DES40A Section 4
15 March 2015
Is It Beneficial or Harmful
The Sharpie is a permanent marker, which includes various colors and styles, that is distributed into many different countries. It was created by Frederick W. Redington and William H. Sanford, Jr in 1857. It gained huge popularity, because it can write on various surface textures. Still to this day, the Sharpie is more than just a marker. It stands out and stays on permanently. The life cycle of a product mainly has three different stages: It starts with the raw materials of the product, embodied energy process, and waste emissions. The process of one whole life cycle of a product involves various raw materials. There are not only primary and secondary resources, there are other materials that are used chemically in different stages of the production. Compared to the number of raw materials that are used for the Sharpie production, the number of raw materials that are recycled are extremely low, almost none. Various raw materials are used to produce the Sharpie, and those cannot be recycled, so they form sufficient amounts of waste and emissions. Consistent production of a product facilitates global pollution, so the sharpie can be considered a wasteful product to the environment. Producers and customers should be aware that the Sharpie’s raw materials are not reusable one, and thus the product produces waste and emissions that are harmful to the environment.
The Sharpie, permanent marker, divides into mainly four different parts. It is distributed into the felt tip, body, marker reservoir, and ink. Each part contains different primary materials for the production. In order to form a felt tip, felt is required. Felt is produced from wool and synthetic fiber. The mixture of those two materials can make the felt resilient and have longevity. By adding a weak sulfuric acid mixture, a mixture of sodium chloride and sulfuric acid, the felt tip starts to thicken. The body, which includes the cap and plug, requires plastic resin for the permanent marker production. The primary source for the plastic resin is hydrocarbon, when hydrogen gets compounded with carbon. After hydrocarbon is formed, the cracking process begins. When hydrocarbon heats up, it breaks down into separate molecules, which results in propylene and ethylene. Propylene and Ethylene later build compounds and form chains and that lead to various polymers. Due to various polymers, plastic resin results have various characteristics.
In order to make permanent markers work, the role of the ink reservoir and ink is significant in the process. Polyester is the main component to produce the marker reservoir. It is a “synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum” (“Polyester”). In order to form polyester, two raw materials are needed, and they are ethylene and purified terephthalic acid. Ethylene comes from hydrocarbon. Hydrocarbon uses a steam cracking process that results in ethylene production. Terephthalic acid is an organic compound with the formula of C6H4(CO2H)2. It has substantial fungibility, so it is used as a precursor to the polyester. It is formed by the oxidation of paraxylene. Paraxylene is produced when the the Pascagoula plant uses hybrid adsorption technology. After making the reservoir, the substance that goes into the reservoir should be formed. The raw material for the ink is permachrome. The mixture of propanil (an organic compound with the formula of C9H9Cl2NO), N-Butanol primary alcohol with a four-carbon structure and the chemical formula of C4H9OH), Diacetone alcohol (a chemical compound with the formula of CH3CCH2C), and P-Tert Butyphenol (an organic compound with the formula C10H14O) is the starting stage of the permachrome production. Then, alcohol and dye gets added and mixed together to finally form permachrome. Alcohol is an ethanol that is produced from a fermentation process. Fermentation happens when glucose is added with yeast, it turns into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Dyes come from plant sources, which are wood, fungi, leaves, and lichens. Those primary materials are added together to create the secondary raw materials of the Sharpie.
Using various raw materials, a manufacturing process occurs to form a permanent marker. In order to make the body of a marker, the plastic resin is molded into a marker body by using an injection molding process. The process involves “heating a substance into a molten state and forcing it into a mold of the desired shape, then allows it to cool it down” (“Everything You Need to Know About Injection Molding”). This method is also used to make caps and plugs of the product. Manufacturing nib and tip of the marker is a different process, where powder is mixed with water and gets molded into the pointed form. Using a machine, an assembler places “polyester cylinder inside the marker barrel to form a reservoir for the ink, fills the reservoir with ink, and inserts the nib at the bottom and the cap at the top” (“Marker”). The ink manufacturing process, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the mixture of the remainder of solvents and 1-10% water. During this process, nonylphenyl polyglycol ether, alkyl glycol ether, fatty acid polyglycol ester, or fatty alcohol ethoxalates, and preservatives, such as ortho-phenolphenyl and its sodium salt, ortho-hydroxydiphenyl, may also be added to the mixture to form different colors or textures of the marker (“Marker”). After this stage, all parts of the marker are combined into one form, the Sharpie, and gets packaged to deliver to retail stores.
After the markers are all packaged and ready to be delivered to retail markets, distribution and transportation steps occur. Most companies place their products into cardboard boxes for transportation. Cardboard boxes originally come from pine trees. When trees get harvested, they immediately go into kraft process, the sulfate process that is used to break down the wood chips and fibrous pulp. After pulping, the fibers are placed into the paper machine where boxes are formed, pressed, dried, and rolled. In order to bond the corrugated medium, corn starch glue is used. After cardboard boxes are produced and filled with makers, trucks and airplanes start to transport those products into different countries. Trucks use diesel fuel and airplanes use aviation fuel in order to drive and move to different places.
Even though various raw materials are used to produce the Sharpie, most of those products are non-recyclable. Difficulty happens since there are many harmful ink substances that permanent markers contain in them. Terracycle, a system that takes non-recyclable product and waste and turn them into a raw material, is the way that allows permanent marker to be recycled or produce less waste to the environment (“About Terracycle”). The plastic barrel of a marker can be recyclable, but the ink cartridge and felt applicator point must be removed since it can be a toxic. Terracycle does not specifically explain about the actual steps of marker recycling, which grows concern and doubt to people. Since there is no accurate, proper, and safe way to recycle a permanent marker, people tend to just throw it away into the landfill.
Since people do not have sufficient knowledge about how to recycle the Sharpie, they usually throw it away into garbage disposals, which ends it up in landfills. Since the marker reservoir carries toxic substance, it can be harmful for animals and humans if the reservoir breaks down. If there is any expose of the ink from the reservoir, water can be used in order to cool down the substance. However, this situation will cause waste water and make water non-reusable. Due to continuous waste and emissions, the liquid ink cannot be “dumped down a drain, to dispose of non-toxic ink, the ink must be combined with an absorbent material, such as cotton ball, to make it a solid” (“The Alarming Results of Pouring These 7 Things Down The Drain”). If the waste and emissions are continuous, the Sharpie will result harmful outcomes to the environment.
The Sharpie is a permanent marker, which contains various raw materials in different stages of the product. Different raw materials are used in manufacturing, processing, distributing, and transporting stages. Since various raw materials are used in the production of one permanent marker, it is important to know how to recycle them or transform them into any reusable materials. However, the manufacturer or government does not inform customers about the recycling process of the Sharpie, which causes throwing away in the landfills. Due to the increasing rate of waste and emission, it is important to find significant ways to improve the harmful outcomes. One of the ways to protect Earth from waste and emissions is to replace products into non-toxic and reusable materials. For example, manufacture the marker that has clear body, which contains replaceable ink reservoir. This will allow people to understand parts of the product and have more interest in recycling, since they can save money by replacing old ink reservoir to new one. Reusable reservoir will cause dramatic change in rate of waste and emission. Not only the manufacturer, but also the government should create the framework for the proper management of hazardous waste. It should ensure that “hazardous waste is managed safely from ‘cradle to grave’ meaning from the time it is created, while it is transported, treated, and stored, and until it is disposed” (“Learn the Basics of Hazardous Waste”). By using these methods and solutions for the permanent marker, the usage of raw materials will be influential on recovering the earth from the pollution. It is important to think about whether the product provides convenience to the customers. But, it should mainly focus on whether the product is considered useful or wasteful for both human and environment.
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DES40A Section 4
15 March 2015
Sharpies can be found in most classrooms, offices, and households, but their abundance also comes with an outstanding number of emissions and waste products from making the permanent marker. The life cycle of a product begins from where the raw materials are extracted, includes all steps of its production, and ends at its disposal. It may seem straightforward, but even an item as simple as a permanent marker embodies dozens of undisclosed emissions during its life cycle. There are emissions from obtaining and transporting the raw materials from other countries, chemical waste during manufacture, and pollution from the factory. The majority of negative environmental impacts come from the extraction and formulation of primary and secondary raw materials. By informing society about the great amounts of waste and emissions that come from making an everyday item, people will come to appreciate and value all products and avoid wasting them.
Acquiring the raw materials of a Sharpie requires complicated procedures that have environmentally damaging consequences that people often overlook. The company may advertise themselves as non-toxic and recyclable, but the process of creating the secondary raw materials are hazardous to the environment. The components of a Sharpie are the cap, barrel body, ink reservoir, felt tip, and the ink. The cap and barrel body are made of plastic resin. Sharpie does not reveal what specific plastics go into the plastic resin, but most pens and markers use polypropylene and polystyrene for the cap and body. The production of polystyrene has a detrimental effect on our atmosphere. The chlorofluorocarbons emitted from its production has 1200 times the greenhouse gas effect of carbon dioxide. Polypropylene comes from the polymerization of propene, a process that requires equipment capable of reaching high pressures and temperatures. I do not know the details of the equipment, but it most likely needs a power source that pollutes the air. The ink reservoir is made of polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly known as polyester. Factories synthetically develop polyester from air, water, petroleum, and coal, leading to wastewaters and pollution. The felt tip is made of compacted powder, but I cannot find what the power ingredients are and where they are extracted from. The ink of a Sharpie consists of n-propanol, diacetone alcohol, n-butyl alcohol, and n-hexane, most of which are secondary raw materials. N-propanol is a byproduct of synthesizing methyl alcohol using a high pressure anvil press. The emissions and pollution of the machinery cannot be found. Since anvil presses are large, heavy machines, I can predict it involves a lot of fuel, and as a result a lot of pollution, to power. I cannot find information about diacetone alcohol, so I will refer to methyl isobutyl ketone, a related chemical. Methyl isobutyl ketone is made of acetone. N-butanol and acetone are produced from propene. Industries require fossil fuels like petroleum and natural gases to create propene. It is also a byproduct of refining oil and processing natural gas. Companies obtain n-hexane by refining crude oil. The process of refining crude oil emits sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons, particulates, carbon monoxides, nitrogen oxides, smoke, and odors. All of these have control methods except for nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen dioxide is a corrosive gas that is harmful to both vegetation and the human respiratory tract.
The production of a Sharpie involves complex chemical and mechanical processes, resulting in many different kinds of emissions. People usually ignore the transportation factor of making a product. However, the emissions from driving and flying the materials between countries are detrimental to the environment. Production begins by shipping all the parts to a factory. The components of the Sharpie are shipped and assembled by Sanford LP. There are many factories in the United States and even one in Mexico, but the largest factory is in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The top countries that fly supplies to Sanford includes China, Germany, and Japan. A round trip flight from China, Germany, and Japan emits around 4.5, 2.9, and 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide respectively. The largest producer of polypropylene is located in the Netherlands, but it is not certain that they provide for Sharpie. If they do get their polypropylene from the Netherlands, a round trip flight emits around 2.7 tons of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, an average driver would have to drive almost 4,500 miles to equal one ton of carbon dioxide emission. It takes about 15 tons of carbon dioxide emission to even get the materials to the production site. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, with consequences including a reduction of the ozone layer, a rise in sea level, and an alteration in ecosystems. To make the plastic barrel, cap, and reservoir for the ink, factories use the method of injection molding. Plastic resin pellets are funneled into the machine and injected into a mold. The pellets are either polypropylene, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate. The constituents of polypropylene fumes are formaldehyde, acrolein, and acetone. Side effects of formaldehyde include “irritation to eyes, nose, throat, respiratory system [and] potential occupational carcinogen”; side effects of acrolein include “irritation to eyes, skin, mucous membrane; decreased pulmonary function; delayed pulmonary edema [and] chronic resp. disease”; side effects of acetone include “irritation to eyes, nose, throat; headache, dizziness, central nervous system depression [and] dermatitis” (Sentry Air Systems). The fumes from polystyrene include butane, with side effects including “drowsiness, narcosis, [and] asphyxia” (Sentry Air Systems). The fumes from polyethylene terephthalate contain styrene and have the same side effects of butane. I could not find the production process of the felt tip, and therefore have a lack of information on its emissions. Factory workers must be cautious during the production process of the permanent ink. The chemicals needed for the ink emit fumes that are bothersome and harmful when inhaled. N-propanol fumes can slow down the central nervous system, making it more difficult to breathe. Methyl isobutyl ketone fumes cause eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation. Symptoms of n-butyl alcohol include mild headache and slight eye irritation, but more severe symptoms are present when there is a high concentration of n-butyl alcohol in the atmosphere. N-hexane fumes cause eye, throat, and respiratory tract irritation, but once the fumes are gone, the symptoms also dissipate quickly.
Sharpies can be recycled and degraded, but the time, money, energy, and resources deter companies and people from disposing the markers in an eco-friendly manner. Most factories send their plastic waste to landfills or incineration facilities. The Sharpie company sends its recyclable waste to TerraCycle, an outside recycling company. TerraCycle engages in upcycling, or giving the recyclable waste materials a new purpose. This prevents the need to extract more raw materials, which accounts for 90% of the environmental impact of manufacturing an average product. However, TerraCycle requires factories to drive a full truckload of their waste over to their facility, factoring carbon dioxide emissions into the recycling process. In order to recycle a Sharpie, the ink and felt tip must be separated from the plastic body, since the plastics used to make the body are hard to decompose. Polyethylene terephthalate is not biodegradable, but can be recycled. Companies often outsource polystyrene to less developed countries and left in a dump. The large amount of time it takes for polystyrene to decompose makes it one of the most harmful plastics. Even though the plastic can be recycled, only a small percentage are. Also, it may seem optimistic that TerraCycle repurposes the plastic from the marker, but it involves a pollutive process. In some instances, repurposing waste is not cost efficient for companies, and many do not invest in a recycling or reuse system. The permanent ink of a Sharpie are harmful to people, but as a matter of fact, the chemicals are biodegradable. Laboratory tests imitating sewage, sludge and wastewater environments show that n-propanol and n-butyl alcohol are biodegradable. N-butyl alcohol in the atmosphere degrades when it reacts with hydroxyl radical. When left in soil or water, microorganisms break it down. Methyl isobutyl ketone is biodegradable in aerobic and anaerobic freshwater and seawater. N-hexane is fully biodegradable in soil, water, and air. Even though the ink is biodegradable, environmental regulations restrict anything that with change the color of the system water from being dumped down the drain. Factories must dispose the ink as a solid after combining it with an absorbent material.
Consumer society tend to disregard the complexity of their seemingly simple objects, leading to wastefulness. Retrieving the raw materials, manufacturing the marker, and disposing the refuse a Sharpie results in waste products that go unnoticed by the public. Sharpies not only leave permanent marks on paper; they also leave a permanent mark on the planet. The public fails to take into consideration the emissions of creating the secondary raw materials as well as the carbon dioxide pollution from transporting materials to the factories. The chemicals in the plastic resin and permanent ink emit toxic fumes that create an unhealthy environment for factory workers. Recycling may seem like a great solution to dispose of waste, but hidden within the process are the transportation and factory pollution involved in upcycling the plastics. If the public is aware of the plethora of harmful emissions involved in the production of a mundane permanent marker, they will have a newfound appreciation for every object surrounding them. Hopefully, this will encourage people to get more involved in using everything to their full extent before disposing them. By doing so, factories can avoid the need to extract new raw materials, an extremely emission heavy process. These emissions are unforgiving and permanent, but can be avoided if people use what they already have instead of constantly buying new things.
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