Plastic is a type of oil-derived polymer became very popular for its extensive application. Since the mid twentieth century humanity used plastic to produce approximately 8300 million tones of the stuff. Such great scale of plastic usage has become a cause of global issue called plastic waste. The problem of plastic waste is that it is non-biodegradable meaning that it needs hundreds of years to accumulate naturally. Tones of polystyrene trash floating over oceans. It became a catastrophe of XXI century. However, humanity cannot stop using it, because nowadays there is no other material which can replace plastic.
Plastic can inherent different properties like hardness, strength, density and heat-resistance in accordance with chemical groups with which it reacted and additives with which it spiced up. Therefore, it can be a suitable material for almost everything to be made of. Thus, production of plastic is increasing every year, so does the amount of polystyrene waste. However, it also makes it difficult to recycle. The standard way of recycling process includes steps like collecting and classification, crushing, melting and making something new. Plastics which inherent different properties need different melting points, so first of all collected waste divided into different categories. Nowadays HDPE, LDPE, PE, PP, Nylon, Teflon, PS, ABS, FRP waste is widely recycled. All in all, only 10% of plastic waste goes through recycling process meaning that tones of plastics that could be reused are landfilled. One of such plastics is reinforced acrylic. It is a type of material applicable in a production of bath and sink, dentures, other implants and etc. Reinforced acrylic baths became tremendously popular in the last century due to the fact that it inherits all the good properties of cast-iron baths, but offers much lower cost range and weight, keeping the walls of bath warm. However, the structure of those baths based on PMMA surface reinforced with glass fibers make it quite difficult to recycle, therefore they go to the landfill.
Roman Fedorov who is Russian living in the USA, saying that it is improper management of resources from both environmental and economic perspectives. As a solution to that he proposed a method for recycling acrylic baths in order to make the new ones from it. Recycling is the best way of acrylic waste management which minimizes the harmful impacts of plastic to the environment. Recycling is less expensive way of plastic waste disposal due to the facts that it saves resources and energy, reduces pollutant emissions, diminishes the need for landfills, creates new workplaces and reduces imports of resources. In addition, recycling reinforced acrylic minimizes its landfill. It is one of the benefits because during the landfill there is a high risk of contamination, loss of resources, and need for a large territory. Implementing such an eco-friendly production can increase the number of clients because movements targeting the saving of our planet obtaining more and more followers.
Acrylic is a transparent plastic used in a form of sheet as a shatterproof, lightweight alternative to glass which also widely applicable as a casting resin in inks and coatings. In manufacturing often used in reinforced form to maximize strength of details. It used even in some of the elements of trains and cars. However, such a great scale production of it causes environmental problems along with economic ineffectiveness. When plastic exposed to environmental conditions secondary microplastics are created by fragmentation via photo and thermo-oxidative degradation. High concentrations of microplastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS) are usually found in coastal areas near industrial facilities, ports and large metropolitan areas. In the open ocean, gyres produced by wind and currents lead to accumulation of plastic marine debris. Plastics of all sizes have the potential to cause social and economic losses by damaging fishing equipment or causing the loss in tourism revenue and impose important threats to natural ecosystems and human health. The life-cycle of plastics and plastic pollution contributes directly to climate change and has negative impacts on biodiversity loss. This is an obvious indicator showing the need for sustainable solution of the problem.
Nowadays, there are several possible solutions for this problem:
? Improving the design in a way that reduces the amount of plastic used
? Reducing the production
? Banning single-use products
However, all of the methods are economically unsustainable due to the fact that those products can be reused and save resources and energy.
Only 10% of the plastic waste is recycled while almost 80% of it is left to accumulate in landfills. However, as the use of plastic is increasing every year, this type of waste management cannot be no longer in use. For example, it is estimated that by 2050 we will be producing three times as much plastic as we do today. Moreover, even if landfilling method seems like the easiest and the cheapest one among all of the existing methods, it is not in fact. Huge territories which could be used for agriculture or building households or other architecture are messed with plastic waste. Plastics like reinforced acrylic are being thrown away while they could be reused as a raw material. Moreover, transportation of waste to landfill zones are quite costly too encountering spent fuel and hired tracks. All of these externalities have an effect on the total price of goods. Roman Fedorov offered a sustainable solution for the problem. His method relies on recycling of acrylic sheets in such a way that allow to use the recycled goods to make new products. This non-waste production method allows to save money on purchase of virgin plastics, saves energy because chemical recycling gives enough fuel to continue the process and minimizes harmful environmental consequences. Acrylic made from recycled materials will be strong enough to serve as an alternative for metal and to be used even in the manufacture of car details. However, this material can also be used for a wide variety of purposes. In addition, recycling of acrylic will attract customers by its lower price meaning that manufacturers can benefit from that too. As we can see implementing recycling in reinforced acrylic production opens up new opportunities both for manufacturers and consumers proving itself as practical and perspective method of industrial waste management.
Persistence and passion are the main ingredients of this success
Roman Fedorov is a plastic products dealer. He is a manufacturer of plastic goods and consider it as his vocation. He is very passionate about that and takes pleasure of opening new perspectives to the world by discovering hidden opportunities which plastic offer to humanity. That was his driving force in persistent attempts of finding use to tones of acrylic plastic rubbish. Since the first time he saw mountains of acrylic plastic waste he never stopped making attempts to find its use. Lots of ways have been tested starting from temperature manipulations and ending with thermo mechanical reactions.
Reinforced acrylic made of PMMA which is itself recyclable material, but is quite soft to be used without any reinforcement with glass fiber. Once those two are combined it is almost impossible to separate. In order to separate them the first step made by Roman was crushing of waste. This allowed to reduce the volume of plastic in such a way that would be convenient for subsequent processing. Once plastic waste undergone crushing it took a shape of grain. This grains were thoroughly analyzed. Due to the similarity with agricultural grains, agricultural technologies were implemented, but it failed. Then ballistic separations have been tried out, however due to the equality of densities of glass fibers and acrylic, it found out to be ineffective too. The third attempt was manipulating with liquids to find the one capable to make acrylic to swim up while glass goes down. It has been found out that glycerin is perfect for that purpose. However, this is quite expensive material which make it economically unfeasible for big-scale production use. Research was continuing by that time to find a method to separate materials which have equal masses and density. In the result of number of researches it has been revealed that glass fiber does not melt, while acrylic can. This breakthrough fueled thermo mechanical experiments: heating, cooling faster cooling. This lead to the discovery of a technology which allows separating acrylic and glassing fiber in reinforced acrylic. By the implementation of this technology it will be possible to recycle 100 thousands kilograms of reinforced acrylic waste.
Acrylic production scale is big enough. In 2016 it was estimated for 1.36 $ bn. Thus, this method not only provide raw material for thousands of manufacturers and save money but also saves our planet’s resources.
This technology never have been discovered without Roman’s love for his business and persistent hard-work on this area.