 5% of the power used by the countrys transportation industry, or 5.5 percent by the industrial sector.
The amount of plastic waste in the United States is 44 million metric tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Using a somewhat different approach, the number of landfills has also been determined.
For us to address plastic waste pollution, we need to understand better where these resources are, according to Anelia Milbrandt, a senior research analyst at NREL and co-author of a new paper, Quantification and evaluation of plastic waste in the United States, published in the journalResources, Conservation & Recycling. We would like to communicate with communities about the potential for these materials.
Kamyria Coney, Alex Badgett, and Gregg Beckham are among the authors of the NREL group. A senior research fellow, Beckham has formed theBOTTLE Consortium, a collaborative initiative established last year in an effort to address the waste-plastics issue.
Scientists are aiming to highlight the economic benefits of repurposing waste plastic in the United States in 2019, while 86 percent was left in landfills. The rest was burned to generate electricity.
Seven materials used to make bottles, CDs, milk jugs, take-out containers, and bags, among other items, were analysed in the NRELs analysis. In 2018, around $2.3 billion in plastic waste disposal.
The amount of landfilled plastic waste in the United States has increased due to several factors, including reduced recycling rates, population growth, consumer preference for single-use plastics, and reduced disposal fees in some areas of the country. China''s refusal to import non-industrial plastic waste from the United States has caused the problem.
The study claims that developing new recycling techniques for plastics might foster a circular economy, where what was once removed would be reused instead of virgin plastics. The market value of landfilled plastic ranges from $4.5 billion to $9.9 billion, or $7.2 billion on average. The country''s energy consumption by the industrial sector is 12%.
Several types of plastic are separated and reused, most of which is polyethylene terephthalate (also known as PET), used to make soda bottles; high-density polyethylene, used for milk jugs and shampoo bottles; however, these are still a significant percentage of plastics found in landfills.
The filmy plastic used for bags is among the most common type found in landfills.
The researchers discussed two possible strategies for the plastics not being recycled: develop new technologies that rely on these plastics to facilitate their sorting and collection, and develop advanced sorting techniques that might eventually lead to increased use of recycled materials.
Milbrandt said that this paper will improve the industry and investors'' desire to explore possibilities.
The quantity of plastic waste is related to population size. California, Texas, and Florida are the three most popular states, although it also have the largest amount of landfilled plastic waste. New York, however, is the fourth state for population, but it recycles much of its waste outside the state.
Plastic waste is not just an environmental issue; it''s also a waste management concern. Because landfills are closing in several areas, Milbrandt said. It has to go somewhere. I believe local governments and industry developers will benefit from this report by providing them information to help them make decisions.