Abstract Plasticis the substance of infinite shapes, of infinite uses, of infinitepossibilities, but also of infinite time. There are 5 major stages involved inthe life-cycle of the plastic bottler; raw material extraction, manufacturing,transportation and distribution, product use and disposal and recycling. Theraw materials after when they are extracted go to a manufacturer which thentakes everything and makes them into plastic pellets. These pellets are shrunkusing heat and pressure and they reshape those pieces of plastics to a stablestructured container. Thesheer magnitude of plastic bottle production and its growth rate, contrasted bya worrying inability to dispose of it efficiently, has experts raising thealarm. Despite the growing span of knowledge regarding this biohazard, theworld can’t seem to stop demanding it.
Growing dependency on the product bypopulations is raising concern about the future of the world’s ecosystems andthe health of emerging economies. There is no other material that hastranscends all nations, all modern economies, and all social classesnotwithstanding their wealth or way of life in the same manner as plastic hasdone is continuing to do. Introduction Thethird Chapter of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (United Nations, 2002) included a call for,”…the development of a 10 year framework of programmes in support of regionaland national initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainableconsumption and production patterns that will promote social and economicdevelopment within the carrying capacity of ecosystems…” Globally,the use of plastic bottles has become a common commodity used by man. The plasticbottle is usually used to hold liquids with the holding and storage of drinkingwater being the most dominant.
Other uses of the plastic bottle includes:storage of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), for holding medicines,motor oil, shampoos, cooking oil etc. it is estimated that the average Americanuses 167 plastic bottles annually. Africaand Ghana have also had its share of the increase in the demand and usage ofthe plastic bottle. In Ghana the use of plastic bottle was not common until theearly 2000’s and the use of plastic bottle is always associated with affluenceby the general public.
Forthe purpose of this paper, plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate(PET) will be considered. PET’s are blended with thermoplastic polymer whichcan be either opaque or transparent, conditional on the raw materialcomposition. Most PET used in the production of plastic bottles are producedfrom petroleum hydrocarbons, which is as a result of a reaction betweenethylene glycol and terephthalic acid (https://www.thomasnet.com). Briefhistory about plastic bottles Simplistically,a plastic bottle can be defined as a bottle constructed or made from plastic. Thefirst for of natural plastic was in invented during the renaissance period byLeonardo Da Vinci.
The plastic which was created by Da Vinci was made from bothanimal and vegetable glues combined with organic fibers materials. This mixturewas then used to coat the leaves of cabbage and papers. When this combinationdried Da Vinci was left with a product that would be described today as a plasticlike substance. (Rossella, 2004). In1862, Alexander Parkes was responsible for introducing the first man madeplastic at the Great International Exhibition in London. This man made plasticwas nicknamed Parkesine.
Parkesine was an organic cellulose material that onceheated, could be strategically molded into certain shapes and would keep shapewhen it was cooled. Unfortunately, Parkesine’s life span lasted only a shortperiod of time due to an extremely expensive production cost of raw materials.(Rossella, 2004). Next was the development of thecelluloid which was produced from a mixture of shredded tissue paper, sulficacid and ntric acid to develop the first thermoplastic and this was developedby John Wasley Hyatt. Celluloid is still used in modern day to makephotographic films. LeoBaekland may possibly be responsible for what is to be considered one of thegreatest inventions of the 20th century.
In 1907 Leo Baekland was trying tofind a more efficient insulator for electrical energy, which was at that timebecoming more expensive as the demand grew and the supply shrunk. After yearsof hard work Leo Baekland invented “Balelite”. Baekland then combinedone of his earlier inventions, the “bakelizer” (a heavy iron vesselthat was part pressure cooker and part basement boiler) with the”Balelite” which allowed him to precisely control heat and pressure,therefore allowing him to also control the reactions of chemicals. With thehelp of this new invention Baekland was able to form a resin which when hardened,would keep the shape of the mold, wouldn’t burn, boil, melt, or dissolve whentouched with any common acid or solvent (American Plastics Council, 2005). Allof these inventions led to the discovery of different type/categories ofplastic such as polyvinyl chloride, polyvinylidence chloride, Teflon,low-density polyethylene, etc.
Polyvinyl Chloride is the type of plastic thatis mostly found in vegetable oil bottles as well as food wraps; PET isprimarily used in water containers, beverage (soft drinks) and food containers.Plastic bottles for the holding of drinking water and soft drinks were firstseen in America in 1970, though the first bottled soda water in America wascreated in 1835, and the first PET bottle was made three years later after thewater and soft drink bottle in 1977. Plasticbottles were first used commercially in 1947 but remained relatively expensiveuntil the early 1960s when high-density polyethylene was introduced. Theyquickly became popular with both manufacturers and customers due to theirlightweight nature and relatively low production and transportation costscompared with glass bottles. However, the biggest advantage plastic bottleshave over glass is their superiorresistance to breakage, in both production and transportation. Except for wineand beer, the food industry has almost completely replaced glass bottles withplastic bottles. Lifecycle Analysis LifeCycle Assessment (LCA) could also be defined as a systematic set of proceduresfor compiling and examining the inputs and outputs of materials and energy andthe associated environmental impacts directly attributable to the functioningof a product or service system throughout its life cycle (ISO, 2014).
Theplastic bottle evolves through several stages of its life starting from rawmaterial extraction and ending at either Disposal or recycling. LCAhas its roots in the 1960s, when scientists concerned about the rapid depletionof fossil fuels. A few years later, global-modeling studies predicted theeffects of the world’s changing population on the demand for finite rawmaterials and energy resource supplies (Franklin Associates, 1991).
Thepredictions of rapid depletion of fossil fuels and resulting climatologicalchanges sparked interest in performing more detailed energy calculations onindustrial processes. In1969, the Midwest Research Institute (and later, Franklin Associates) initiateda study of the Coca-Cola Company to determine which type of beverage containerhad the lowest releases to the environment and made the fewest demands for rawmaterials and energy (Franklin Associates, 1991). This was the first everlifecycle analysis that was made on a plastic bottle. Forthis academic paper, the LCA of the plastic container will undergo five (5)phases: Phase1: Extraction of raw materials- this phase includes all processes involved inthe extraction of the resources from the earth. This will included drilling,refining, cracking, Polymerization etc. Phase2: Manufacturing- this involves in all the processes that the extracted rawmaterials go through to the point that it has been fabricated to the bottle aswe see such as Polymerization and molding. Phase 3: Transportation anddistribution- This phase involves the transportation and distribution of thefinished or manufactured bottle to the industry that will make use of it. Phase4 Product use- this is the phase where the product (plastic bottle) ispurchased and used buy the final consumer.
Phase5: end of life- this is the stage where the container is either disposed orrecycled. Note:There is a special interaction which links one phase to the other andin-between these spaces, a lot of things take place involving the utilizationof energy and movement. This interaction mostly have CO2 as a by-product. (http://www.
environment.gov.au)Delimitationsof this paper There are several broad areasthat can be considered when the life cycle of the plastic container is beingassessed but this paper will focus on the following areas. This paper will onlyfocus on plastic bottles made from extracted crude oil and natural gas. Due toenvironmental concerns, some manufacturing companies use bio-plastics. Theseplastic are made from plant materials processed from polymers, and they arethought to be environmentally friendly since they do not require extraction.Additionally they are biodegradable and have a short life expectancy makingthem unfit for long-term storage. Despite these various sources, mostartificial polymers today are made from petroleum.
Secondly,the paper will only consider the PET plastic bottles. These bottle are thebottles that are used for either water or soft minerals. The study will notconsider plastic made from other resins. Thispaper will not also consider capping and branding of the bottle. RawMaterial Extraction Oilis drilled worldwide due to its multiple purposes needed. In order to makeplastic, oil is drilled to mold the plastic container.
Majority of the oil ismade from PET. Thebirth of a plastic bottle begins when crude oil and natural gas are extractedfrom the environment. There are two steps in the drilling of oil. Because thedrilling operations are the only ones capable of certifying that oil is presentin the target location, teams of scientists are first sent to perform lengthyanalysis of the geological structures surrounding the location.
The extractionprocess can start once the scientists have given their assent. Next, severalwells are drilled, creating optimal networking for the reservoir. The crude oilis then extracted using water or gas pressure systems. At the well’s surface,specialized machinery separates liquids and gases. Petroleum has beenclassified into two groups: ‘conventional’ oil that is liquid and easy to pump;’unconventional’ oil, such as shale oil or extra heavy oil, which are extractedusing more sophisticated methods. Once the oil has been prospected,targeted, and extracted from the newly-dug well by huge pumping stations, thecrude oil is transported via a pipeline to an oil refinery.
It is then heatedup to hundreds of degrees, sent up a fractional distillation column, a towerthat separates the oil’s thousands of components using condensation orboiling-point techniques (the higher the boiling point, the lower up the columnthe component stays). Several distinct oils are thus obtained at the end of distillationprocess, such as fuel (for heating), diesel fuel, kerosene, and naphtha, theprimary component for plastic making which condenses between 180°C and 40°C. Itis also used to make colorants, fertilizers, cosmetics, perfume,pharmaceuticals, and various household products. Nextis the cracking stage. The collected naphtha needs to undergo an importanttransformation step before being used by the plastics engineers. Cracking isthe fragmentation of naphtha’s big hydrocarbon molecules into smaller, and thusmore easily processed, sections. First, the crude oil is mixed with watervapour.
The mélange is then heated to 800°C, then very quickly cooled down to400°C. The tiny molecules obtained (molecules with 2 to 7 carbon atoms calledmonomers) will be used to make chains called polymers, plastic’s basic buildingblocks. Naturalgas can also be transformed to ethylene which is used to create polymer solids.Natural gas is obtained by roughly the same methods of extraction and crackingas crude oil (sometimes on the same site), but the plastic industry uses it forits potentially high ethane content, a gas that, once it has been condensed atbelow 100°C, is another raw material for plastic making.
When heated to 850°C,ethane molecules separate and create a hydrogen and ethylene mix. Only thepurified ethylene is then used to create the future polymer solids, also calledpolyethylene. It can be noted that, to create 1 ton of plastic material, 1.25tons of ethane are needed, and the chemical industry annually produces a littleover 130 000 tons of ethylene. ManufacturingThe first stage in bottlemanufacturing is polymerization. In polymer chemistry, polymerization is aprocess of reacting monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form polymerchains or three-dimensional networks (Young 1987, IUPAC 2000, Clayden et al2000).
Asalready stated above, PET is made from petroleum hydrocarbon which is the mainingredient used in the manufacture of most plastic bottles. PET is made bymixing hydrocarbons with chemical catalysts, triggering polymerization. Testsare then carried out to confirm whether PET is glossy, thick, or is permeableto carbon dioxide. The PET mixture is heated and placed in molds via a processcalled molding. Usually, the type of the mixture is dependent on the kind ofthe plastic to be made. Some plastic are harder while others are softer. Thisusually take place in a manufacturing company.
Thenext stage of the manufacturing process is molding. There are several commonmolding methods for plastic containers (Extrusion Blow Molding (EBM), InjectionBlow Molding (IBM), Stretch Blow Molding (SBM)) however the method mostly usedin the manufacturing of PET plastic bottles in the injection blow molding. Atthis stage of the manufacturing process, the PET which has been refined isheated (seen in the figure above) and placed in a mold, the tube of PET is thentransferred into a second, bottle-shaped mold. A thin mandrel steel rod is slidinside the prison where it fills the parison with highly pressurized air.it isimportant to note that the parison is air tight; Once the rod is inside theparison then stretch blow molding begins and because of the pressurized air,heat and pressure, the parison is blown and stretched into the mold thereforemaking it to assuming a bottle shape.
To ensure that the bottom of the bottleretains a steadily flat shape as it is always seen, an unconnected component ofplastic is simultaneously joined to thebottle during blow molding to prevent the bottom of the bottle from deformingto an unwanted shape. This process is illustrated in the diagram above. Themold must be cooled very quickly, this is to enable the newly formed componentto be set properly.
There are several cooling methods, which can be both directand indirect but can effectively cool the mold and the plastic. Water can bestreamed through pipes surrounding the mold and this will lead to the indirectcooling of the mold and plastic. Direct methods include using pressurized airor carbon dioxide directly on the mold and plastic. Oncethe bottle has been cooled and set, it is ready to be removed from the mold. Ifa continuous molding process has been used, the bottles will need to beseparated by trimming the plastic in between them. If a non-continuous processhas been used, sometimes excess plastic can seep through the mold duringmanufacturing and will require trimming. After removing the bottle from themold and removing excess plastic, the bottles are ready for transportation.
Transportationand distribution Aftermanufacturing the bottles are disinfected and packed, ready for transportation.It is important to note that transportation exist throughout the lifecycle ofthe plastic bottle such as transportation from the wells to the refineriesthrough pipe as well as conveyor belt movement at the manufacturing stage. Theplastic bottle literally moves from birth to its disposal and recycling. Atthis stage the interest is the movement of the formed bottles from themanufacturing house to where they will be used to hold or store what they weremade for. Mostly this usually involves packaging them either boxes or rubbersacks and moved first in trucks. These trucks can either distribute to theusing company directly or through other modes of transports. The transportationcan take place in the following forms Truck– using Company Truck– Truck – using company Truck– Plane – Truck – using company Truck – Plane – Truck – Train –Truck – using company Truck- Train – Truck – using company Truck– ship – truck – using company Theflow above is not exhaustive, meaning that it can be in any form and this flowis determined by the manufacturing company and the using company.
Oncethese bottles arrive at the using company, they go through anothersterilization process and then they are filled with water, soft drink, cookingoil etc. (PET). Also it is at this stage that the bottle gets its branding andcapping.
The brand and the capping is determined by the using company. Afterfilling, capping and branding, the bottle is transport in a form such as theforms stated above just that this time it ends up in the market where is willbe consumed finally. Productuse Realistically,the product is said to be used when it is used to store or hold what it wasmade to hold or keep but that can be said to be a transit point in thetransportation process. The product is said have been used after it has beenpurchased in the market and its content is utilized. The bottles of water, softdrinks etc.
are sold through vendors are then consumed. Afterbeing drained (content consumed), the vast majority of these plastic bottlesbecome trash and end up in dumpsters, landfills, gutters, rivers and waterbodies or end up in the ocean wreaking havoc on ocean ecosystems. The remainingbottles end up in being recycled for reuse or recycled and used to manufactureother plastic substances. Ifthe plastic bottle is used to hold water (bottled water) that bottle will lastnot more than 3 months that is 30 days from filling and usage. And also if itis used for a soft drink like coca cola, then it will last not more than 18months from filling to content consumption. This means that the product(plastic bottle) realistically does not last beyond 24 months before it findsits way to destruction (bins).
Dumping and Recycling Amillion plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the numberwill jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis somecampaigners predict will be as serious as climate change. Ideally, all usedplastic bottles should end up in a recycler. But this is not usually the caseand that is the major concern with the use of plastic bottles. PETis a 100% recyclable material that replaced PVC in the 1990’s. PET is a lightercomponent than PVC: the weight of plastic water bottles was reduced by 1/3 byusing PET. PET is recycled into new products or materials, such as clothing,carpet, industrial products and, of course, new plastic bottles. Plasticbottles go through the recycling process to then be reused for new products.PET is first cut into little pieces and then it is cleaned.
It is transformedinto little balls that are later used to manufacture new products. Ifthe transforms balls are to be used in making plastic bottle then the cyclecontinue but this time starts at Manufacturing since there will be no need forraw materials to be extracted. Withthat in mind, it is easy to forget that plastics will be around for a longertime than it takes to buy, drink, and throw them. Although recycling is anexcellent way to reduce environmental pollution, use of bio-plastics can helpsave our environment. Nestle water:(https://waterstories.nestle-waters.com/environment/plastic-bottle-recycling/) Althoughplastic waste just like all substances can be biologically degraded, theproblem is the time involved in this process.
Though it may take a year to gothrough all the life cycle process, it will take thousands of years for asingle plastic bottle to be biodegraded. ConclusionTheuse of the plastic bottle has become a necessity in modern day communities,however the growing use of this product comes with a lot of environmentalimpacts throughout all stages of the life-cycle. The major life-cycle stages of thisproduct as discussed above are five but there are several intermediate linkagesthat exist. It is also worth noting that this cycle is continues thus once thecrude is extracted from the oil fields and is used to make PET, the productlike any other matter does not leave the earth surface but keep changing fromone form to another. Althoughthe importance of the plastic bottle to modern civilization cannot beoverlooked it is important that in every stage of life of the bottle, thewelfare of the environment be taken into account else the product will end updestroying the very environment which it came from as well as the generalwellbeing of the vary people it is to manufactured for. ReferencesAllScienceofPlastics|Chemical Heritage Foundation. (n.d.
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