Yu-Tzu Yang (Catherine)
Professor Christina Cogdell
13 March 2014
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Banner Waste
Today in the modern world, people enjoy lots of different designs to satisfy the human needs, but there are always wastes, pollutions, and impacts behind the industrial manufacturing, processing, and each step from life cycle through the products. What kind of waste and emissions will probably leach out? There are solid wastes, water wastes, air wastes, and other environmental release within each step to reach the final products. However, while having the wastes and pollutions, there are also the reusable and recyclable parts of the products. Therefore, the products can be reuse again and maybe have less wastes and emissions than making a whole new product. In order to find out what kind of wastes a product has through each step, from the first stage materials through the last stage waste management; people will have to find out what is the specific product made of, how the process works, what are the transportations of the product, is it recyclable or reusable, and finally what are the waste managements. First, I will introduce brief characteristics of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), how to make it, and what it is used for. Second, it will be about the materials used to make PVC banner and the wastes that the materials produce. Third, it will be the wastes and emissions that produced during the processing, manufacturing, and formulation. Fourth, it will be the wastes that produce during the transport of PVC. Fifth, I will be talking about the PVC banner wastes based on re-use and maintenance. Sixth, it will be the wastes that produce during the disposal and recycle. Finally, I will talk about the last stage of a life cycle-waste management based on wastes and emissions.
First of all, what is vinyl? Vinyl was first invented in 1920. Vinyl’s full name is actually called polyvinyl chloride, and it is also known as PVC. Vinyl is a man-made plastic material and it is the world’s most adaptable plastic, vinyl has brought safe, useful, durable, and efficient products to people everywhere for a long time, and therefore, vinyl is making life easier every day. Vinyl is very resistant to moisture and humidity, and it can be produce in many different colors, which is good for using vinyl banner for advertisement. Vinyl is made from ethylene which is found in crude oil and chlorine which is found in regular salt. In further details, how is vinyl banner made? Once the chlorine and ethylene are obtained together, the manufacturing procedure of vinyl starts which is made up in three main simple steps. The steps are monomer process, process of polymerization, and compounding of vinyl. Next, what do vinyl used for? The durable and low-maintenance quality characteristics of vinyl, made it become a popular material in home, health care, auto industry, children toys, food packaging. After knowing the brief introduction of materials used to make up vinyl, the steps of process vinyl, and the world wide use of it, now we can look into the wastes of all these procedures.
Secondly, the materials used to produce the PVC banners are crude oil, chlorine found in regular salt, and solvent ink. The material, chlorine plays a major role in the most pressing environmental problems today, which are the wastes, depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and acid rain. Chlorine in the salt form itself can exist safely, but the process of splitting the regular salt into chlorine gas makes it become dangerously toxic. For solvent ink, the solvent and water are vaporized into the air. Crude oil which is also known as petroleum, it comes from many different substances, such as oil and natural gas. They are mainly the compounds of only two elements, which are carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) and when they are combined together, therefore we called it hydrocarbons. Crude oil itself also produces the byproducts, but they are useful and are used to make waxes, plastics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Crude oil produce the air pollution, such as the Greenhouse Gas, by burning the oil products for electricity generation releases an average of 3.5 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 1.2 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOX). The solid waste will be the salt water, drilling muds and chemicals that are used in the drilling process of crude oil. All the solid waste produce from crude oil will be disposal after complete the process of drilling. In further details, the oil production and refining produces waste products can easily cause land pollutions and oil spills can harm the soil. The databases, libraries, books, webpages, and other researches didn’t have enough information about some of the wastes of all the materials, they all stated that the materials have wastes, but they didn’t tell what are the wastes called and the percentage of the wastes from each materials. It is probably no one really cares about the details on wastes of these materials. All the wastes I list here for the materials are all I can find through all the researches.
Third, there are lots of emissions and wastes during the process and manufacturing of the PVC banner industry. During the process, first step is the monomer process, the combination of ethylene and chlorine yields a liquid waste called ethylene dichloride (EDC). The EDC was produced then put through the cracking process and then it will results in the formation of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). In the second step, process of polymerization, the VCM is polymerized and transformed into the PVC banner. The second process yields vinyl resin as the final material and the form of the vinyl resin is in the form of powder. The final step is the process of compounding of vinyl. During the production process of PVC banner, there are many emissions release to the environment, they are ethylene, ethylene dichloride, organochlorines, oxychlorination, mercury or asbestos, dioxins, phthalates, and finally polyvinyl chloride. All these emissions come out through the cracking process, polymerization, electrolysis and some of them are natural release. Next, the PVC banner manufacturing produces the waste and toxin chemicals of dioxins, hydrochloride acid, chloroethene monomer, plasticizers, and vinyl chloride. The chloroethene is a special colorless gas or liquid, it can be both, which has a faint of sweetness and when it breaks it will release the toxins. In the United States, the PVC industries release more than 35,000 pounds of mercury into the environment annually. On the other hand, there are about 100,000 tons of EDC (Ethylene Dichloride) and VCM (Vinyl Chloride Monomer) are release into the air annually. In further details, EDC and VCM are created to form Polyvinyl Chloride, both of EDC and VCM exposure are connected to human body and can harm the human body, for examples, liver, testicular, weaken the body system response, and DNA damage. While producing VCM and EDC, there is a by-product will be produce during the production process which is the PCBs. PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) have been notify as to cause a serious variety of health effects, for examples, cancer and damage the nervous system. (There is a simple figure showing the general environmental emissions of PVC process on the last page, but it doesn’t contain all the emissions from the process. Figure.1) For the production process, manufacturing and industry, the information I found through all the researches are all focus on the liquid wastes, air wastes, and environmental release wastes. There is no information about the solid wastes being mentioned, probably there are no solid wastes or they are not important.
Fourth, what are the wastes and emissions during the transport of the PVC banner? There is much different transportation, but the three main ones are cars, trucks, and ships. The system of transportation makes sure that wastes are tracked from the time they are first created until they are properly disposed or recycled. Therefore, the wastes of transportation can include raw components, sub-assemblies, boxes or any other objects that was needed for the production. The waste of transportation will be shown more in the material delivery areas than the production areas. For cars and trucks, both of them produce air pollution wastes. The air pollution wastes include pollution leach out during vehicle operation, refueling, manufacturing, and disposal. The air pollution wastes from cars and trucks is categorized into two parts, primary and secondary pollution. Primary pollution is going directly into the atmosphere and the secondary pollution results from chemical reactions between pollutants in the atmosphere. The major pollution wastes from cars and trucks are Particulate matter (PM), Hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Carbon monoxide (CO), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), Hazardous air pollutants (toxics), and Greenhouse gases. For the ships, there are waste water from sinks, showers, oily bilge water and ballast water and there are also solid wastes and air pollution from ships. The air pollutions are just like what the cars and trucks have because they are all using the fuel to move and transport the products. For the transport wastes, all the sources only talk about the waster wastes for the ships, the sources that I found only mentioned solid wastes, but they don’t tell in details what are the solid wastes, only stated “solid wastes.”
Fifth, what are the wastes of PVC banner when using, re-using, and doing maintenance produce? Most of the PVC products including PVC banner are harmless to people. PVC has been made into so many products like children toys which show it is safe for children. However, a study find out that the additives that added into certain PVC products may leach out DEHP which is a phthalate additive. The thermoplastics can be melted down and then reused, but the quality of the plastics will be degraded every time when process the reuse cycle. For the wastes of use, re-use, and maintenance, I tried to found all the wastes, but I can only found one talking about the general PVC products in use may release out the DEHP. There are not any articles, journals, books, webpages talks about it, even the libraries don’t have the information, it might be a very small and narrow topic that not many people had wrote about the details of it.
Sixth, what are the wastes from disposal and recycle of PVC banner? There are two types of positive effects recycling. First one is mechanical recycling which is also known as material recycling, it loops the materials back directly into a new life cycle, but it needs a certain stable quality of the recycled product, the materials need to be in good shapes. The other one is chemical recycling which is known as feedstock recycling, it goes back to a new life cycle too, but it generally allows certain quality variations in the input. It’s a good thing that the PVC can be recycle, but it is hard to recycle which takes a lot of time to recycle because PVC’s durable characteristic. Therefore, there are several ways to disposal PVC. One way is incineration, but it causes the release of dioxins and other toxic chemicals. When incineration burns the plastics it will release the wastes of carbon dioxide (CO2), greenhouse gas, vinyl chloride, PCBs, chlorobenzene, benzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, lead, cadmium, and phthalates. Incineration also produce large amount of solid wastes such as slag, ash, filter residues and neutralization salt residues. If a product contains more chlorine in it then the materials burned results in produce more dioxins into the air. The other way to disposal PVC banner and PVC products is landfill, but landfill causes other environmental and social impacts seriously. The plastics that are not biodegradable may leach out toxic chemicals that will poison the groundwater and the soil. The landfill recycle also causes a lot of solid wastes. The Landfill fires become very toxic with PVC waste which release smoke, a range of pollutants even including heavy metal additives, dioxins, aromatic hydrocarbons, and aldehydes. Once dioxin enters through the environment, the dioxins can be carried long distances by the wind to anywhere. The dioxin molecules are lived on surface waters, soils and plants and finally through the whole food chain, for examples, to the people and harm the people. Although there are ways to recycle the plastics, but there is still having tons of PVC become the wastes, the PVC that cannot be degraded, they become the wastes on the planet. The recycling of PVC is often a big problem because it has high separation and collection costs and it loss the quality of materials after recycling again and again. For the wastes of disposal and recycle, all the researches talk about the emissions and wastes of the disposal because disposal is not being green; it causes more emissions, wastes, and environmental pollute than recycle. Recycle is considered being green because reusing the same materials again and again and there is no researches talk about the emissions and wastes of the recycle, all they mentioned is recycle is being sustainable by reusing the materials and products.
Finally, what is the waste management? All the PVC banner and PVC products can be either recycle or disposal. The ones cannot be recycle will go to the disposal; people will have to collect it at first place, and separate all the plastics into categories and burn or landfill them within the same categories. A waste prevention is a key factor to any waste management strategy and it is connected with improving manufacturing methods and influencing consumers to buy greener products with less PVC contained in it. For the waste management part, because every PVC banner materials can be recycle and disposal, and if there happen to have some parts that cannot be recycled or burned, it will go to the landfill. From the researches, each of the scholars, articles, journals, websites, books, and libraries, they don’t talk about the waste management, they don’t mention it at all, and all they say is to being greener and more sustainable by using the strategy of buying green products.
PVC plays a major role in the world today and it is also the largest production of human and environmental toxins at the same time. The problem with PVC can be summed up into the toxic life cycle. It is because throughout its lifecycle, PVC can cause dangerous and serious harm. The manufacture of PVC can put workers’ health and the communities at risk through exposure to harmful chemicals that can cause a number of severe health problems such as cancer and nervous system problems. The whole life cycle of polyvinyl chloride banner industry release a lot of solid wastes, air wastes, water wastes and other environmental toxins that are hurting the environment and the new generation, and it brought the future impacts to Earth too, such as the global warming, and acid rain. This research helped me to learn everything from tracing back to the very front of the whole life cycle and start from there to the end. I never knew before that the PVC industry of the PVC banner can have that many of wastes and emissions throughout the life cycle. I know that the plastic pollutes the environment, but I didn’t know that it can be this harmful that makes people live under the risk of getting serious illness. People today should really take the PVC industry seriously or one day people will be regret about it.
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