Jake (Jiehua) Huang
30 November 2018
Choosing a Proper Way to Recycle Plastic Picnic Coolers Is Necessary
A picnic cooler is commonly used to help food and beverages maintain their freshness at low temperatures. It is made up of a plastic interior, exterior shells, and chest construction. It is difficult to assume that a portable cooler can replace refrigerators, just because of its portability. In the article “Cooler Backpack with Compartments,” Douglas Brown says, “Preferably, separate compartments are provided for holding food, beverage containers, and ice” (Brown). A portable cooler has different sections, which serve different purposes. Many people use portable coolers when they go out for picnics, or when they go on trips, because they can keep drinks cool for several hours. Therefore, the invention of a picnic cooler has allowed its users to be able to drink ice cold beverages, even when they do not have immediate access to a refrigerator.
The life cycle assessment of picnic coolers can be broken down into several parts: the production of each part of the cooler, the use of the cooler as a product, the collection of the used cooler, and the management of wastes and emissions. Since the main part of the cooler is made of plastic, which is toxic to the ecological environment, the management of wastes and emissions after use is important. While recent efforts have been made more sustainable for the processing of waste materials and emissions associated with plastic coolers, the environmental impacts of the production are still evident, due to the remnants of the used and discarded coolers.
Because plastic is versatile, light and cheap, many producers use plastic as shells for picnic coolers. However, they are not aware that the increasing use of plastic leads to a series of health and ecological issues. Bruce Thornbloom mentions that a plastic picnic cooler has become a useful tool in people’s daily life, because of its excellent performance when it comes to the isolation of heat. With its versatility, manufacturers are experiencing an increase in the demand for plastics every year. On “A Review on Thermal and Catalytic Pyrolysis of Plastic Solid Waste,” Sultan Al-Salem writes that, “The global production of plastics was reported to be 299 million tons in the year 2013 and an increase of 4% has been reported over the year 2014, reaching a production rate of 311 million tons” (178). Due to the demand of plastic products like coolers, plastic wastes increase constantly and drastically. Moreover, some countries do not have a proper way of dealing with used plastic products, leading to various environmental and health problems. Al-Salem establishes that:
Developing world countries rely solely on landfilling as a strategy for MSW disposal, without realizing the advantages that certain recycling schemes might add to their economic chain value. Increase in landfilling without the right means of feedstock or energy recovery, which is what many developing world countries rely upon, has also been associated with major health and environmental concerns, namely in causing ground water contamination, increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, risk of fire and explosion, human health hazard and sanitary problems. (Al-Salem et al. 178)
Landfilling is a cheap and convenient treatment over plastic processing, but landfilling is not a sustainable solution for the disposal of solid plastic wastes. If the people who live nearby a landfilling ground get overly-exposed to such, their physical health can be affected by the process. Landfilling also affects the quality of water and soil. In addition, some developing countries are still subscribed to burning disposals to process plastic solid waste. However, when plastic is set on fire, it produces toxic gases that may be inhaled or absorbed by plants, animals and humans. Significant amounts of plastic waste also contribute to the large-scale pollution of the oceans (Katsnelson, 2015). Therefore, looking for another effective and sustainable treatment for plastic solid waste is necessary.
For effective plastic waste management, Kamilė Sabaliauskaitė, and Kliaugaitė Daina propose that manufacturers should engage in wood-plastic composite (WPC) production. “The life cycle assessment has revealed that carbon footprints throughout the life cycle of one kilogram of WPC wall panel are 37% lower than those of the same weight of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) wall panel product” (Sabaliauskaitė and Daina). Wood-plastic products produce lower amounts of carbon footprint during emissions stages, compared to regular plastic products. Additionally, lower amounts of carbon footprint cause fewer environmental and health problems. This is an effective solution for the management of emissions.
Even though some scientists have discovered a plastic waste treatment technique which solves the problem of pollution, as well as the recovery of energy, there still exist many discarded plastic products, which have not been recycled. Therefore, manufacturers should provide a wider range of approaches, wherein consumers can ask plastic product sellers various questions about their involvement in the collection and recycling of used plastic products. Al-Salem provides more effective methods of dealing with plastic solid waste:
1) Primary means: where plastic process scrap is re-introduced in the heating cycle of the processing line to increase production; 2) Mechanical recycling (secondary methods): where mechanical (physical) means of treatment are used to re-extrude, process and convert PSW, typically blended with virgin polymers aiming at reducing overall cost. (Al-Salem, et al., 178)
These methods turn used plastic into other forms of energy or use the plastic wastes to create other products. Some people might question if it is worth recycling such, because this treatments require high technology and the process of controlling the pollutant emissions need to be accurately executed. In addition, the premise of executing these treatments needs consumers and manufacturers to have the awareness to recycle plastic goods. In the article “Novel Ways with Waste,” Lou Reade shows that, “in 1950, says EuPR, global plastics production was at 1.5 million tons; by 2008, that figure had ballooned to 245 million tons” (23). The demand for plastic production in Europe has increased dramatically. However, only 50 million tons of plastics have been processed to becoming useable products (Reade 24). To recycle larger amounts of used plastic, manufacturers need to have an efficient approach when it comes to the collection of plastic products, and consumers also need to know how they should deal with discarded plastic.
Another component of a cooler is the polyurethane foam, which is used as a rigid foam insulation panel that can be recycled in different ways. Unfortunately, polyurethane foam wastes also affect the environment. According to the article “Picnic Chest Construction,” Donald Berchtold mentions that, “Rigid polyurethane foams may be prepared by well-known procedures from polyesters, diisocyanatos, and water” (Berchtold). Polyurethane foams are made from polyesters and diisocyanatos, which are bioproducts of crude oil. To recycle polyurethane foam, Chris Braddock introduces that it can be done “in two ways: mechanical recycling, wherein the material is reused in its polymer form, and chemical recycling, which takes the material back to its component molecules” (35). Mechanical recycling is to break down polyurethane foam and then turn it to the components of other products. Braddock also relays that, “A recent industry survey found that rebond composed of nearly 90% of the 462 million square yards of flooring underlay was sold in 2010” (35). These statistics show that a large amount of polyurethane foam have successfully been recycled to become polyurethane underlay in the market. The risk of using polyurethane foam as underlay, on the other hand, is that the process of production of polyurethane product produces a lot of scrap. For instance, if a producer of picnic coolers needs to cut the polyurethane foam material in a rectangular shape to an oval, there will be a fair amount of polyurethane foam that will be wasted. To recycle the wastes of polyurethane foam, manufacturers may collect them and combine them to turn them into polyurethane underlay. Additionally, Braddock also introduces the chemical recycling method. “This process combines mixed industrial and post-consumer polyurethanes with diols at high heat, causing a chemical reaction that creates new polyols – the raw material used to make polyurethanes” (36). Through the chemical recycling method, new polyols function the same as the original polyols. Since this recycling method can be used again and again, more and more manufactures start recycling discarded products. Even though there are two ways to transform polyurethane foam into useful materials, the environmental impacts are still hard to miss. In the article “Recycling and Disposal Methods for Polyurethane Foam Wastes,” Wenqing Yang claims that, “because polyurethane foam plastic pile-up density is small, about 30 kg/m³, stockpiling will take up a lot of area” (Yang 168). People need to have a space which is large enough for storing polyurethane foam wastes. Furthermore, manufactures cannot just leave polyurethane foam waste in a storage room for a long period of time, because it will generate bacteria that can greatly affect the living environment. To avoid these adverse effects, manufacturers must choose an intelligent way to recycle the polyurethane foam wastes.
When looking at the structure of a plastic cooler, its constitution can appear really simple. However, plastic products generate toxic wastes and emissions which lead to environmental costs and environmental impacts. In the same way, if manufacturers don’t deal with waste polyurethane foam properly, the people who live nearby their factories can be affected, especially their health. Even though there are multiple treatments for plastic and polyurethane foam disposals, landfilling is still used by some developing countries. To reduce the problem of pollution, manufacturers need to provide better access to consumers when it comes to returning discarded products. Most importantly, manufacturers may choose to resort to reusable and renewable materials in the production of sustainable products.
Arena, Noemi, et al. "Life cycle engineering of production, use and recovery of self-chilling beverage cans." Journal of cleaner production 142 (2017): 1562-1570.
Al-Salem, S. M., et al. “A Review on Thermal and Catalytic Pyrolysis of Plastic Solid Waste (PSW).” Journal of Environmental Management, 2017, p. 177. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.03.084.
Plastic is used in different fields, such as toys, medical, construction and so on. One of the causes that we use a lot of plastic is economic growth and development increased. Pyrolysis is a plastic waste treatment technique, and it can solve the pollution problem and it recover energy and product. More and more manufacturers will use this method because it is helpful for solving the environmental pollution and reduction of carbon footprint.
Reade, Lou. “Novel Ways with Waste.” Chemistry & Industry, no. 19, Oct. 2011, pp. 23–25. EBSCOhost, ccsf.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=67380379&site=eds-live.
The article is about plastic recycling efforts of European Plastic recycler which is mechanical, chemical and energy recovery in Europe. It mentions that the energy recovery method converts plastic materials into fuel. Furthermore, mechanical make product to be the new product, and chemical occurs in the plastics factory. Overall, this kind of technology technique let raw material transform to the useful resource which is a sustainable method to process plastic material.
Braddock, Chris. “Recovering the ‘Forgotten’ Foam.” Resource Recycling, vol. 30, no. 12, Dec. 2011, p. 35. EBSCOhost, ccsf.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=v1h&AN=67630672&site=eds-live.
Yang, Wenqing, et al. "Recycling and disposal methods for polyurethane foam wastes." Procedia Environmental Sciences 16 (2012): 167-175.
Berchtold, Donald V. "Picnic chest construction." U.S. Patent No. 3,389,824. 25 Jun. 1968.
Another component of picnic cooler is plastic liner which is sheet material. Many designers of picnic cooler tested different materials for building a proper liner, and finally, they decided to make a styrene plastic liner. The liner consists of a polymer of styrene butadiene and acrylonitrile. The advantage of these materials is strong enough for resistance to puncturing. Moreover, the construction of the cooler liner provides a solution to the problem and difficulties discussed in the article.
Thornbloom Jr, Bruce Norman. "Picnic cooler." U.S. Patent No. 3,979,007. 7 Sep. 1976.
Combination lid and handle provides the cooler a hinged-door section, and this section can support the inner surface of the lid. The purpose of having a lid and handle assembly is to prevent outward and downward rotation motion and keep the lid in a horizontal position. Therefore, the design of the handle and lid provide a functional workspace on the inner surface of the lid when the lid is turned on. This handle is functioned as the handle and it can engage in the lid groove, which saves space for the cooler.
Sabaliauskaitė, Kamilė, and Daina Kliaugaitė. “Resource Efficiency and Carbon Footprint Minimization in Manufacture of Plastic Products.” Environmental Research, Engineering & Management, vol. 67, no. 1, Apr. 2014, pp. 25–34. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5755/j01.erem.67.1.6587.
One method to make the plastic product more sustainable is that people need to have highly efficient resource management, waste recycling and reuse renewable resource. This article mentions that if people want to reduce the amount of carbon, people had better use of wood-plastic composite production. Using wood-plastic material may have better management of resources and minimization of carbon footprint. Also, it would have lower negative effects on the environment and increase the efficiency of the resource.
Brown, Douglas M., Donald J. Erickson, and Geoffrey H. Willis. "Cooler backpack with compartments." U.S. Patent No. 5,509,279. 23 Apr. 1996.
Wierckx, Nick, et al. “Plastic Waste as a Novel Substrate for Industrial Biotechnology.” Microbial Biotechnology, vol. 8, no. 6, Sept. 2015, pp. 900–903. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/1751-7915.12312.