What if…you were handed a chocolate bar but told only a small portion of it was edible and an even smaller portion of that – say, around 1% – was meant for you?
Would you consume it all without hesitation? Or treasure it, trying to figure out how to make it last longer?
Don’t worry, despite what some may think, we can in fact live our day to day lives without chocolate (we’re not saying you’d ever have to though, lets not get crazy!).
We can’t however live without something that we actually only have access to 1% of: water.
According to National Geographic, the Earth’s surface is 70% water and of that, 2.5% is fresh water but less than 1% is accessible for our use – making fresh water one of our most precious resources.
In a major effort to protect our planet and our resources, recycling has surfaced as a solution that allows us to re-use materials such as plastic to lessen the environmental footprint we leave behind with our daily activities.
Plastic acts as a recoverable resource with a wide variety of uses – think about how many items are made of plastic around you right now – but, the plastic recycling industry faces several challenges in reducing, reusing and recycling this important material.
In order to properly recycle plastics, they must first be sorted into one of several primary resin types. A predominant method for sorting plastics is called the float-sink method, which uses water to float and/or sink different types of plastics based on their densities. The float-sink method requires heavy water usage as tanks containing 10 000 – 15 000 litres of water are used to separate the plastics. This video shows the float-sink method in action.
As nearly 100 litres of water are required to manufacture just one pound of plastic, using thousands of litres to recycle the same product is a recycling redundancy.
Cleaner, more cost-effective sorting methods such as Near-Infrared (NIR) exist to sort plastics without the use of water but fall short in its ability to sort black, darkly coloured or painted plastics. As black plastics make up around 50% of plastic waste – due in large part to the increasing use of technology and the automotive industry – it is essential that an alternative method with the same benefits be implemented as the go-to method for plastics sorting.
Terahertz technology offers the same clean and cost-effective benefits as NIR with the added capability of being able to identify and sort both light and dark coloured plastics. Technology (like the kind seen in the video) for example, utilizes terahertz waves to effectively scan moving plastic flakes quickly to identify their composite materials regardless of colour.
Water is a necessity of life and we must work collectively to protect the longevity of this resource. Continuing to make every effort to recycle and improve on current processes with new technologies is essential to ensuring we have access to water today, tomorrow and in the future.
Terahertz will undoubtedly play a huge role in this – ensuring we can always have our
chocolate water, and drink it too!