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Polymerization – Addition Polymers

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Yes, Recycling is Possible
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Yes, Recycling is Possible

                     

Credit: Renee Comet
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egg_breakfast_sandwich.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You’re running late in the morning and don’t have time for breakfast, so you decide to pull into your favorite fast-food restaurant. Your breakfast order may come in a light white flip-top container that helps keep it warm. When you finish eating, you throw the container in a garbage can, which may ultimately be emptied in a landfill where that container will remain – forever.

News You Can Use

  • What’s in a name? That light white stuff we call Styrofoam isn’t. Styrofoam is a trademark registered with the DuPont Company and refers to a blue material that is much harder and mainly used in boating. The proper name for this material is “expanded polystyrene foam” or EPF.
  • EPF has a wide variety of uses as packing material, insulator, and container for many materials. This polymer is composed of styrene monomers joined together as a long chain. Styrene is an aromatic hydrocarbon with a short alkene side chain. The manufacturing process is long and complicated, involving several steps and requiring careful control to get polymer chains of sufficient length.
  • “Doomsday” pictures of EPF staying in landfills forever are being replaced by new capabilities in recycling. The material is not biodegradable, so disposal in landfills is not feasible. Incineration does not produce any toxic products, but does release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a concern for those who work on climate change issues. A number of techniques are being developed that permit EPF to be recycled, but they are not widely implemented yet.
  • Worse than being in a landfill, EPF often end up in the ocean. This presents a hazard for sea creatures as well as pollute the waters. 
  • Credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/3750090474/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Kanapou Bay in Hawaii. Trash and debris from the West coast of the United States gets washed out into the ocean and end up here [Figure2]

     

  • Watch a video on “do it yourself” recycling of polystyrene below: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvv707ifFOc

Use the links below to learn more about polystyrene. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Name the process by which polystyrene is produced.
  2. How is styrene made?
  3. What is the molecular mass of polystyrene?
  4. How many plastic bags does the average individual use in a year?
  5. What is a chemical method for recycling EPF?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Renee Comet; Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egg_breakfast_sandwich.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/3750090474/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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